Updated: Feb 4
Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
This is one of two Old Testament selections from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. The lessons of this Sunday are placed in a Proper Ordinary Time grouping, numbered Proper 4. If chosen, this will next be read aloud by a reader on Sunday, June 3, 2018. It is important because it states the Commandment that the Sabbath day be maintained as a day to honor God exclusively.
Deuteronomy chapter five states what is affectionately called the Ten Commandments. More laws would come, but the ten were written in stone by God. Today’s reading is Commandment number four, which (in short) states, “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy.”
While not read today, chapter five begins by Moses stating to the Israelites, “Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.” (Deuteronomy 5:1-3) What that says is clear: The Ten Commandments and all the following laws are not made as a pact between the whole world and God.
This means the whole world can do as it wants relative to the sabbath day. The sabbath day is just a day, unless one has made a pact with the Lord. One has to have been removed from the world’s ordinary human beings, “brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,” leading one to commit wholly to God. Only then can one grasp how the sabbath day is deemed holy.
If one understands the Hebrew calendar, the word “yom” means day. Every day of the week is then Yom fill in the number. Sunday is “Yom Rishon,” which means “Day First.” Thus, Sunday is the first day of the week.
If one looks at a calendar today, Sunday is listed above the far left-hand column, which is the first day position. That then shows Saturday as the seventh day, above the seventh column.
In Hebrew, the day Americans call Saturday is “Yom Shabbat,” or Day Seventh. Still, God never told the whole world to make a calendar with weeks that are seven days long. Somehow, everyone just fell in line with this idea.
It is worthwhile to realize that there are seven orbs in our solar system that can be seen by the naked eye, which are luminaries (2) and planets (5). Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto require telescopes and computers to see, so they don’t get special attention. However, the orbs of light did.
The Romans named each day of the week after those seven visible (mostly at night for the planets) orbs: Sunday for the Sun; Monday for the Moon; Tuesday for Mars; Wednesday for Mercury; Thursday for Jupiter; Friday for Venus; and Saturday for Saturn. All cultures seem to adhere to a seven-day week, but some begin the week with Sunday, some with Saturday, and others with Monday. This makes a “seventh day” become confusing, but the confusion allows Christians to call the first day of the week (Sunday shows in that position on the calendar) the Sabbath (seventh day).
This reading selection is optional because the Gospel selection is about some Pharisees complaining to Jesus about his disciples picking grains from the field to eat on a Shabbat. Jesus then told the Pharisees, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath.”
That says, in essence, the Sabbath Day is less about when it is marked on a calendar and more about it being marked in one’s heart. Thus, the truest meaning of “the Sabbath” is realized when one of humankind stops being one of a sinful world and begins shining the light of Jesus Christ forevermore. One becomes the Son, who was like the Sun, having said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5) This transformation makes one become like Sunday, at all times, once one truly agrees to the Covenant with God – which become one’s marriage vows with the Lord (true holy matrimony).
By understanding this Commandment on a level that places oneself in-line with the Creation, where the Israelites were descended from a six-day period of formulation that led them to a commitment to remain righteous (and each day in that Creation was deemed good), the Sabbath is representative of a continual state of being, rather than just one 24-hour period each week.
This is why the Covenant is not between “our ancestors,” “but with all of us who are alive here today.” Just as Moses stood alive before a group of Israelites who were alive, the same words apply to living, breathing Christians today. By being alive, we stand before God, through the words of Moses, making this Covenant be forever renewed by all current human beings willing to make a commitment to uphold these same Commandments. However, we need to see how permanent righteousness still requires a twenty-four hour period of rest, just as God rested after His Creation.
When we read, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work,” that simply goes in one ear and out the other.
When God said, through Moses, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God,” that does not mean, “Set aside a couple of hours one day a week to go sit on wooden pews and listen to a sermon.” When God said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,” that includes normal chores that are in the “hunter-gatherer” category of maintaining life for a family, but is also demands extended study of holy documents, including prayer and teaching one’s children all they must know. Only by having labors of devotion to God, where work is giving thanks to God, can one find a Sabbath day as a day of rest, when no work is done.
Think of it as being employed as a priest, where six days of work means tending to one’s flock AND preparing for a Sabbath event. Keep in mind the Israelites were separated from the world to be God’s priests, not His pet humans. The day of rest is then when one stands and opens one’s mouth, letting God do all the work of speaking.
To read, “You shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you,” this says you must recognize how you do not control how other breathing human beings act. If you have done good work the six days prior, then you have surrounded yourself with others who respect your day of no work, even moving them to personally choose to make the same commitment to God as you have. It is hard labor forcing others to do what they do not want to do, so it always behooves one to work smarter, not harder. You draw more flies with honey, than with vinegar.
When God said, through Moses, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,” this says, “Remember when you were a human being of the world, a slave to the influences of evil.” That memory is the guilt held within of past sins, based on a calendar that has no recognition of God’s Sabbath day. Egypt stands for all governments that separate their laws from those commanded by God.
In America now, we recognize how one man’s Sabbath is Friday, while another man’s Sabbath is Saturday, and still another man’s Sabbath is Sunday. To make laws that accommodate all men, let no Sabbath be recognized as holy.
I remember back in the days of my youth there were “Blue Laws.” Most businesses were closed on Sunday, for the purpose of promoting Christians being afforded a day of worship and rest. Those businesses that were necessary to keep open were required to pay their employees extra money. Those laws were challenged in the courts by people who did not believe Sunday was their Sabbath day and they won. Say goodbye to government mandating holy days.
The point is not for an outside entity, including governments or employers, to force recognition of holiness on people. That is hard work and always results in more problems being created than any problems solved. This is why Moses said, “Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.”
You are the one who determines when the Sabbath occurs. It all depends on how you feel about doing nothing that demands others recognize your right to rest and worship. It is how you take twenty-four hours happily serving God, just basking in the glory of His presence. You cannot keep the sabbath day holy, if you have not come to be holy.
As an optional selection for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry should be underway, the message here is to a total commitment to God. The Jews wrote all kinds of amendments to this law, determining how far one could walk outside the city limits, what was deemed work and not deemed work, what acts of cooking were permitted and which were not, and so on. That becomes the focus in the Gospel reading from mark. However, rules and checklists have no bearing on the Sabbath, as the Sabbath IS Ministry.
The point of this reading from Deuteronomy 5 is to see it as an understanding that once God is in one’s heart, and the Christ Mind is within one’s brain, and the Holy Spirit has baptized one’s soul clean of sins, the Sabbath day is the remainder of one’s life. You rest because you have done the work necessary to bring God into your being. The Sabbath day is when your love is God’s love and it radiates as a beacon to others; and it takes no effort to do so. Ministry to the Lord is not work.
Let that be a lesson to those who leave church after receiving the sacraments of bread and wine, not capable of staying another ten minutes in the same building with others who are partaking of holy food. They are just too busy to stay in church on a Sunday, because they have no clue about keeping the Sabbath day holy. Those people should just stay home in bed or go play golf or shop in the stores that are all open on Sunday. The world, like Egypt and Las Vegas, is open for business twenty-four seven.
Some cities glorify themselves by saying, “We never sleep.” That says those cities do not recognize the Sabbath.
Being a slave of Egypt means work, work, work, with no days designated as holy. It is like always being stuck in God’s sixth day of Creation, refusing to make a commitment that means no more hustling for personal gains, no more beating one’s head against a pyramid trying to make others do what you want them to do. Ministry to the Lord means letting God do all the work through you. The self-ego takes a long nap.