This is part nine in a series discussing Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. If you missed the previous parts, here is a link to Part 8, or you can start at the beginning with Part 1.
Chapter Six is titled We’re Not in Egypt Anymore: Stopping to Remove the Tastmasters. The most interesting thing about this chapter, at least to me, is the way that Buchanan breaks down the two Sabbath commands found in Exodus 20.8-11 and Deuteronomy 5.12-15. I’m going to include portions of his breakdown to provide groundwork for my brief discussion of them. First, Exodus:
The Exodus command, with its call to imitation, plays on a hidden irony: we mimic God in order to remember we’re not God. In fact, that is a good definition of Sabbath: imitating God so that we stop trying to be God. We mirror divine behavior only to freshly discover our human limitations. …
God doesn’t need Sabbath or sabbatical. … God is complete without rest.
But not us. For us, rest is indispensable. Indeed, all things not God, all things made by God … need rest.
And maybe especially us. Because, unlike goats and beetles and flies and lizards, we try to outwit and outrun our limits. …
God commands that we imitate him in order to discover again that we’re not him, and that we need him.
Sabbath is a return to Eden.
Now, Buchanan’s take on Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy, the other twin, gives a different rationale for keeping Sabbath. … You were once slaves. There was a day when you were denied a choice in this matter. Rest? Work? There was no option. … The point was reinforced with bullwhips, in case you missed it or were the least inclined to ignore it. …
God drowned them all. He smote them. … Remember?
Was there something about those days for which you are nostalgic? Is there something back there you miss? …
Here’s the logic of the Sabbath command in Deuteronomy: Don’t revive what God has removed. … Don’t place yourself in a yoke that God broke and tossed off with his own hands. Just as we ought not pull asunder what God has joined, so we ought not to join what God has pulled asunder. …
Because that’s what the refusal to rest amount to: living as though the taskmasters still hover and glower, ever ready to thrash us for the smallest sign of slowing down. It is to strive and toil as though we have no choice, as if we’ll be punished otherwise.
To refuse Sabbath is in effect to spurn the gift of freedom. It is to resume willingly what we once cried out for God to deliver us from. It is choosing what once we shunned.
Slaves don’t rest. Slaves can’t rest. Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest.
Rest, it turns out, is a condition of liberty.
God calls us to live in the freedom that he won for us with his own outstretched arm.
Sabbath is a refusal to go back to Egypt.
Sabbath is a return to Eden, and a refusal to return to Egypt. That is an interesting juxtaposition. Sometimes I identify with one more than the other, but I know that I need both. It is inescapable. I need rest to remember that I am not God, but also to remember that I serve a God that has freed me from my slavery to sin.
While there have certainly been times where I have needed to be reminded of my dependence on God, and my limitations, lately I have needed the other message more. I have been reminded again and again of my falling into bad habits and little areas of sin. I know that my attitude is sinful, but I can’t seem to help myself. Or I have some little, seemingly insignificant, sin that I can’t seem to resist. Sabbath is a time to remember what Christ won for me on the cross. He won my freedom from these things! I don’t have to live defeated by attitudes or behaviors that I know displease Him. He didn’t die so that I could simply be forgiven over and over, but that I could have true freedom from these habitual things. But here is just where the Eden part of Sabbath comes in. I need to realize that I cannot defeat these task masters by myself. Just as Moses’ feeble attempt to bring some type of freedom by killing a taskmaster in his own power did not accomplish the task, my own feeble attempts to free myself is destined for failure. Moses could only lead his people to freedom when he realized that they were really God’s people, and only He could bring true freedom. I need God to bring true freedom in my life, and to help me to live in that freedom.
Lord, I pray that You would come and remind me not to be bound by the taskmasters that You have freed me from. I know that I cannot free myself, nor can I keep myself free. I need Your Spirit in my life to help me to live in the true freedom that Christ won for me on the cross. Thank You, Jesus, for the sacrifice that bought my freedom from slavery. Spirit, come and fill my life with Your power, so that I can live in a way that is consistent with the freedom that You have given me. Bring me to the full life You have offered me. Change my mind and my thinking, so that I may have the mind of Christ in me.