Sundays could be a bit boring when I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. You weren’t allowed to play out. It wasn’t that my parents forbade me, but if you went out, there wasn’t another kid in sight, and anyway it just wasn’t DONE! I remember also getting into trouble as a newly-married, for telling an elderly church lady that we’d been out on a ramble on the Sunday afternoon and picked some blackberries! Yet these days, it’s hard to spot the difference between Sundays and any other day of the week. It must be hard for people who have to work, when they really want to go to church.
Reading Exodus 31:12-17, God’s commands about keeping the Sabbath are really serious – so how, as Christians, do we come to terms with our ‘holy day’, whenever we celebrate it? How do we understand putting to death those who work on the Sabbath? Why did God think it was so important? Maybe we don’t really understand what Shabbat (Sabbath) represents.
There is so much symbolism in the Old Testament, and particularly in this book of Exodus, that passes us by. In 2 Peter 3, Paul was reminding his hearers not to forget that Christ would return. Verse 8 – “but do not forget…with the Lord a day is like a thousand years…” The Sabbath day, at the end of a 6-day working week, can be seen as representing the millennium age of God’s reign on earth, a thousand years of rest for the world, after six thousand years of travail. The Sabbath is God’s day, and he reigns over it, just as he reigns over the earth through the millennium to come. Practising the celebration of Shabbat was a prophetic proclamation of the reign of God. It was part of the purpose of the Jewish people.
What about non-Jewish Christians then? How seriously should we take our holy day? Colossians 2:16-17 says that the festivals and Sabbaths are all a shadow of things to come. The reality is that Jesus himself is our Sabbath-rest. “Come to me, you who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…” Any time. When did the early Christians meet? Every day. Sabbath is the proclamation of the reign of God. That should be our life’s purpose. Any day…every day. And we should take it seriously. Because our world seriously needs to know.