On The Boundaries Of The Sabbath: Part One

[The following is the prepared text for a sermon given to the UCG congregation in the Dalles on Sabbath, May 7, 2022.]

Once upon a time, I read a book that was called Leisure: The Basis Of Culture, which discussed all the ways that elite classes have sought to preserve their own leisure while having other people work for them so that they could avoid the burden of labor and preserve it in order for their creative intellect. The author discussed how it was that slavery served as the economic basis of many cultures, allowing the elite that were served by slaves to create art and literature and music and other forms of culture that the author believes to be worth celebrating. As might be expected, the Bible has quite a different perspective on the issue of rest and work, and today, in discussing the boundaries of the Sabbath, I would like to focus on the way in which the Sabbath deals with the question of work, in particular the line between the forms of work which are prohibited and those which are celebrated and appreciated.

When we look at the fourth commandment as it is listed in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, we see an interesting focus for the law. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 reads: “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 the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.  And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

It is important to note here that this is one of two commandments that seeks to spell out in detail what the commandment involves, something that we see also in the tenth commandment when it comes to coveting. In the fourth commandment, we see a list of all the things that are forbidden from working on your behalf–ourselves, our family members, animals, outsiders, or even servants. In bringing this commandment to the memory of the Israelites who were about to enter into the promised land, God reminded them that God had delivered them from slavery and oppression and that they were not to oppress or enslave others for their own leisure. As a result, we can expect that the Sabbath laws as they appear in the Bible have a lot to do with the question of work.

And that is precisely what we find when we look in both Leviticus 23 and 25. Let us first briefly look in Leviticus 23 to look at the occasions where work is mentioned. We usually don’t focus on this aspect of the chapter, but it is worth discussing it in this context. Leviticus 23:3 reads: “‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.” Leviticus 23:7-8 reads: “ On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.  But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’ ”” Leviticus 23:21 reads: “And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on itIt shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Leviticus 23:24-25 reads: ““Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.  You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’ ”” Leviticus 23:28-31 reads: “ And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.  For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.  And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.  You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” Leviticus 23:35-36 reads: “On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on itFor seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.” All of these verses, over and over again, point to there being no customary work, or sometimes no work at all, on the Sabbath and Holy Days.

When we look at Leviticus 25, we see even more aspects of freedom from work that are associated with the Sabbath and Holy Days when we look at it in the broader sense. Leviticus 25:39-55 tells us about the freedom that comes to servants and slaves that is connected to the Jubilee year that starts on the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 25:39-55 reads: “‘And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave.  As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee.  And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers.  For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.  You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God.  And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves.  Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property.  And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor. ‘Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself.  Thus he shall reckon with him who bought him: The price of his release shall be according to the number of years, from the year that he was sold to him until the Year of Jubilee; it shall be according to the time of a hired servant for him.  If there are still many years remaining, according to them he shall repay the price of his redemption from the money with which he was bought.  And if there remain but a few years until the Year of Jubilee, then he shall reckon with him, and according to his years he shall repay him the price of his redemption.  He shall be with him as a yearly hired servant, and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight.  And if he is not redeemed in these years, then he shall be released in the Year of Jubilee—he and his children with him.  For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

It might seem a bit harsh that there is so much focus in the Bible on slavery and that there is a distinction made here between those servants who were born in Israel and were thus prevented from serving with rigor. Let us remember, though, that if anyone wanted to benefit from the protections of Israelite law, then all they needed to do was to convert to biblical religion and they would receive the full benefits of being Israelite, including the prohibition on generational slavery as well as being treated with rigor. The language that God uses to prohibit the exploitation of Israelites by other Israelites is akin to the language we read in Deuteronomy when we looked at the justification of the Sabbath rest–including for servants and strangers–because the Israelites are to serve God, not to serve in rigor to human masters, and God freed them from slavery not to be exploited by others but rather to serve Him. When we look at the freedom that is given to us by God’s laws–one example of which we just read–let us remember that we are not given freedom to gratify our own selfish lusts and desires or to take advantage of other people, but rather we are freed in order to better serve our Creator and Lord. Understanding this helps us to better understand the limitations that are placed on the prohibition of most types of work by the Bible. It is to those exceptions to this general prohibition that we will now turn.

When Jesus Christ was asked about the work that He and God had done, and that Jesus Christ continued to do during the ministry, the following exchange occurred in John 5:16-17. John 5:16-17 reads: “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” It is clear, therefore, from this, that Jesus Christ was not necessarily opposed to working on the Sabbath, but it is also clear that this labor was to be distinguished from the sort of customary labor that was forbidden on the Sabbath. And what sort of work did Jesus Christ do on the Sabbath in John 5 and other places recorded in the Gospels? We can see when we look at John 5:1-15. John 5:1-15 reads: “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.  In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.  For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.  Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”  And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.  The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”  But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.  Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.”

While this particular story is far from the only case where Jesus Christ healed on the Sabbath, it does provide some elements that are common in many of these stories and allow us to understand the difference in how the Pharisees conceived the Sabbath–a conception that remains if one reads the Talmud, for example–and how it is that Jesus Christ viewed the Sabbath, an area that remains a distinction between the biblical and Talmudic understanding of the Sabbath day. In the eyes of the Pharisees, to heal on the Sabbath day was forbidden work. To carry your bed was forbidden work. To write on the Sabbath is forbidden work. To wear more than three layers of clothing is forbidden work, and so on it goes. In the Bible, it must be noted, none of these things is expressly forbidden. In fact, it may be noted that Jesus Christ repeatedly healed on the Sabbath day, and His reasoning for doing so is quite interesting.

Let us look at another such example, as it mirrors what we have already seen about the Sabbath itself being connected to freedom and liberty for those who are enslaved by chronic illnesses. We find such a story in Luke 13:10-17. Luke 13:10-17 reads: “Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.  And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.  But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?  So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”  And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.”

Here again we see Jesus deliberately healing on the Sabbath, and here we see Jesus Christ deliberately connecting the Sabbath to freedom. If we remember from Deuteronomy 5, the Sabbath was connected to freedom from slavery and oppression from the beginning. We saw in Leviticus 25 that this freedom was further connected to freedom from slavery not only in the past, but also in the present for believers who were forbidden to be generationally enslaved or treated with rigor. And on top of that Jesus Christ further connects the Sabbath to freedom by viewing the freedom from chronic and debilitating illnesses as being a deliverance from bondage to Satan in suffering and torment. This is the sort of freedom that many of us–particularly those of us who struggle with chronic illnesses–can celebrate in.

Indeed, Jesus Christ was so noted for healing on the Sabbath that the issue became a test case between himself and the Jewish leadership of the time about their very different interpretations of what was acceptable to do on the Sabbath day. One such example we find in Matthew 12:9-14. In Matthew 12:9-14 we read the following: “Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.  And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.  Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.”

Here we see what is a fairly transparent setup to try to entrap Jesus by the Jewish leadership of the time. A man with an obvious illness is present in the synagogue on the Sabbath and the Pharisees are just waiting to pounce on Jesus Christ for violating their interpretation of the Sabbath in their oral law, which has no biblical standing but is viewed by the Pharisees and their contemporary Orthodox successors as having equal weight with the written biblical law. Here, as we saw previously, Jesus Christ compared the hardness of heart that the Pharisees had to people who were suffering despite the fact that they had exceptions to the law that allowed for emergency behavior to be done on behalf of animals that were in one’s care. The Bible is certainly not hostile to care and concern being done for animals, but Jesus Christ uses this obvious hypocrisy to make an argumentum a fortiori that if it is acceptable to relax the stringent rules in order to do good to one’s animals, it is all the more acceptable to relax those rules in order to do good to fellow people.

To demonstrate that this was not by any means an isolated experience, let us note that in Luke 14:1-6, Jesus Christ deliberately tests his audience by healing someone on the Sabbath while he was eating with Jewish leaders. Luke 14:1-6 reads: “Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely.  And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy.  And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go.  Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”  And they could not answer Him regarding these things.”

Here again we note that Jesus Christ made the same argument we have seen him make twice already that the Pharisees were willing to heal animals who had fallen into a pit but were not willing to see a suffering human being healed on the Sabbath day to remove his or her suffering. The Pharisees were not able to defend this double standard, and so they seethed with anger as Jesus Christ showed mercy on the suffering by giving them freedom from the diseases that afflicted them.

This was by no means an isolated aspect of his ministry, but was at the heart and core of how Jesus dealt with the suffering masses of people during His earthly ministry, and was an aspect of that ministry from the start. Let us look at one final set of examples about healing on the Sabbath in looking at Luke 4:31-40. Luke 4:31-40 is an account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and contains three separate aspects of healing that took place in Galilee at the start of that ministry. Luke 4:31-40 reads: “Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths.  And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.  Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him.  Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”  And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region. Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her. So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them. When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.”

Let us note that there are three aspects of healing that take place here. First, Jesus Christ’s healings sometimes came about on the Sabbath as a result of circumstance. Jesus Christ heals a demon-possessed person within the synagogue when that person disrupts the order of services where He was teaching, and so the healing not only benefitted the person who no longer was possessed by an unclean spirit, but it also demonstrated his authority in spiritual matters. Second, when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, the healing allowed her to be hospitable and to serve him–and this aspect of service on the Sabbath is one that we will examine more shortly. Third, we see that Jesus Christ’s healing on the Sabbath drew a great many people in the neighboring countryside who needed healing and so they came to him and were healed as the Sabbath ending at sunset, demonstrating his concern for the well-being of the suffering people that were all around him.

Let us now turn to the third aspect of Sabbath work to discuss, and that is the question of Sabbath labor for those outside of Jesus Christ. Although we might associate the Sabbath with our own rest, the Sabbath has always been associated with labor for specific groups of people, namely the priests and Levites. As we might expect, Jesus Christ had something to say about that. In Matthew 12:1-8 we have one of the many disputes between the Pharisees and Jesus Christ about the Sabbath, and Jesus Christ explicitly brings up the work that other people do on the Sabbath. Matthew 12:1-8 reads: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:  how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?  Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?  Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.  But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.””

How did priests profane the Sabbath? It has always been a great mystery to me how it is that so many people underestimate the work that it takes and that it has always taken to keep the Sabbath day holy. To be sure, not everyone does all or even most of this work, but the Bible itself indicates that a lot of work is required to keep the Sabbath as God has commanded. And while I would like to focus in this section on the work that was required during the tabernacle and temple system of worship in the Old Covenant, such work remains done today for the most part, even if not all of the work that was once done is done. A great amount of work is required to keep the Sabbath going in most areas, and this has always been so. It takes effort to set up and take down a hall for services, it takes effort to prepare messages and to give them, to practice and perform music, to prepare food, to deal with tithes and offerings, to be involved in security, and all of these tasks were among those that were undertaken by the priests and Levites under the Old Covenant and remain tasks that are done by those who serve God and God’s people today. Let us examine how these tasks are mentioned in the scripture as being aspects of the service.

We see, for example, the sort of labor that was involved in religious services when David dealt with the Levite musicians in 1 Chronicles 15:16-24. 1 Chronicles 15:16-24 reads: “ Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy.  So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of their brethren, the sons of Merari, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; and with them their brethren of the second rank Zechariah, Ben, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Elipheleh, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, and Jeiel, the gatekeepers; the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound the cymbals of bronze; Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah, with strings according to Alamoth; Mattithiah, Elipheleh, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah, to direct with harps on the Sheminith; Chenaniah, leader of the Levites, was instructor in charge of the music, because he was skillful; Berechiah and Elkanah were doorkeepers for the ark; Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, were to blow the trumpets before the ark of God; and Obed-Edom and Jehiah, doorkeepers for the ark.”

While most of these names are somewhat unfamiliar, Heman the son of Joel, and grandson of Samuel the judge and prophet, wrote Psalm 88, and Asaph was the writer of about a dozen Psalms that we still sing and read today. Obed-Edom, a gatekeeper, was the one who was blessed by God for keeping the Ark of the Covenant safe within his house at the gate of Jerusalem for three months after David’s disastrous first attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital city. The Levites did important work and sometimes that work was done on the Sabbath day.

Nor are other types of work forgotten. Let us examine, for example, the famous and important efforts at security that took place on the Sabbath. We find one example of the importance of the Levites in serving as security forces for God’s people in 2 Chronicles 23:1-15. Here we see that the Levites themselves, as part of their service in the temple, overthrew the wicked queen Athaliah on the Sabbath day as part of their religious service. 2 Chronicles 23:1-15 reads: “In the seventh year Jehoiada strengthened himself, and made a covenant with the captains of hundreds: Azariah the son of Jeroham, Ishmael the son of Jehohanan, Azariah the son of Obed, Maaseiah the son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat the son of Zichri.  And they went throughout Judah and gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the chief fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. Then all the assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And he said to them, “Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord has said of the sons of David.  This is what you shall do: One-third of you entering on the Sabbath, of the priests and the Levites, shall be keeping watch over the doors; one-third shall be at the king’s house; and one-third at the Gate of the Foundation. All the people shall be in the courts of the house of the Lord.  But let no one come into the house of the Lord except the priests and those of the Levites who serve. They may go in, for they are holy; but all the people shall keep the watch of the Lord.  And the Levites shall surround the king on all sides, every man with his weapons in his hand; and whoever comes into the house, let him be put to death. You are to be with the king when he comes in and when he goes out.” So the Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded. And each man took his men who were to be on duty on the Sabbath, with those who were going off duty on the Sabbath; for Jehoiada the priest had not dismissed the divisions.  And Jehoiada the priest gave to the captains of hundreds the spears and the large and small shields which had belonged to King David, that were in the temple of God.  Then he set all the people, every man with his weapon in his hand, from the right side of the temple to the left side of the temple, along by the altar and by the temple, all around the king.  And they brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, gave him the Testimony, and made him king. Then Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and said, “Long live the king!” Now when Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came to the people in the temple of the Lord.  When she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance; and the leaders and the trumpeters were by the king. All the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets, also the singers with musical instruments, and those who led in praise. So Athaliah tore her clothes and said, “Treason! Treason!” And Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains of hundreds who were set over the army, and said to them, “Take her outside under guard, and slay with the sword whoever follows her.” For the priest had said, “Do not kill her in the house of the Lord.” So they seized her; and she went by way of the entrance of the Horse Gate into the king’s house, and they killed her there.”

Let us look at one more example of the sort of work that was required of priests and Levites on the Sabbath day. If you look at Numbers 28 and 29 there is a lengthy list of the sort of offerings that were done in the tabernacle and temple system. Included were daily offerings, weekly offerings on the Sabbath, monthly offerings at the new moon, and specific offerings for every single one of the holy days. I would just like to briefly mention here Numbers 28:9-10, which discusses the offering of the Sabbath. Numbers 28:9-10 reads: “‘And on the Sabbath day two lambs in their first year, without blemish, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, with its drink offering— this is the burnt offering for every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering with its drink offering.” Let us note briefly here that there was a specific offering for the Sabbath day and that it increased the labor that was done by the priests in the tabernacle and the temple beyond their normal daily labor, in that they not only had to sacrifice the daily offerings in the evening and in the morning on the Sabbath, but in addition to that two lambs for a burnt offering as well as a grain and drink offering on top of that. And, if you read the rest of the chapters of Numbers 28 and 29, there were even more sacrifices done on the Holy Days on top of this, increasing the amount of work that was done on these high Sabbaths even more.

Let us now ask ourselves an obvious question: why is it that the Bible is so keen on forbidding labor to ordinary Israelites on the Sabbath but demands labor from Jesus Christ as well as priests and Levites on the Sabbath? We noted earlier, if you remember, that traditionally speaking elites in every human society at every point in history have sought to avoid labor themselves while outsourcing and delegating their labor to other people who are looked down upon for doing labor. God’s active prohibition of customary work on the Sabbath and Holy Days was meant to allow for ordinary Israelites, including men and women and children as well as outsiders to Israelite society and servants and slaves, to rest on these days and to thank God for the freedom that was provided by God to the Israelites in Egypt, a freedom that they were commanded to give to others. We have seen as well that the Sabbath was closely connected to freedom and liberty, and that Jesus’ own healing was meant to give freedom to those who had suffered from chronic and debilitating illnesses and that He specifically chose the Sabbath day as the most appropriate time to provide this freedom to suffering believers. Finally, let us note that while ordinary Israelites and those who happened to be residing in Israel were commanded to rest on the Sabbath day, that the priests and Levites who were the religious elites of Israel were commanded to work in order to serve the people of Israel. Those of us who lead God’s people have always been called upon to labor on the Sabbath day for the well-being of others. Godly leaders do not delegate their services to others, but they take the work and labor that God has set upon us and cheerfully serve the people of God as Jesus Christ did and as the priests and Levites did before that. So it is that when we look at the question of the boundaries of the Sabbath, that the first aspect of the boundaries of the Sabbath is that God’s idea of rest is a reversal of the corrupt ways of humanity. In God’s economy, those who lead are those who serve the most, and on the Sabbath day when humanity is called upon to rest from their ordinary labors, those who serve God’s people as leaders are called upon to work the most on those days in order to obey God and set an example of how it is that God and Jesus Christ have always been working on behalf of their people. Let us hope at least that we are setting a good example of how that is to be done.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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