First Glance: Exodus 20:8-11

Photo by Simon Dukes (2010)
Photo by Simon Dukes (2010)

‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’ (Exodus 20:8)

The words and metaphors we use shape how we understand the world around us. Our relationship to time has been largely determined by the words we use to describe it. We spend an afternoon reading, waste time by procrastinating, and manage time in order to be more efficient with our time. All this is done in order to save time. Words from the sphere of economics permeates our talk of time. In doing so, we have begun to view time in economic terms. It is simply another commodity to be bought, sold, used, or misused for particular ends. Time has come under the sway of economics and our lives are diminished as a result.

The economic vision of time has no place for Sabbath. Sure, it has a place for vacations and weekends, but only as a vehicle for increasing production. People work better with a certain amount of rest, or so the science says. But that is not Sabbath. Our lives are diminished when time simply becomes another commodity to be squeezed for profit.

God’s command to observe the Sabbath invites us into a different world. It is a world where rest is seen as part of the very fabric of creation. It is a world where God himself rests, not from weariness, but in wholeness and completion. It is a world where we do not ‘work for the weekend’ to escape from the futility and drudgery of work, but where Sabbath becomes the climax of the week, because we are drawn into communion with God and receive a foretaste of heaven.

This new world given to us by God in the Sabbath opens up to us a new set of verbs. We have new words to speak of time that help refashion our relationship. We remember the Sabbath because this day must be drawn to the forefront of our minds. We keep or observe the Sabbath, because this day, like all time, is a precious gift from God to be treasured. And we keep it holy, because God has set it apart for our good. Time, with all its limits, becomes a gracious gift to be savored.

This week, don’t spend time, but keep it. Don’t manage your schedule, but remember it. And may the Sabbath greet your week in its fullness as a gift from God.

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