“It is time for us, whatever our religious beliefs, to see the Sabbatarian laws of old not as backward and pharisaical, but rather as the liberatory statements they were meant to be.”
That wise recommendation is taken from the article “Let’s bring back the Sabbath as a radical act against ‘total work’” by William R Black, historian of American religion and culture. I encourage you to read the entire article and be a radical with me.
The author is, in a sense, off track on the Sabbath’s origin, saying that “it originated among a community of former slaves”, referring to the Hebrews who had just escaped from Egypt. (Remember that time the Red Sea parted? That was cool.) That timeframe is indeed when the Sabbath law was first written down, along with nine other commandments on stone tablets given to Moses to take to the people. Black makes excellent points about the Sabbath in this context of a “pharaonic economy driven by anxiety”. Recently-freed slaves given a weekly holiday? Yes, please! But I’d like to point out the broader meaning and gift of the Sabbath by revealing it in the context in which it truly originated.
The original holiday
“God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day. So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” (Genesis 1:31 – 2:3)
No pharaohs. No slaves. No sweat. No stress. No economy. Economy is just a way to deal with scarcity. On Earth’s Day 7, there was no scarcity; there was enough. God commemorated enough by setting the seventh day apart from the other six. He didn’t rest because He was tired; He simply sat back and relished in the enoughness (enoughity?). He made it a holiday (holy day) so that all of humanity could do the same on a weekly basis — retreat from busyness and relish in the enough of Him — what He made, what He does, who He is.
Think about that (that’s what we do here at The Thinkery): When everything was right with the world, there was a reason to rest in the recognition of enough.
No, really — Did you think about that? Did you stop reading and think about how and why there’s a reason to rest in the recognition of enough?
Do you recognize ‘enough’?
With God, there’s enough. No need for more or better. Truly, all was right with the world in the beginning. Granted, if you keep reading the story, you see that things went terribly wrong very soon because Adam and Eve doubted that there was enough. They believed the lie that they could get (and be) something more and better. That mistrust sent humanity down a bleak path. Finally it got to the point when God had to remind them of the reality of enough. So He wrote it in stone and told them to remember it.
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 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 livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
By the time the law was written down, it had taken on additional meaning because work was affected by the curse that sent the world down that bleak path. A weekly holiday from work and stress is essential for our physical and mental health; we’d be foolish not to celebrate it. Still, the original, much broader, meaning lives on. We should relish it.
Let’s rest in the recognition of enough.