Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN. David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional time. (study, observe, apply, pray).
Deuteronomy 5:12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. 15 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. NLT
This command has a different emphasis than when God gave it 38 years earlier at Mt Sinai. In Exodus 20 the emphasis reflects more God’s rest after creation of the universe when He “saw all He had made and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). God rested, not because He was tired, but because He completed the task. He observed and reflected on what He had done and said it was very good. He evaluated all that He had made, and gave them/us a pattern to follow.
Here the reason to rest is not because God finished creating the world, but because He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, which was when He created the nation Israel. He had chosen Abraham 500 years before in Gen 12, but coming out from Egypt is when they became a nation. God wanted them to remember all the terrible work they were forced to do and never force anyone or any animal to work like that. He also wanted them to remember it was “His strong hand and powerful arm” that delivered them, not their strength. He, with His mighty strength, would provide their needs and allow them rest if they would honor Him.
As time went on, there were people who focused on observing the externals of this command (like they did with all the other commandments) while drifting away from the humble gratitude for God’s deliverance. They developed strict rules about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath so they could appear to be obedient, but their hearts were far from God. But God always cares more about who we are on the inside than who we appear to be on the outside. Six times Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, and every time the Pharisees used the occasion to condemn Him, which gave Jesus the opportunity to declare “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). This is the only one of the 10 Commandments that is not repeated in the NT as a requirement, but it is a timeless principle for believers to rest, reflect on what God has done, and reflect on what we have done.
Lord Jesus, thank You for showing us how to think about the Sabbath. Help us always have humble gratitude for what Your mighty hand has done for us, and help us be refreshed in our bodies and our spirits as we reflect on You and on what we have done. Convict us if we ever oppress other people or animals in our desire for more, and help us instead to trust more in Your ability to provide for us than for what we can do. May we remember Your purpose in giving us a Sabbath rest. Amen