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What were the two reasons for the Jewish Sabbath and what can we learn from them?

Wherever there is Law there is Talmud

A principle that I have often seen in life is that “wherever there is Law there is Talmud.”

When you have principles people look to find the exceptions and the borders. How much can I do and still be in bounds?

I live in Naples Florida and in the past an Orthodox Jewish group has rented one of the large hotels in town for a retreat.  Before they arrived, representatives of the group strung a cable on the property of the hotel indicating what would be a Sabbath day’s journey from the hotel. They wanted people know how far they could walk on the Sabbath.

The religious leaders in Christ day had several confrontations with Jesus over the Sabbath. What work could you do no the Sabbath?  Could you harvest grain on the Sabbath? Could you heal on the Sabbath? (Matthew 12:1-12; Mark 2:23-28; 3:2-4; Luke 13:10-16; John 5:1-18 etc.)

It is disappointing how far most of these regulations were from the two basic principles of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath Commandment

Jacob led his descendants into Egypt. They grew into a great nation and became a threat to their Egyptian hosts. The Egyptians enslaved them.  God delivered them from slavery with a great display of power which showed his superiority over the Egyptian gods. (Genesis 46; Exodus 1-14)

After the Exodus the Jewish people came to Mount Sinai. In a spectacular display of power and intimacy God spoke to them from the mountain. He spoke the words of the Ten Commandments. The people were so frightened by the experience that they asked Moses to be their intermediary. God would speak to Moses and he would speak to the people. (Exodus 20:1-21)

God is the Creator

Part of the Ten Commandments is God’s word on the Sabbath. The reason God gave for the Sabbath when he spoke this commitment was that the observance of this commandment would remind them that he was the creator.  He created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. They would do the same.  It would be a perpetual, sacramental reminder. (Exodus 20:8-11)

God is the Redeemer

About 40 years later Moses gave his final address to the people.  He repeated the Ten Commandments. When he explained the Sabbath commandment he gave a different reason. He said that the Sabbath rest would be a reminder that before God gave them freedom they were slaves and never rested. They would have a day of rest every seven days and that rest would be perpetual sacramental reminder that God was their redeemer from slavery. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

The two reasons for the Sabbath observances of the Jews were that God was creator and God was redeemer.

The Sabbath was a reminder of these most basic facts of true faith in God.

Christ was critical of certain points of the Sabbath theology of his day because it distracted from the core of true Sabbath living.

The Sabbath Today

Christians debate over whether the Sabbath is required in this era.  However, even if we do not observe the Sabbath, we should plan regular times to reflect on God as the Creator and God as our Redeemer.

What do you do in your life that is a reminder that God is the creator?

What do you do in your life that is a reminder that God is your redeemer?

1 thought on “What were the two reasons for the Jewish Sabbath and what can we learn from them?”

  1. Hi Bob.
    Thanks so much for your work in providing these articles for reading, contemplating and moving toward understanding God and his creation better. Thought provoking and interesting. No matter how many years have passed since you were my theology professor, you continue to influence my thinking and how I live life. Thank you.💌

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