Don’t Just Drop the Sabbath

The Sabbath was hugely important in the identity of Israel. God said of it, at the end of his meeting with Moses on the mountain, just before Moses descended with two tablets of testimony and saw a golden calf – and here I format the chiasm because it looks spiffy – in Exodus 31.13–17:

A. You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, YHWH, sanctify you.

B. ‘You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you.

C. ‘Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.

‘Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to YHWH.

C′. ‘Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.

B′. ‘Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.

A′. ‘It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days YHWH made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’

The first part of the chiasm highlights the concept of holiness in Sabbath observance (‘sanctify’, ‘holy’, ‘profanes’). Not sure about the second part, but it seems to play off the idea in (A) that it’s YHWH, and no one else, who makes his people holy. Whoever in worship fails to worship by faith in the grace of God alone will die; the people of the Lord must rest in God as a covenant forever; we look to the enjoyment of God’s refreshment in the Sabbath.

I shall not hear of abrogation unless there be a good Christological explanation of it that adequately shows how the command’s fulfilment by Christ means our application of it now does not mean that we as a community ought to rest for all of the Lord’s Day. Otherwise, there really seems to be a point in saying ‘forever’ (or warn me that you believe Israel and the Church are distinct communities of faith with distinct destinies with distinct ways of being saved).

If you have something to say about the chiasm, of course, do make a comment. I’d like to hear.


2 responses to “Don’t Just Drop the Sabbath

  1. Amen, I’ve recently been thinking about this and changing my thinking. Even if the law was nullified (which I have questioned and challenged), wouldn’t it obviously still be a good practice? Yet it seems that it’s barely even taught. People, including myself, operate under the assumption that it’s an “old law”. Yes, it’s definitely worth a visit.


    • »[…] wouldn’t it obviously still be a good practice? Yet it seems that it’s barely even taught.«

      Indeed. What bothers me is if we’re ignoring things just because of an oversimplification of the issues into ‘old law’ and ‘free gospel’ (‘free’ then referring to doing what we want as long as it seems decent).

      Even the categories of moral, civil and ceremonial law that we sometimes hear especially with regard to the Law of Moses, I think, are somewhat artificial. I really think all OT laws were moral laws; only, the shape of revealed morality has matured in Christ (see my recent post on theonomy) and been able to change only in Christ. Christ, in expounding on the law, prepared us to walk in faith with the Holy Spirit that the Father would later send. So now we live in the Spirit, not in the flesh.

      But none of this indicates the law being just dropped in any part. We need the theology to work through this stuff without letting any iota drop out. God, after all, is one, the same God of Abraham and Moses as of us now, the same one who spoke at the foundation of the world.


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