ALL ENTRIES TAKEN FROM THE AUTHOR'S WORK,
WHAT IF GOD...? Thought-Provoking Reflections About God (Michael Caputo)
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WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT GIVEN HUMANITY A SABBATH REST?
Before God thundered the Sabbath commandment, humans had no God-imposed, cyclical, weekly pause to restore them spiritually, mentally and physically. No doubt, there were "almost universal customs of keeping days of rest,"21 but it's difficult to know to what extent they were kept, or how they were kept. Some have speculated that the Sabbath finds its roots in the Babylonian "Dies Nefasti" that were kept on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first and twenty-eighth days of some months. This hypothesis is weakened by the fact that the Babylonians had "five-day" week cycles, and by the fact that Babylonian tablets indicate that work projects had no interruption on the seventh day.22The Sabbath was a day of rest and joy,23 while the Babylonian "Dies Nefasti" were days of prohibitions, especially for kings24. Any supposed similarity with the Akkadian "shappatu/shapattu" holds little weight, as it was the fifteenth day of the month, the day of the full moon.25 This day is now believed to have been a propitious day in which the king sought to appease the gods, but there is no evidence that it was a day of cessation of work.26
God thundered: “You will keep the seventh day holy,” and He insisted that the Sabbath be a day of rest for strangers, for slaves and even animals. The God who made all life knew that a cyclical day was critical for the well being of all human beings and even for animals that toiled for them.
But what if the Sabbath Day had never been given? What if humanity had not been introduced to the concept of a cyclical rest?
Let’s first of all look at the reasons for the giving of the Sabbath, and it will become quite clear what its absence would have led to, and, consequently, where disregard of its value will finally lead societies that refuse to sanctify it.
The Sabbath was to remind Israel that Yahweh, who created all things, and who had delivered them from Egypt, was their Savior and God, and that they had to set aside sacred time to "reconnect" with Him weekly so as to maintain a strong spiritual relationship. Today it is meant to remind all of humanity that God is the only One that can give humanity freedom from the toil and illusions that it continually and vainly pursues.
The keeping of the Sabbath was to be a day that celebrates the dignity of man, the epitome of Gods physical creation. Among all living beings, man has been given the privilege of knowing God and of enjoying a special relationship with Him. This physical being also has the special opportunity to meet with His Creator weekly so as to be instructed in His ways and thus deepen his knowledge of Him.
The Sabbath is to be a day of joy, not a gloomy day of bad omen, as celebrated by the Babylonians. It is especially a day of joy for the weak and the oppressed, such as workers and even animals (Exodus 20:10, Deuteronomy 5:14). God demands that employers allow their workers to take a breather, one day a week. This is not an "only-if- you-see-fit" principle. It is a divine command from the highest power of all.
Can we see how benevolent and how divine that is? Forcing everyone to stop and rest; commanding families to rest together a full day a week and be recharged; stopping all trade and commerce so as to give everyone, rich and poor, master or slave, a chance to be refreshed, is both revolutionary and powerful in impact.
Author Samuel H. Dresner effectively emphasizes the equalizing power of the Sabbath: "Although one Jew may have peddled onions and another may have owned great forests of lumber, on the Sabbath all were equal, all were kings, all basked in the glory of the seventh day…On the Sabbath there were neither banker nor clerk, neither farmer nor hired hand, neither rich nor poor. There were only Jews hallowing the Sabbath."27
Sabbath scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi eloquently captures the worth of the Sabbath in the following reflection: "The Sabbath (gives) a chance to our souls to catch up with our bodies to give a change to our souls, through worship and meditation, to be enriched with new moral and spiritual values. This spiritual renewal that comes to us on the Sabbath through worship and meditation enables us to turn a new page in our life, to start a new week with a fresh provision of divine wisdom and grace.”29
The Sabbath is a gift to from God to all humans for their mental, physical, and social well-being. As Christ reminds us in the New Testament, "The Sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27). It was made for our benefit not as a limit to our potential. This is, undeniably, a manifestation of divine love.
Yet there are powerful forces in our Western World that see the Sabbath as an economic impediment to be gradually faced out. Unfortunately, their arrogant plot is coming to pass, as more and more businesses operate seven days a week and more and more workers are manipulated or coerced to work on weekends. The result: more families will come asunder, more mental and physical illness due to stress, and most of all, more spiritual deterioration.
Therefore, if God had not given the Sabbath to mankind we would have remained slaves to seven-day-a-week labor with no pause and relief. The weekly spiritual rejuvenation that accompanies a proper keeping of the Sabbath would not be experienced and materialism would have been first and foremost in our minds. Christians would have had a very tough time maintaining the necessary closeness that the Christian family must maintain and spiritual growth would have been much more difficult. Most of all, the cyclical reminder that God is supreme, that He created all things, and that He is worthy of praise and worship would not have existed.
The Sabbath is a great gift God gave to humanity to address its fundamental physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Hopefully, humans will come to see that rejecting it can only lead to great damage to individuals and society. Keeping it, on the other hand, will bring about great blessings on individuals, his families and to society.
21 Gehman, H. (Editor), The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970, 814.
22 Douglas, J. D. The New Bible Dictionary. Grand rapids, Michigan: W. W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, 1110.
23 Williams, J. Ten Words of Freedom. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971, 145.
24 Gehman, H. (Editor), The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: The New Westminster Press, 1970, 814.
25 Philips, A. Ancient Israel's Criminal Law. New York: Shocken Books, 1970, 65.
26 Ibid, P.65.
27 Dresner S. H. The Sabbath. New York: 1970, 43.
29 Bacchiocchi, S. "Rediscovering the Sabbath." http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/sabbath/bacchiocchi.htm