Deuteronomy 5:12  Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.”


Here in Deuteronomy we get a run down on the Ten Commandments a second time.  The first was back in Exodus 20, and we heard about them then as if we were listening in at the smoking, shaking foot of Mt. Sinai.  Now we hear them as a reflection back from a later time as a reminder of the founding principles of the nation of Israel.


For the most part, the rendering is the same as in Exodus, but there is one change.  Both places command that the Sabbath be observed as a day set apart, a command that was unique to the law codes at that time.  But here in Deuteronomy, the reason for keeping the Sabbath has changed.  In Exodus, the rationale for keeping the Sabbath was that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  In Deuteronomy, that is not mentioned.  Instead it says, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”  In Exodus it is a gift of rest to weary travelers.  By the time of Deuteronomy, the focus has shifted to justice.


So, which thing did God have in mind?  I think it is both.  In this 24/7 world, we are too harried and run down.  We don’t get enough sleep.  We don’t get real days off.  We work round the clock and both our productivity at work and our joy at home suffers.  Tossing out the Blue Laws without putting anything else in their place has not helped us any.  There are still 24 hours in every day, but it feels like less.  We fill every moment.  We believe the world will stop spinning, our company will fold, and our children will grow up to be lazy buffoons if we should take a day off each week.  Exodus says, “Hey…even God took a day to rest.  If God can take a day off, so can you.”  We need to hear that message in our workaholic world.


But Deuteronomy has a message that is equally important.  By pointing back to a time when Israel was enslaved in Egypt and didn’t have the option of a day of rest, Deuteronomy reminds us that Sabbath has a justice component.  Those of us on salary with benefits can take some time away.  Those of us with means can afford a vacation and won’t miss a meal because we’ve missed a day of work.  But for a growing number of people, a day off means that there isn’t enough to pay the bills.  Some have to work two or three jobs just to make very modest ends meet.  No one should have to choose between a day of rest and food or shelter; and yet many face just such a choice every week.  Even a sick day might be all that is standing between some people and homelessness.


Remembering the Sabbath means thinking about our own need for rest, but it also means looking out for our neighbor and working for a society where everyone can have a day off without unduly suffering for it.  Both Exodus and Deuteronomy are clear that the Sabbath is for everyone…you, your children, your servants, work animals, and “the alien within your gates.”  We are called to make it holy…set apart…for ourselves and for others.


God of rest, we are commandment breakers.  Help us to make a place for your Sabbath rest.  Amen.


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