Laws for the Sabbath
12-13Moses told the Israelites that the Lord had said:
The Sabbath belongs to me. Now I command you and your descendants to always obey the laws of the Sabbath. By doing this, you will know that I have chosen you as my own. 14-15 Keep the Sabbath holy. You have six days to do your work, but the Sabbath is mine, and it must remain a day of rest. If you work on the Sabbath, you will no longer be part of my people, and you will be put to death.
16Every generation of Israelites must respect the Sabbath. 17 This day will always serve as a reminder, both to me and to the Israelites, that I made the heavens and the earth in six days, then on the seventh day I rested and relaxed.
18When God had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two flat stones on which he had written all his laws with his own hand.
Even in seeking to assure obedience, God’s passion is displayed towards those who are still to be brought into the community of faith. The effect of obedience is to assure the health of the worshipping community. There is a direct benefit in setting aside a day for worship, and rest has a direct benefit for the obedient. Our bodies function best with regular rest. Our emotional and spiritual health function best with regular worship.
But in God’s economy the call for obedience has a much fuller function. The Sabbath day of rest also serves as a ‘sign’ to the generations to come and the neighbouring nations. The act of obedience was a reminder of God’s faithfulness and love. The practice served as a testimony of God’s goodness. It was a declaration of God’s power and an honouring of God’s authority. The regular observance of the command provided the Israelites with a reminder of God’s supremacy. The commandment warned them of the dangers of disobedience.
This passage invites us to renew and enhance our practice of obedience. Keeping the Sabbath day of rest has direct benefits. It maintains healthy emotions. It helps keep our faith alive and fresh. Indeed, if we allow Sabbath rest and worship to erode, our faith will become distant. Eventually we will be starved of the spiritual nutrients required and our faith will begin to die. Obedience is always best.
But our obedience also serves as a sign of God’s goodness and love. The practice of obedience is noticed by others. The cheerful acknowledgment of God’s authority invites others to consider the same. The discipline provides a model for health and happiness.
Lord help make each day to be governed by discipline and obedience – as a sign for all to see how good it is to serve God.