Dance & Detox: Sabbath (Command 4)
You know what the worst thing about Chick-fil-a is?
…that I can’t get it on Sundays.
Is anyone else a fan of the Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich?
Or Waffle Fries? Or that fresh-squeezed lemonade?
Or those crazy-brilliant milkshakes?
(Especially that peppermint one at Christmas time?)
We’re in week FOUR of our series on the Ten Commandments and that puts on commandment number… four.
And Chick-fil-a not being open on Sundays, is typically what we think of when it comes to the fourth commandment—keeping the Sabbath holy.
So let’s read it together:
Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20v8-11)
It’s a practice distinct to the people of God—setting aside one day of the week as sacred… as holy… as different than the rest.
“You are to remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20v8)
In the great Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—nobody really agrees on which day to keep holy.
Judaism says, “We’re with Moses here… rest on Saturday. Why mess with the classic Sabbath?”
Islam says, “Allah made humanity on a Friday—so Friday is the day of Jumm’ah—the holy day of rest and worship and prayer.”
Christianity says, “Someone walked out of a tomb on a Sunday. Um… ever since we saw that, we set Sunday apart—that’s the Lord’s Day.”
The three great Abrahamic faiths disagree on the specific day, but they agree on the Fourth Commandment. They agree that we need this command—we need Sabbath—disrupting our schedules, disrupting our lives.
That’s what this command is—a holy disruption.
This is the command we begin to obey by “not doing.”
We begin to obey by not doing a darn thing.
We’re not told to pray, we’re not told to gather as the church, we’re not told to worship—as vital as those things are. According to verse 10, keeping the sabbath holy—isn’t going to feel particularly religious or spiritual or holy. It’s just going to be “stopping.”
That’s what the word literally means. Cease. Desist. Stop what you’re regularly doing. Do no work. The rest of the days (v9) you work—it’s not that work’s bad—it’s good and essential and holy and beautiful—but just stop on day seven.
Stop on day seven.
“Shabat” on day “sheba.”
Make sure your day seven—your day sheba—is a shabat—is a Sabbath—a stopping, a ceasing, a pause, a rest.
Because that’s what the world is like.
That’s how God made the world.
After six days, there’s sheba, there’s seven. After six days, there’s sabbath. It’s built into the universe. That’s just how the world is.
And so the fourth commandment disrupts our regular routines by saying…“Cease, stop, rest.”
…and says the reason we do this is because that’s the way things are.
You might not like breathing air but that’s the way things are. Try breathing something else… it just doesn’t work. You might not like eating food but that’s the way things are. Trying going without it… you won’t make it very long. In the same way, Sabbath is just the way things are.
There’s a rhythm to reality that we can ignore with endless busyness, endless work, endless activity, endless ball practice and music lessons and going going going… but it won’t work long.
Life will go on, but it will be less than life.
Do you know what one of the key differences between music and noise is? Music has regular, intentional, often tiny, moments of “no music.” When there are rests. Music has regular rests—patterned pauses—countless moments when sound ceases.
Those rests create rhythm.
All music—from your favorite songs to our singing this morning—all music is actually composed of more than just notes and inflections and tones. All music is also made of a whole lot of strategic silence.
The breaths between the words. The beats between the notes. The silence between the sounds. That’s what makes music music. The rests make the rhythm. The rests make the music. If it weren’t for the strategic silence, everything would be a jumble, it would all just be noise.
So too with Sabbath, the fourth commandment says.
Life will go on but it will be less than life. Life won’t be the music of God—the sacred rhythm of Creation—the Genesis song. Life will be… noise.
So stop. Cease. rest.
Find the spaces, the times, the beats—the strategic silences—where you allow Sabbath to disrupt what you’re doing. Because Sabbath isn’t stopping the music; Sabbath is making the music.
Sabbath makes our lives beautiful.
But there’s even more.
The Sabbath command is unique. It’s the only commandment with an explanation behind it. It’s the only commandment with a “because.” You need to keep Sabbath—whatever day it is, however it looks in your life—you need to rest BECAUSE (v11), that’s the way God made the world.
But the Ten Commandments show up twice in the Hebrew Scriptures…once in Exodus as the nation of Israel is just beginning, and once a couple of books over in Deuteronomy as a new generation of Israelites gets reminded what it means to be God’s people.
The Ten Commandments show up twice, and the Fourth Commandment is the only command with an explanation… but the explanation is different in Exodus and Deuteronomy.
The “because” changes.
In Exodus 20, the “because” is that’s the way the world is. God made the world like music—with rhythm, with Sabbath built in—so… live into that. But the “because” is different in Deuteronomy.
Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the Lord your God commanded: Six days you may work…
Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That’s why the Lord your God commands you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5v12-15)
In Deuteronomy, Moses is restating the Ten Commandments to a new generation of Israelites. The kids and the grandkids of those who were slaving away raising statues, creating aqueducts, building pyramids, and never getting a nickel for any of it.
The first time around God said, “Live Sabbath, live the song of creation.”
The first time it was about HOW the world is,
but this second time it’s about WHO they are:
“Remember who you are—you are not slaves. I have set you free…so don’t live like slaves. Don’t endlessly work. Don’t endlessly busy yourselves. Don’t become what I’ve said you’re not. Don’t drift back into slavery.”
If we put these two things together—if we put the “because” of Exodus together with the “because” of Deuteronomy—we could say it this way:
Sabbath is how we learn the dance of freedom.
Sabbath reminds us what life is meant to be (a beautiful, God-given song) and Sabbath reminds us what life is not meant to be (any kind of slavery).
Life is about freedom.
That’s what the “becauses” in Exodus and Deuteronomy add up to.
There’s no middle ground. God seems to be saying…
Life is either God-given song or self-imposed slavery.
We all experience this, but I think we’re so busy it’s hard to ever recognize. We continually go, we resist stopping, we add more meetings and more commitments, we fill in all the margin of lives, we leave no blank space on the calendar. We feel guilty for one unproductive hour. We can’t even imagine a full day where we don’t do or achieve or produce anything. Much less a vacation.
There’s a lie—a slavery—at the heart of all our busy madness:
“I am who I am because of what I do.”
“Look at my calendar, look at our schedule, look at how busy I am, look at how much we’re doing… we must be OK.”
The idea of slowing down, of scaling back, of taking a vacation, doesn’t even appeal to many of us… because we’ve defined our life by what we’re doing, by what we’re producing, by what we’re giving.
And after just a few minutes of rest—of breathing—of not doing anything—we begin to feel really really uncomfortable. Like… crawl-out-of-skin-uncomfortable. Because we’ve bought into this lie. Somewhere we believe:
“If I am not doing then I am not.”
And in us—those of us who feel dread at the very idea of stopping—our are the lives where Sabbath can be revolutionary… because Sabbath disrupts our slavery with freedom.
Sabbath comes in as this great disruption—and disrupts the great lie that we are who we are because of what we do.
Sabbath says “no.”
“You are free from all the slaveries that have chained your soul. Your work is good, your giving is important, your producing is wonderful, but you are more than what you do.”
For all of us who are uncomfortable with Sabbath—we could say it this way:
Sabbath is how we detox from the slavery of false definitions.
For some of us, we might practice Sabbath—like, actually trying to stop, cease, rest—we might experiment a little with Sabbath .
Try sitting down without something to do or something to distract, try taking a walk without a smart phone, try carving out a day without regular responsibilities. Some of us have little children or aged parents or life situations where its super tricky. Sabbath is an experiment in beauty and freedom—there’s no guilt here. Sabbath is a gift—Sabbath is about freedom, not
Sabbath is made for us, not us for Sabbath.
Try stopping, ceasing, breathing—find what kind of strategic silences you need—and then watch what comes rising to the surface. Anxiety and fear and disorientation and anger and sadness start bubbling up.
You’ll be tempted to blame Sabbath… Don’t.
Getting uncomfortable is how you know Sabbath is working.
That’s just the slavery getting out of your system.
Keep practicing. Keep experimenting.
Eventually—the longer we practice Sabbath—we begin discovering that life is more than what we’ve made it. Eventually, we begin discovering that we are more than what we do. Eventually, we begin to hear the Spirit of the Father whisper:
“You are my child, whom I love, in you I am well-pleased.”
And that’s the gospel, isn’t it?
That’s the gospel that we’re all continuously invited to believe. Namely, that what’s true about Jesus is now true about us. Jesus is the Son loved by Father and Spirit—the Father is well-pleased—is proud of Jesus—before Jesus even starts his life’s work. Before Jesus does any ministry. Before any stories are written about him. Before the cross is carried, before sins are absorbed, before death is defeated in resurrection…
…before any of that, Jesus is loved.
A child. A source of pride.
The gospel says
what is true about Jesus by nature
is true about you by grace.
Sabbath gets us to a place—after we detox from slavery and false definitions—where eventually we start to hear that truth: “You are loved—you are adopted—you are forgiven—you are free.”
Eventually Sabbath gives us gospel—not just as an idea we believe but song we sing. As an endless freedom we dance in every single day.
May you hear the gospel—and may you believe it. May you hear the love of the Father through the presence of the Son by whisper of the Spirit. May we begin experimenting with Sabbath and discover heaven’s song written into all creation. May our lives abandon the madness of slavery and learn the music of Sabbath.