Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Keeping the Nine

I ran across an article on the 10 commandments today that intially seemed edifying, but as I read into it further I was smacked with a glaring misconception which really aggravated me. I'm not going to share the name of the well-known author or the ministry he represents because I don't think it would be fruitful. I do my best to refrain from acting like a "heresy-hunter", naming names and hurtling accusations at those whose beliefs aren't in line with my own. I've done my share of that in the past and I've seen the damage it does to everyone involved.

It seems to me that the intent of the article was to explore the practical application of the Ten commandments in our lives today and seeks to expand upon it in light of modern culture. The part that stuck out to me the most was the explanation of the fourth commandment

FOUR: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." [Exodus 20:8]
"I will worship you through your word everyday. I will spend enough time everyday to make up an entire Sabbath day. I will talk about you and your words in the morning, getting up, Walking, sitting down, lying down, going in the car, whatever I am doing, when I have time to think about my choices of thought, it will be about you and your words.
To begin, here is the breakdown of the Hebrew words that make up the Fourth Commandment:

Remember (Hebrew root: zakar)
"TO REMEMBER, TO RECOLLECT, TO BRING TO MIND. The origin lies in the idea of pricking or piercing; the idea of memory then comes from that of penetrating or infixing in one's mind. It signifies especially (a) to remember, to be mindful (i.e. to retain in memory) The grammatical structure of zakar in this passage carries the form of an imperative (i.e. "you" do something!)

the sabbath (Hebrew root: shabbath)
"the seventh day, or sabbath."
From the root shabath, which means "TO REST, TO KEEP AS A DAY OF REST. The primary idea is of sitting down, sitting still, the opposite of laboring."

day (Hebrew root: yom)
"any specified period of time that has a beginning and ending. It can be a 24 hour day or a longer period of time (i.e. the "day of provocation" in the wilderness, when Israel resisted God, lasted 40 years)

to keep it holy (Hebrew root: qadash)
(1) TO BE PURE, CLEAN, properly used of physical purity and cleanliness; (2) to be holy, sacred, (b) used of things destined for holy worship. The usage in Exodus 20:8 carries with it the additional idea "to regard anything as holy, set apart, consecrated to God."

In short, God instructed us to be mindful to keep the seventh day set apart from the other six days and rest during that period.

The Biblical Sabbath is celebrated from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night, as Hebrew days were reckoned from sundown to sundown. God emphasized keeping the Sabbath 35 different times in Old Testament. This does not count the times when the Sabbath is simply mentioned, but rather times when God reminded us to actively take part in observing it. I didn't tally the number of times that the Sabbath was spoken of in the New Testament, but there are many mentions of Yeshua (Jesus) and those who continued ministered the Gospel observing the Sabbath.

Granted, I don't consider myself an expert Sabbath-keeper. In fact, at times I feel like I may be one of the most awkward Sabbath-keepers in history. I'm still relatively new to it and I'm convinced that my observance can be improved upon. In spite of the way I feel about my performance thus far, I'm going to stick with it and eventually I'll become more comfortable doing it and it will be a richer, more relaxing, more rewarding time in my relationship with God.

Here is the exerpt from the article and why I believe it sends us on the wrong path of thinking (and toward wrong actions as a result
"I will worship you through your word everyday."
There are many Scriptures that state this same thought in the Old Testament. Here are three of them.

Joshua 1:8 NIV Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Psalm 1:2 NIV But his delight [the righteous] is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 119:97 MEM. Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.

[Note: at the time when these passages were penned, the "law of God" [Torah] was the entire Word of God. Today, the Torah is the foundation of what has been added since then, and remains the foundation of our faithfulness to God.]
I will spend enough time everyday to make up an entire Sabbath day.
Taken at face value, this statement doesn't make any sense. I'll give the benefit of the doubt and assume that the author is saying that throughout the seven-day week, he will devote time each day that would equal a Sabbath day in worship, study, etc...Or to repeat a statement I have heard more times than I would care to, "Since we have the Holy Spirit, we can spend time with God anytime and make every day holy."On the surface there may not seem to be anything wrong with these sentiments, after all the author is speaking about taking action to get closer to God. However, if we examine them more closely, we begin to see how several different passages of Scripture have been Frankensteined together to achieve an end which negates the very commandment he is trying to expand upon.

The concept behind the word "holy" is to set apart or consecrate something. For something to be holy, it must be separate from what is common. There is a phrase said to many young graphic designers who tend to overempasize everything which goes, "If everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized."

In other words, the whole idea of the Sabbath being holy is in that it is set apart from what we do on the other six days of the week. If every day is "holy", then none of our days is "holy."

I will talk about you and your words in the morning, getting up, Walking, sitting down, lying down, going in the car, whatever I am doing, when I have time to think about my choices of thought, it will be about you and your words.
This is basically a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:6-8
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (7) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (8) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

[Note: although some people have applied verse 8 literally, the language of the verse used Hebrew idioms to instruct us to constantly meditate upon and find strength through meditating on God's Word. I do not think someone is wasting their time in applying it literally, since in most cases they are achieving the figurative aim of the commandment in the process. At any rate, the one who only applies it literally is better off than those who ignore the commandment altogether.]

When deconstructed, the individual parts of the article find their foundation in Scripture. However, when they are mish-mashed together as if referring to a single commandment, it is misleading. There are actually several commandments referenced, all of which should be obeyed, and none of which overturn the other. We should worship God through studying His Word every day. It should be what we ponder and discuss regardless of what we are doing or who we are with. But in addition to doing this, we should keep the rest of God's commandments, including setting apart the Sabbath from the other six days of our week. It's not really even about choosing a day of worship. It doesn't matter which day of the week you choose to gather with other believers to worship God; that doesn't replace the Sabbath, which God established at the end of Creation and remains His appointed time for us to rest and enjoy a special time of communion with Him.

What disturbs me about someone teaching that God's Sabbath doesn't matter is that it's too close for comfort to what the serpent told Eve regarding eating the forbidden fruit. "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. [Genesis 3:8 NIV]

In other words, "God doesn't mean what He said." Instruction along those lines never ends up pleasant for those who follow it. I think I'll stick with God's instruction; will you join me?

Shalom v'shalom! (Peace and wholeness multiplied upon peace and wholeness to you.)

1 comment:

  1. Remembering the Sabbath day and keep it HOLY! Amen! The word Holy is the vital part of the 4th commandment. I believe that our culture makes it more difficult for us to "keep Holy". It seems so easy to work Sabbath into everyday life, which in essence is us inventing our own commandments. Askesis, spiritual stretching, it's not easy, it's an awkward work out to keep them, especially as broken sinners. I will join you, and keep it HOLY!