1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
A great work never seems complete until we have settled back and looked long and hard at what was accomplished. A garden of crops, a finished basement, a manuscript, a college diploma…all of these need a moment for us to appreciate what has been done.
The thought occurs to me that sitting back and appreciating the creations of God is an excellent way to observe the sabbath, too. After all, the whole point of this seventh day was to cap off that work of creation, so what better way to commemorate it than by immersing oneself in it?
I also want to point out that while this seventh day was the end of God’s creation, it was only the beginning of mankind’s creations. Everything that we fashion on earth is built on the foundation of what He created first. Therefore I think it wise to view the sabbath in that light, too. We should have it be the foundation of our week, the cornerstone that everything else is built upon, not a garnish off to the side of everything else.
I mentioned yesterday that even if we agree that a commandment is a commandment there still can be a variety of opinions on how exactly one should follow that commandment. Take for example the question of how to keep the Sabbath Day holy. I always believed that that meant not going to the store then, because that would make other people work during the Lord’s Day.
It was a nice and tidy solution, but then it became more muddled with the advent of online shopping. Is it wrong to make a computer algorithm process my purchase on the Sabbath? Is just accruing a charge on my credit card breaking the Sabbath?
And even if I decide to not make online purchases on the Sabbath, packages that I am waiting for are still going to be processed through packing facilities and transported on shipping containers on that day. It’s unavoidable.
Does keeping the Sabbath require that I just abstain from online shopping entirely? Or am I just overthinking things and shouldn’t even worry about it? Where should the line be drawn?
This brings me to a memory where I was attending a Sunday School lesson and a similar quandary emerged. We were discussing the commandment to give to the poor and the question was raised whether we should give money to panhandlers or not.
Some of those present said they refused to do that, because they feared their contribution would just be used to purchase drugs or alcohol. Their charity would actually be enabling harmful behavior. They suggested that people buy food for panhandlers instead.
Others said they tried buying food and had it rejected, in which case they had just wasted their money and no one was benefited at all. They suggested it was better to volunteer at halfway-homes and soup kitchens where one knew that the needy were receiving real nourishment.
Still others said it wasn’t for us to judge how the panhandlers were using our money. Just give to them, and whether they use it for good things or not is on their own heads.
There were so many different opinions, and all of them had valid points. As the class discussed this we slowly uncovered what I believe was a gospel truth. Our conclusion was that the commandment was to “Give to the Poor.” If Brother Jones examines his conscience and counsels with God and decides that means he should give money to panhandlers then that is fine. If Sister Stevens examines her conscience and counsels with God and decides she would rather volunteer at a soup kitchen then that is fine too.
So long as you are doing something and your conscience is truly content with it, then you are keeping the commandment. You do not need to be concerned that someone else’s method of commandment-keeping is different from your own, we all have our own song to sing.
This, then, is commandments combined with personal revelation, and this makes the commandment become more alive! The law has now been made personal, not general. Now you have your way of giving to the poor, and your way of keeping the Sabbath, and your way of nourishing your body. Now you have ownership of your own faithfulness.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.
In me is the law of Moses fulfilled.
Thus far we have explored the motivation and purposes behind the commandments. The reasons why God gives them to us and the reason why it is in our best interest to follow them.
But the question still remains: just which commandments still apply? The two passages I have mentioned above make clear that there were certain components of the Law of Moses that served as moral training-wheels, strict observations meant to help a generation that did not yet have the benefit of Christ’s ministry and atonement.
In the time of Moses there had not yet been any sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and so they were required to make animal sacrifices in the interim. After Jesus Christ’s atonement the need for those sacrifices then ended.
But…whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery…already in his heart.
But clearly there are elements of the Law of Moses that were not done away with. Rather than dispel the ten commandments and its injunction that “thou shalt not commit adultery” Jesus actually reinforced and expanded that law. So clearly some elements of that law were not intermediary observations, they were universal truths.
Within Christianity alone there are heated debates as to where those lines should be drawn. Seventh Day Adventists maintain that Saturday is still the proper sabbath and other sects say it is Sunday. There then remains further uncertainty as to what the exact point of restriction is on that day. Jesus clearly showed that one need not worry about walking about and serving others, but what about long-distance travel? Exercising? Doing housework? Rough-housing with your kids?
It’s certainly a confusing dilemma. The Pharisees tried to remove any ambiguity by spelling out their rules to an exhaustive degree. Sometimes that might sound like a welcome relief, at least then we would know exactly what we can and cannot do, even if we don’t understand why. I think this is the reason that most of us subscribe to one particular church or another and then just accept the commandments that they give to us. But the fact is that these approaches will never take away all of the ambiguity either. We’ll look into why that is tomorrow.