Almighty and Loving Father, Lord of the Sabbath, Blessed Spirit,
All praise and honor be to you for you taught us how to rest even though you yourself never grow tired of work or of us. For you know that tired people cannot love you or their neighbors.
Forgive us for forgetting your good example and caring law. Remind us gently of our oversights and failures, but keep our families and friends safe from our neglect while we tarry.
Thank you for your patience. Teach us to honor you and your law rightly. May we grow to be good examples of a balanced life to those around us.
In the power of your Holy Spirit, guard our careers and our self-esteem as we dial back on our work, our activities, and our frantic use of time to practice Sabbath. May our work obsession and stress addiction no longer rule our lives.
Teach us to rest in a weary world; Teach us to rest in a world too proud. Help us to be humble salt—salt to provide flavor; salt that preserves; salt that graces every table—in a world too busy to notice. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, teach us to offer rest to the weary among us. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
Compassionate Father, Lover of our souls, Holy Spirit. Draw us to yourself: Open our hearts; Illumine our thoughts; Strengthen our hands in your service. Grant us rest with you today and every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Padre Compasivo, Amante de nuestras almas, Espíritu Santo, atráenos a ti mismo; abre nuestros corazones; ilumina nuestros pensamientos; fortalece nuestras manos en Tu servicio. Concédesnos descanso contigo hoy y todos los días. En el nombre de Jesús oramos. Amén.
Loving Father, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit. We praise you for sharing yourself with us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and stepping into history. Your silent suffering on the cross shouts your love into our fallen world. Thank you for modeling a perfect life; bearing our sins on the cross; and granting us resurrection peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Amoroso Padre, Querido Hijo, Espíritu Santo. Te alabamos por compartir ti mismos con nosotros en la persona de Jesús de Nazaret y por entrar de la historia. Tu sufrimiento silencio en la cruz grita tu amor en el mundo caído. Gracias por modelar una vida perfecta; por llevar nuestros pecados en la cruz; y por nos concede la paz de resurrección. En el nombre de Jesús oramos, Amén.
“the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matt 12:8)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
What is the first sin in the Bible?
The typical response is that the first sin occurred when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:6). An alternative interpretation points out that although Adam and Eve were created in Genesis 1, when God rests on the first Sabbath in Genesis 2 they are not mentioned (Feinberg 1998, 16). The first sin in scripture is then argued to be a sin of omission (not doing good)—of Adam and Eve refusing to participate in Sabbath rest. It was as if God threw a party and they refused to come .
After that, the sin in Genesis escalated from disrespect into open rebellion. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve commit their first sin of commission (doing evil). In Genesis 4, Cain kills Abel and Lamech takes revenge. In Genesis 5, Noah—the man who rested—is born . In Genesis 6, God tells Noah to build an ark because he planned to send a flood in response to the depth of human corruption and sin. After the flood, only Noah and his family remained .
This interpretation is echoed in the New Testament where the kingdom of God compared to a wedding. Jesus tells an enigmatic parable of a king who held a wedding banquet for his son. When the banquet was ready, the king sent his servants to inform his guests. But, instead of responding to the reminder, many of the intended guests ignored the invitation while others committed acts of violence, even murder, against the king’s servants. The climax to this story comes in verse 7: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matt 22:7)
If we treat Sabbath rest as a foretaste of the kingdom of God, this parable can be an allegory to the first sin, in which Adam and Eve refused God’s invitation to join him in the first Sabbath. The original sin, according to this interpretation, was the contemptuous rejection of God’s generous invitation on the seventh day. The fact that the parable of the wedding feast is a parable of judgment is an emphatic reminder that God really wants us to rest with Him.
Sabbath rest is important enough to God that is the fourth and the longest of the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Exod 20:8–11). Why was it important to the Jewish people? Free people rest; slaves work. The experience of slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon was a reminder that rest is a privilege not always enjoyed.
Are we a free people? Do we rest? Do we rest with God?
Jesus described himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, not to do away with it, but to refocus it on God’s desire for our lives. Sabbath rest is a gateway to the other spiritual disciplines because it makes the other disciplines easier to pursue. Rested people have the energy to care. Exhausted people struggle to care for God and for their neighbors.
Confusion about Sabbath arises, in part, because the Jewish Sabbath was the last day of the week, while Christians celebrated Sabbath on the first day of the week . Pastors and others that must work Sundays often designate another day as their Sabbath and inform their family and friends. The point is to consecrate a day each week to honor and rest with God.
 One weakness with this interpretation is that Adam and Eve felt guilty over their nakedness, not other things such as empathy over the pain that they caused God (Gen 3:7).
 In Hebrew, Noah means he rests (Feinberg 1998, 28). Also see: Kline (2006, 229).
 Kline (2006, 221–27) views story of Noah as a re-creation event. Noah’s ark serves as a prototype of the tabernacle, the temple, and, ultimately, heaven itself.
 Chang (2006, 81) writes: “Sunday is the first day of the week, but the early Christians also called it the eighth day. By call it the eighth day, the Christian understood the resurrection event as breaking through the earthly limitation of the weekly cycle.”
Chan, Simon. 2006. Liturgical Theology: The Church as a Worshiping Community. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Feinberg, Jeffrey Enoch. 1998. Walk Genesis: A Messianic Jewish Devotional Commentary. Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books.
Kline, Meredith G. 2006. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Convenental Worldview. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.
Observe the Sabbath day, to 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. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall 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. (Deut 5:12-15)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
The divine origin of the Sabbath is well-attested in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, it is the only commandment that appears also in the creation account and it is also the longest commandment—an indicator of emphasis. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to himself as the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:8; Luke 6:5) and performs several miracles specifically on the Sabbath. Why all this attention to the Sabbath?
A key to understanding Sabbath is found in Hebrews 4, which list four aspects of Sabbath rest: physical rest, weekly Sabbath rest, rest in the Promised Land, and heavenly rest—our return to the Garden of Eden.
Physical rest is underrated by many Christians. Jesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) How are we to love God and love our neighbors when we are physically exhausted all the time? Sabbath rest allows us to build the physical, emotional, and spiritual capacity to experience God and to have compassion for our neighbors.
We see a clue to this interpretation of Sabbath when we compare the Exodus and Deuteronomy renderings of the Fourth Commandment. Deuteronomy adds the sentence: “You shall 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.” (Deut 5:15) Free people rest; slaves work. Are we, Americans, truly free? Sabbath rest is a symbol of our Christian freedom.
The Promised Land, promised rest (Ps 95:11), heaven, and the new Eden (Rev 22:2) all display and reinforce Sabbath imagery. The image of our Divine Shepherd is one who gives heavenly rest: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (Ps 23:2) Sadly, this poetic image of rest only seems to come up at funerals. Why not start now?
Gracious Father. Rest with us. Grant us the energy to care. Let us focus a day each week on being your people and modeling your love to those around us. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Walter Brueggemann. 2014. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
One of the characteristics of the period since the demise of the Bretton Woods System in 1971 and reduction in barriers to international trade has been the increasing importance of the law of one price. From economic trade theory, the law of one prices says that only one price for a commodity can exist in an open market economy, adjusting for shipping, storage, and policy interventions.
The law of one price hypothesizes that the price of a Big Mac should be the same worldwide. The same is true for wages and salaries. Because everyone competes with everyone else, no one relaxes (enjoys healthcare, summer vacations, a clean environment, a spouse at home with the kids, and so on) without losing competitive advantage. The market is the formidable taskmaster.
In his discussion of Sabbath rest in the Pentateuch, Walter Brueggemann offers a fairly sophisticated understanding of Moses’ response to the market’s devaluation of human life. Under penalty of death (Numbers 15:32-35), nobody, no way, works on the Sabbath provided a cultural alternative (xiv) to Pharaoh’s relentless pursuit of wealth. Bruggemann writes: YHWH governs as an alternative to Pharoah, there the restfulness of YHWH effectively counters the restless anxiety of Pharaoh (xiii). Sabbath rest appears in the creation accounts because God balances work and rest. The Egyptian gods, by contrast, never rested (5).
Pharaoh Versus Moses
Today we would call Moses’ Sabbath rest prescription a government-sanctioned monopoly. Brueggemann (3) observes that: the God of Sinai…is never simply a “religious figure” but is always preoccupied with…socioeconomic practice and policy. Because no one works on the Sabbath, no one can chisel—cheat and make more money by quietly disobeying the law. Sabbath rest defines the ultimate human right—the right to live a humane life. Because exhausted people only think about themselves—they neither love God nor their neighbor (contra Matthew 22:36-40), Sabbath rest is a cultural firewall against market intrusion into family, community, and religious life. For this reason, Sabbath rest is the only creation mandate also found among the Ten Commandments and, as the fourth commandment, it is also the longest (27). This means that the Bible treats it as an emphatic commandment!
In contrasting the YHWH economy with Pharaoh’s economy, Brueggemann provides an interesting insight into the Ten Commandments. Those who keep the Sabbath need not:
Dishonor mother and father,
Bear false witness, or
In other words, do detestable things for the sake of money. The unending race to pursue wealth (or defend one’s lifestyle) normally pushes us individually and collectively to neglect or break these commandments—the law of one price has led us to chisel on each one of these commandments in recent years.
Brueggemann’s short book (89 pages) breaks into six chapters, including:
Sabbath and the First Commandment;
Resistance to Anxiety (Exodus 20:12-17);
Resistance to Coercion (Deuteronomy 5:12-14);
Resistance to Exclusivism (Isaiah 56:3-8);
Resistance to Multitasking (Amos 8:4-8); and
Sabbath and the Tenth Commandment (vii).
These chapters are preceded by a detailed preface which serves as a helpful introduction.
While some might chide Brueggemann for offering a political analysis of the Pentateuch, it is more correct to say that wherever two or more are gathered together politics will be present! By contrast, if the Pentateuch is spiritualized, it can easily be recast to suit one’s own prejudices. For example, Brueggemann notes that the Pentateuch attends vigorously to the triad of vulnerability—widows, orphans, and immigrants (44). How do we treat them today? Today we might refer to them with labels—welfare queens, the unwanted unborn, and the undocumented—inviting scorn rather than assistance. Judged by the Law of Moses, we fail. Grace always allows us to be forgiven, but the Gospel in Jesus Christ fulfills the law—it does not repeal it!
Brueggemann’s book is probably the most important book on Sabbath rest since Abraham Heschel’s The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005). I hope that Christians will read and act on it.