Deuteronomy 10:1-11

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The second half of this chapter is filled with many inspiring words and ideas. But what about the first half? What can we get out of that? It seems to just be some random historical details jumbled together.

First of all, the ark (10:1-5). Made by Moses of acacia wood, its job was to carry the ten commandments written by God on two stone tablets. It doesn’t sound very exciting here, not glorious like it is described back in Exodus 25, and definitely not as thrilling as in the Books of Samuel and in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In this Deuteronomic telling of the tale, it was just a wooden box.

Now jump down to 10:8-9. Who carries the box? The Levites, set apart (note that this is not the word for ‘holy’) for a special purpose. Not only were they to literally carry the word of God, they were also to stand before Yahweh to minister to him and to bless others in his name. Because of this privilege, Levites were not assigned an inheritable portion of land like the rest of the tribes. Instead, Yahweh himself was to be the inheritance of each Levite. (I’m not sure how this really worked out in the long run for the Levites. Does it mean that this kind of service to the LORD was passed on from every father to every son in this tribe? Perhaps that partially explains the collapse of the priesthood in later centuries.) I wonder whether our modern-day full-time Christian servants might follow the financial model given here somewhat; our whole lives dedicated to him, we do not look to financial gain or security. The LORD himself is my portion.

The other little historical detail thrown into this section is in 10:6-7, where we learn about some other journeys of Israelites, hitherto barely mentioned (cf Num 33:31-33); and also the death of Aaron and how he was succeeded by his son, Eleazar. Why is this included here? Not that this explains the strange juxtaposition entirely, but it is perhaps in response to what Moses described in 9:20. It could only be because of Moses’ intercessory prayers for Aaron that he survived beyond Sinai through much of the journey to the land, all the way to Moserah. And the priesthood does not end with him, but is passed to his own descendant, just as Moses will pass on the law to the people without being allowed to enter the land. This is yet another example of God’s grace.

Finally, Moses re-starts the narrative about the mountain-top giving of the law on the tablets in 10:10-11. There is a little phrase in there that I find fascinating. Moses is back up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights the second time (I think, it feels like about five times by now!). But he does not say that he was listening to God, which is our normal assumption of what was happening up there, but that Yahweh listened to him. I suppose it must have been a two-way conversation. Here we learn that Yahweh consented not to destroy the Israelites for their sin of disobedience when they made the golden calf. Lastly, Moses is commanded by God to get up and go ahead of the people so that they enter and possess the promised land.

What I can distill from these random vignettes is that serving the Lord generates a legacy. Aaron’s legacy for the priesthood was his son Eleazar. Moses’ legacy was the law itself. For the Levites there would be nothing except the LORD himself, but what a great inheritance! I keep hearing about leaders leaving a legacy, and being asked to ponder what my legacy will be. In contrast to what the world is asking these days, I leave you with this song.

Prayer: Lord, be my legacy, the mark that is left by my life. I desire nothing glorious for myself, no gold or land or descendants, only that you are glorified by my service for you.

The Ark From 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' on 'Antiques Roadshow' | Mental Floss

Deuteronomy 9

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Again, just like yesterday, we may ask, ‘What is new in today’s reading that we haven’t already read in previous chapters?’ What has already been said is that Israel is about to enter and possess the land which Yahweh swore to give to them. They will be able to drive out the inhabitants because of God’s power and might.

What is fresh in the passage is the repeated insistence that it is not because of Israel’s righteousness that they have a right to this land. Moses catalogues their sins, the worst of which is retold in the story of the golden calf, cast at the bottom of the mountain while Moses was at its top receiving the law. They have been rebellious ever since, grumbling in the desert, arrogant and proud, lacking faith and obedience (9:23). The stories are told in shorthand by listing the place names where they happened. No, it is not because of Israel’s righteousness that they are receiving this land, surely not. Rather, it is the other nations’ wicked sin which is leading the Lord to drive them out; Israel in this portrayal of the story is merely a tool in God’s hand.

Another important aspect of the story in this chapter is the presentation of Moses as intercessor and mediator. His stay on the mountain for forty days and nights without food and water is even multiplied in this recounting of the tale (9:11,18,25). First of all he received the word of God, inscribed on the two tablets. Then he heard Yahweh’s word and reflected his anger to the people. But he also turned his face back to Yahweh to beg for forgiveness, and Yahweh listened to him and did not destroy the people as he had threatened. It happened also with Aaron as a representative of the people. Despite the great number of times the people rebelled against God, Moses continued to intercede for them so they would not be punished for their stubbornness. His argument is twofold: firstly, that if God did away with the Israelites then the Egyptians would end up with the last laugh; and secondly, that Israel was God’s own people, his inheritance.

This narrative is a precursor to one of the great themes of the New Testament: that our entry into the promised land is all of grace, by faith, not by the works of our own hands. We have no righteousness of our own. In fact, even as God’s own people, his family, we are stubborn, arrogant, complaining, and rebellious, just like the Israelites. But his way is always to have grace, for his own glory’s sake. There is nothing in us deserving of salvation, and yet he is mighty to conquer even the greatest foes.

Prayer: Lord, Father, your mercies are new every morning. All my righteousness is like filthy rags before you. Forgive me, and forgive my people, for stubbornness and pride. Help me to trust you and to obey your word. Thank you that my salvation is not dependent on my goodness, but on your strength to save.

Deuteronomy 8

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Does it feel to you that we are reading the same content day after day? Every chapter seems to say: God was good to you, so obey his commandments; then you will have a good life in the land God brought you to, and you will not be punished. What really strikes me anew in this chapter is the humility that comes from testing. You can see it at the beginning (8:2-4) and at the end (8:15-18) of the chapter.

Moses challenges the Israelites to remember the forty years they have just endured in the desert, with its lack of food and water, and its snakes and scorpions. They could survive only by relying on God; he fed them and gave them water, he provided miraculous clothing and healthy feet. They did not survive because of what they could provide for themselves, but only because God cared for them. This is the sense in which they learned humility, and which they must not forget when they enter the promised land and are able to provide for themselves. Self-reliance, the arrogance which says ‘I did it my way’, brings curse. Trust in God brings blessing.

This is especially true in times of testing, which is why Jesus refers to this chapter when he is tested by the devil (Matt 4:1-11). In 8:2 Moses states that God tested the Israelites to know what was in their hearts. In moments of trouble, who do we reach out to? In whom do we trust? Our own abilities, or the Lord’s word?

Another way to talk about this is ‘discipline’, in the sense of training, as a father does with a son (verse 5). Yahweh trained his people to depend on him in want (in the desert), so that they would continue to depend on him in plenty (in the good land). I am reminded of this song. Whether we live in need, or in a land which flows with oil and honey, brooks and fountains, wheat, grapes, figs and pomegranates, with silver and gold, with fine houses and with copper-mines, in any situation, we are to bless the LORD and be obedient to him. His desire is that we prosper (8:16), but only in ongoing and deepening relationship with him.

Let our hearts never become proud, secure in our own abilities to provide for ourselves, with the result that we forget to depend on God. The testing is to remind us that God is the one who gives us the ability to provide for ourselves. We must never elevate ourselves or any god to the place of glory that the Lord, Yahweh, deserves.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for forgetting you in my life, for depending on my self or on others to provide for me. Help me to trust in you at all times, whether in lack or in plenty, and never to allow another to take your place as God in my heart.

Deuteronomy 7

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Most of this chapter is one of those sections that you wish you could delete from the Bible. We don’t want to hear about devoting entire nations to destruction, burning and smashing the symbols of their cultures, and abhorring others. We certainly don’t want to hear the instruction to have have no pity or mercy. It just hurts. We want a God who is loving to all, generous, and merciful. That is not the God that we meet in this chapter.

Instead, we meet a God who wants to get rid of all the evil in the land, and anyone who hates him. He does not want there to be even a small chance that his people might be corrupted, via intermarriage, into worshipping other gods. God is not concerned about cross-cultural marriage per se, but the possibility that it might lead people astray from him.

On the other hand, we also meet a God who is passionately in love with his people, has set them apart from all other peoples of the world, and wants to protect them at all costs. He has chosen them not because of anything in themselves, but simply because he loves them and made a promise to their fathers. He is a faithful God, who once he has committed to a covenant, will not break it. His steadfast covenant love extends a thousand generations. His blessing pours out in fruitfulness and good health, not only for humans but even for livestock and the land itself.

This is a God who fights for his people, who fought for them to bring them out of Egypt, and who will fight for them in driving out the nations from the promised land. The beloved people can trust in his mighty hand and outstretched arm. They need not be terrified of the great nations they stand against, for it is by God’s strength that they will be victorious.

Note that the heart of the chapter again calls for the people to listen to God’s commandments and keep them. If the people fulfill their side of the covenant, God will fulfill his side. They are holy, set apart by the law, and they therefore must live according to it. This involved keeping themselves, as a nation, pure from corrupting influence. That is what is behind the awful commands to completely destroy the nations and their gods.

So what for us, followers of Yahweh three millennia later? God doesn’t want us burning down other religions’ altars, right? Yet he is the same God, a passionate and demonstrative lover, who fights for the purity of his beloved. As Paul said, “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. … We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:3-5). In other words, our enemies are not living, breathing people, and we have no mandate to conquer the land of other nations. In fact, God so passionately loves the world that Jesus came to himself be devoted to destruction, on behalf of both the loved and the unloved.

Prayer: Lord God, there are many things I don’t understand, but this I know: you love me and you fight for me. Thank you that I can trust you even in my confusion.

Deuteronomy 6:10-25

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The repetitiveness in this passage is intentional. Don’t forget! Don’t forget! Don’t forget! Moses is reminding the people over and over, because there is indeed a great risk that they will forget who they are and where they have come from.

Moses envisages a time of not suffering and not working hard. It was perhaps inconceivable to these Israelites who had known only hardship throughout their entire lives. They had lived essentially as refugees, with no home and no comfort, wandering from place to place and camping in tents – not unlike some people groups’ experience today. Now, on the verge of the land promised to their ancestors and to their own fathers, they hear that they will be living in a land with great cities, full houses, hewn wells, vines and olives they did not plant. At that time they will eat their fill and be satisfied, without having to labour for it. In such a situation, it would be easy to forget the past, to put their suffering far from their minds. And for their children, who had never known hardship, the covenant with Yahweh might seem irrelevant. ‘What is the point of the rules we follow, the commandments and testimonies?’, these children might wonder.

For the sake of their children, and themselves, the Israelites must not forget what and where they had come from. They were slaves in Egypt. Only because of the LORD’s power, demonstrated in fearsome signs and wonders, were they set free from that life. They would live in the sweet land of Canaan only because of God’s grace. And they must never, ever forget it. They would demonstrate their thankfulness and allegiance to their sovereign, Yahweh, by following the commands laid out in the covenant.

Specifically, Moses commands them, positively: Fear Yahweh, worship him, swear in his name; keep his commandments; do what is right and good. And negatively: Do not forget Yahweh; do not go after other gods; do not test Yahweh. The motivation or reason for obedience is manifold: Yahweh, who lives near you, is jealous, so do not provoke him to anger and thus be destroyed; things will go well as you enter in and possess the land; your lives will be preserved; you will be considered righteous.

I like how in verse 13 the normal word order is reversed to keep the LORD foregrounded: The LORD your God you will fear, him you will worship/serve, in his name you will swear. In the original Hebrew, it is just eight words in total, a real ‘rat-a-tat’ sound (cf verse 4, which is only six words in total).

I have never been a refugee, so I can’t imagine how it might have felt. But my father was a refugee, and I have friends who even now are refugees in the country where I live. Mostly, those who can remember how the transition to security felt live in gratitude to the country or community that has given them peace in asylum. But after getting used to the comfort, it is easy to forget, to leave that suffering in the past. As the child of a refugee, I have taken shamefully little time to be thankful to the people that got him out – I don’t even know who they are – and to the country that eventually accepted him as a citizen.

On the other hand, I take time occasionally to reflect on what my life may have looked like if I had not heard the Lord call me out of darkness into his glorious light. What a diseased soul I had, clutching onto anything to find love and get attention. This passage reminds us of the order of salvation: he saves us, therefore we obey him. We do not obey him in order to be saved. Click here to listen to an old song for your meditation today.

Modern western culture would do well to read and meditate on these verses. It is so easy to forget the Lord in the midst of all our comforts, our luxury homes with running water and full pantries. May we never forget to worship and serve the Lord. He is passionate about his love for us, and he will not share us with others whom we elevate as gods in our lives to bring us security and welfare.

Prayer: LORD, my God, fill my mind with your goodness, my heart with your salvation, and my heart with your praise. Let me never, ever forget all that you have done for me. You rescued me, Lord, and put my feet on solid ground.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

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We come today to one of the most famous passages of the Jewish Bible (that is, what Christians usually call the ‘Old Testament’). It is recited twice daily in Jewish morning and evening prayer services, taught to children, and traditionally spoken as the last words before dying. The shema, Israel’s creed, is one of the first sentences Jewish people learn to say in Hebrew. The preface comes in verses 1-3, as Moses tells the Israelites that these are the commandments which Yahweh has told him to teach them to follow in the land which flows with milk and honey.

Verse 4 is the famous verse: Shema Israel, ‘adonai’ elohenu, ‘adonai’ echad. Literally, we would translate: ‘Hear Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh one’. You may notice there is no verb ‘is’, but it may be understood from the context of the sentence. The other peculiar thing to note is that although we say ‘adonai‘, which means ‘Lord’, in fact the consonants printed in Hebrew form the name of God, which I have been writing as ‘Yahweh’ in this blog. For some Jewish people, the divine name is so sacred that they neither say it nor write it. (In some Bibles, it is written as ‘Jehovah’, but I prefer ‘Yahweh’, or just the consonants: ‘YHWH’.) In most Bibles, the divine name is represented with the capital letters ‘LORD’ (as distinct from the actual word for ‘lord’ in Hebrew, which is adon and is also used in many places). When we read with our eyes the Hebrew YHWH, we say with our lips ‘adonai‘. That may all sound super confusing, but it is quite important for understanding the text of scripture. Simply put: LORD is not the same as Lord; it is Yahweh, God’s own name. Reading the Old Testament with that knowledge will help you understand it better.

So, back to our text. Yahweh is Israel’s God. That is clear and easy. What does it mean that he is ‘one’ (echad)? For many Jewish people, this creed is why Christianity is impossible to consider, with its three persons in the trinitarian Godhead. ‘One’ could also mean ‘alone’ or ‘unique’, which fits our understanding of Deuteronomy and its disavowal of any rival god (cf Isaiah also). Echad also means ‘first’ in many parts of scripture (eg Gen 8:5,13), but I’m not sure we should push for that translation, unless we stress the meaning of having first place, or number one priority.

Nevertheless, this interpretation fits the following verse, which is also part of the creed and is repeated by Jesus: “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Matt 22:37). Note that for Hebrews, ‘heart’ is not the seat of affection (which would be the bowels!) but is your mind and will. What is translated as ‘soul’ means the essence of a person, her or his ‘beingness’, what makes you you and not someone else. Finally, the word translated as ‘strength’ doesn’t mean strength at all (!) but is a very common word which normally means the adverb (adverbs describe adjectives and verbs) ‘very’ or ‘much’. But how would we translate this into English? Your ‘very-ness’? Your ‘muchness’? How about your ‘all’? Now try it on for size: “Love Yahweh with your mind, your self, and your all”.

This was so important for the Israelites that they had to keep it in mind always and let it control every behavior, at home and on the road, resting and working, doing and thinking. The phrase that is translated as ‘teach’ is actually a word for the sharp tip of an arrow; Moses does not only command them to teach it, but to drive it into the flesh of the children (figuratively of course!) and write it where they would always see it, going out and coming in. Many Jewish offices and homes have a symbol of the creed literally stuck to the doors so that people remember it wherever they go; whether they do or not, as they touch or kiss it, is another question! The mezuzah (pictured below) is a sign you are entering a Jewish household and is simply the word for ‘doorpost’ but represents a lot more.

I feel like we are just scratching the surface, and yet going to the depths of detail. Do I need to spell out an application? It is this: Love Yahweh, your God, with all that you are, wherever you are, and teach others to do likewise.

Prayer: LORD, you alone are my God. Remind me daily of your grace and power, of being obedient to your word. Enable me to love you with everything that I am and everything I have, wherever I go, and wherever I stay.

Mezuzah - 10 Commandments and Star of David, 24k Gold Plated Jewish 2.7"  Mezuza case, Judaica: Kitchen & Home

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

We will not be posting any new studies from 21 December until 3 January. But you can find posts which you have missed since we started publishing in May.

  1. If you are using a computer, you can choose the post you want to read by looking on the right hand side of the webpage and choosing either ‘Studies’ (click on the drop down box to select a book of the Bible) or ‘Archives’ (click on the month and then date). Or you can type the Bible chapter you are looking for in the Search bar.
  2. If you are using a phone or tablet, you will find ‘Studies’, ‘Archives’, and ‘Search’ when you scroll to the bottom. (It might take a long time, depending on what kind of device you are using and its settings. Sorry, I am yet to figure out another way of doing it.) Click on the study or date you want, or type the chapter into the Search bar.
  3. If you get the posts into your email inbox, you can find the link at the bottom to get to the website, then go through the same processes listed above.

Deuteronomy 5:22-33

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In this section Moses tells the story of what happened next, after the giving of the ten commandments. First he reminds the audience of the context: the whole assembly of Israel heard the voice of God out of the fire which blazed on the mountains and all the smoky darkness. God then wrote the ten commandments on two tablets of stone and gave them to Moses.

The next few verses show the response of the people. They acknowledge that they have heard Yahweh, their God, and seen his glory and greatness. They appear to be amazed that it is possible for a human being to hear God speaking out of the fire and yet go on living. To continue hearing him, they believe, may mean death, so they would like to get out and leave Moses to it. They trust him to be their mediator, to listen to God speaking and then report it to them so that they can hear and do what is commanded.

With all this talk of terrifying fire, I can’t help being reminded of the fires that were raging in my home state this time last year. I have not personally experienced a bushfire, but reports indicate that it is extremely loud, like freight train or a helicopter. I don’t know what the people heard on the mountain, or whether it is even possible to hear God’s voice as is described here. But I believe this is the scene the scripture is conveying. Have a quick look at this to get an idea of the feeling.

Perhaps surprisingly, God is pleased with the people’s response and agrees to their request. He hopes that this heart of fear will stay with them forever, so that they are inspired to keep his commandments. God releases them to their camp, but Moses is to stay and listen to the rest of the commandments, statutes, and judgments. He will then teach these to the rest of the people, so that in keeping them they have a good, long life in the land they are about to enter and possess.

This seems a fairly simple passage to understand. We again here associate God with fire (cf 4:24). I don’t feel comfortable with this, but then, that is perhaps the point. Notice that he does not send sinners away from himself to hellfire, as we often imagine. The fire is with God, in God, God is the fire. He himself is the one to be feared. On the other hand, Moses stays with that fire and is not afraid. He is called to it. I am reminded of Hebrews 12:18-29. According to that passage, even Moses was trembling with fear, and yet in his trust he could stay and listen. We are to fear the Lord, and obey him, and the result is a good, long life in the land prepared for us.

Prayer: Forgive me, Lord God, for forgetting that you are a God to be feared and revered. As I honor you, help me to listen to and obey your commandments.

C.S. Lewis, Aslan not a tame lion, Aslan not safe but good | Lion artwork,  Lion hd wallpaper, Lion pictures

PS. We will be having a break from studies over Christmas. I will put a post up on Monday about how to review posts you have missed. Fresh material will return from 3 January.

Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (16-21)

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This is the second section of the ten commandments, about the relationships between people (see the post from two days ago to understand about the structure, if you missed that).

We begin with the people who are most important in our lives from birth: our parents. The verb usually translated as ‘honor’ can also mean ‘respect’, or more simply in a culture which is not based on honor and shame, ‘give due importance to’. There is no need to labor this point in an Asian – or indeed any non-Western – context, where honoring parents is as basic as mother’s milk. But Westerners need to hear it, especially those of us who have left our parents to serve in another country. How will we honor them as they deserve when we are far away? The significance of this commandment is underlined in the New Testament (eg Matt 15:4; Eph 6:2).

Commandment #5 is unique within this set. First of all, it is not a ‘Do not’, but rather is one of the few expressed in positive terms (cf Commandment #1 and Commandment #4). Secondly, it is the only one of the ten commandments expanded upon in terms of reward. (Commandment #3 was expanded on in terms of punishment, and Commandment #4 was expanded on in terms of reason; Commandment #2 was expanded on in terms of both punishment and reason.) The result of honoring parents is a good, long life in the land God is giving them.

Commandments #6-#10, on the other hand, are simply stated. They are also repeated frequently in the New Testament, particularly #6, #7, #9 and #10, which Jesus refers to in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:21-37). In fact, they are not very different from the Buddhist five moral precepts (except that the last in Buddhism is abstaining from intoxicants rather than from coveting). Jainism’s five vows are also extremely similar. Even the atheist Christopher Hitchens stated that human societies have always forbidden “perjury, theft, murder, rape” (Uncommon Knowledge, 2007). It would seem that all humans know that murder, sexual immorality, stealing, lying, and wanting what does not belong to you, at least in some interpretation, are wrong.

In this Deuteronomic list, sexual immorality is specified as adultery, that is, having sexual relations with someone who is not your covenanted spouse. Lying here is more particularly perjury, that is, answering falsely (note it is the same word as is usually translated ‘in vain’ back in verse 11) as a witness against a neighbor, presumably in a court situation. Jesus’ extension in his sermon on the mount is about something a little different, and it is also not generally lying (i.e. speaking falsely) which is prohibited here. The last commandment is interesting. While Jainism talks about a general ‘non-possessiveness’, Yahweh here commands against selfishly desiring a neighbor’s wife, servant, animal, or property. There are two different verbs used in verse 21, both with a similar meaning of desiring, longing for, craving, or lusting after. Sometimes these verbs are used with a positive sense in the Bible, but here the people are clearly being warned against falling into a trap of selfishness by which they could hurt both themselves and also someone else.

Application of this passage is simple: Honor your parents; don’t murder, commit adultery, steal, perjure yourself, or long for what isn’t yours. Read Matt 5:21-37 to take these a bit further; don’t be angry or hate, don’t lust or divorce, don’t swear to what you have no control over. In fact, love even your enemies.

Prayer: Lord God, forgive me for the times I have broken your commandments. Help me to honor my parents and to love my neighbors in every way. I swear allegiance to you alone.

Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (11-15)

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If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you may want to start back there to get the flow of the whole ten commandments. Today we are looking at Commandments #3 and #4.

Verse 11 has been variously interpreted and most people ordinarily think it is something to do with not swearing, particularly not using ‘God’ or his name as an expletive. But I think it is something much more significant than that. To start with, the verb means to ‘bear’ or ‘carry’ and the phrase usually translated as ‘in vain’ means something like ‘worthless’, ’empty’ or ‘false’. So my understanding is that the commandment warns against branding ourselves as followers of God and yet not living like we are. In other words, and to turn it around to the positive, if we bear the name of God then we should bear fruit. The consequence is also specified in the negative: the person who bears God’s name falsely, Yahweh – the original owner of the name – will not acquit. Jesus spoke in this way several times (eg Matt 7:19-23). God does not want us to live a false life, where what we say does not match up with what we do. He wants those whose lives are stamped with his name to live with integrity.

Verses 12-15 are about keeping the sabbath day ‘for its holiness’. The explanation is sociologically fascinating, but before we get there, let us remember that ‘holy’ in the Bible most frequently means ‘set apart’, that is, different from the ordinary. This is the easiest way to both understand and apply these verses. God does not expect us to be extra pious, or only sing worship songs, pray, and read the Bible on that day; but simply to make it different from the other six days of the week. He is clear that six days of the week are for working, but the seventh day must be different as a day of rest. The word sabbath literally means ‘rest’ and is what God did after his work of creating the world (cf Exod 20:11).

Now, what I find amazing about this small passage is that this expectation of keeping one day per week for not working was for everyone in the household: male and female, slave and free, insider and outsider, even the livestock. There are some Orthodox Jewish households where they employ a Gentile for turning on the lights so that they do not break the commandment of not kindling a fire on the sabbath. But according to this verse, they have already broken the sabbath by asking someone else to do it. (Have a look at this article if you don’t believe this is a genuine issue for Orthodox Jewish people.) The Sabbath day was a weekly reminder, according to the Deuteronomic code of the Ten Commandments, that Yahweh had brought them out of slavery, and that they were to live in dignity and create dignity for others, even slaves and foreigners.

No one needs to work seven days per week. This can be confusing for people who are servants of God, because of course we don’t stop being God’s servants one day per week. But neither did the servants or working-animals of the ancient Israelites stop being who they were just because they weren’t working that day. Having a day of rest reminds us that God provides, just as in the provision of extra manna on the sixth day so that the Israelites didn’t have to gather it on the seventh (cf Exod 16). It reminds us that God is mighty and able, especially in those times that we are unable to save ourselves. Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible to stop our work after six days and more. But let us remember to regularly down tools and take a moment to reflect on the God who brought us out of slavery and dignifies our life with rest.

Prayer: Lord my God, forgive me for failing to stop and rest and reflect on who you are and what you have done for me. Forgive me for falsely bearing your name, when my life was empty of reflections of you. Help me to keep your commands: to bear fruit in keeping with my identity in you; and to remember that you have brought me out of slavery.