Keep Your Feet from Breaking the Sabbath

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay

 

Isaiah 58:9-14
Psalm 103:1-8
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

The English word, Sabbath, comes from the Hebrew verb, shabbat, which means to rest from labor. The Hebrew root word, qadash, is part of the Hebrew shabbat. It means to set apart as holy. Most Christians have taken Sunday as the Sabbath because Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week. We have also decided to go with the cultural norm of treating, first, sunrise, then midnight as the beginning of the day instead of following the Jewish sunset to sunset.

But the question for today is, did Jesus keep Shabbat?

In today’s reading in Luke, we see Jesus healing a woman crippled for 18 years, in violation of the Shabbat Teachings. Only if a person’s life was in danger could the work of tending to the person be done on Shabbat. Clearly, this woman’s life was in no danger.

Jesus claimed in Matthew 5:17, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill themNIV

Despite this claim, Jesus heals many people on Shabbat. How do we reconcile this contradiction? In perhaps his most famous writing, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, It was the error of Israel to put the law in God’s place, to make the law their God and their God a law. The disciples were confronted with the opposite danger of denying the law its divinity altogether and divorcing God from his law. Both errors lead to the same result.

In Luke 6:5, Jesus said, The Son of Man is Lord of the SabbathNIV Matthew 12:8. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. NIV Mark 2:28. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the SabbathNIV This is an important claim by the Son of Man/Son of God. It is God who created the Sabbath as a part of the creation of the universe. God is and always has been the Lord of Shabbat. As a part of God, Jesus shares in that ownership.

That is fine, but how does it allow Jesus to disobey the Shabbat rules? No work means no work.

That is exactly where the Jews, and Pharisees in particular, tripped up. Their understanding of the hundreds of legal Teachings of the OT was all or none.

Jesus knew the Law—Teachings—in a way that sinful humans did not know. He understood that it was more holy to heal a woman on Shabbat than to ignore her so he could rest from work. Besides, healing someone was not work for Jesus; it was pure joy.

Isaiah 58:6-10. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noondayNIV

For God, Love always comes first. If people are in need, we should help, even if it is Shabbat. The final Word of God in the Isaiah reading tells us a bit more about sharing and caring on God’s Holy Day.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The One, The Only

Image by apsolut from Pixabay

 

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Today’s reading in Jeremiah begins with a difficult verse, proven by the fact that the translations are all over the place. The transliteration reads; A God from near I, says Yahweh, and a God from afarThe Interlinear Bible

Several translations turn it into a question, as in; Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? ESV This one may mean the most to us today; I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place onlyGNT

However, while the NIV has an awkward wording, their Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible has an excellent footnote. There were in ancient times, two basic types of Gods, local and far away. The local gods lived in small areas such as villages, streams, mountains, a single farmer’s field, etc. The local god oversaw whatever was his specialty. The god of the stream would see that the water flowed as needed. The problem was, the gods demanded bribes to do their jobs. Thus, the need for sacrifices.

The far away gods were more like Zeus, Poseidon, and Ares; or as the Romans knew them, Jupiter, Neptune, and Mars. Zeus/Jupiter was the most important god. He was in charge of the rest of the long list of gods, goddesses, and children of the gods like Hercules—sort of. While people gave them respect with annual offerings, it was the near gods the ancients spent the most time trying to cajole into helping them. There was no sense asking for help from Zeus; he was unconcerned with humans. He could not be troubled with such mundane affairs.

Now for the NIV footnote. “Nearby” and “faraway” may combine the aspects of a locally involved patron deity and a powerful cosmic deity, respectively. Few gods in the ancient world would have been believed to fit this profile.

The message, I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only, is that Yahweh is far enough away to create the universe and close enough to hear my every thought. What’s more, as we continue to read the Bible, we learn that Yahweh is the only God—there is no other, large or small. This Hebrew concept was puzzling to just about everyone around them. Everyone knows there are hundreds of gods and goddesses. Besides, tens of thousands of people made their living catering to all those gods.

Verse 25 opens an important short instruction from God. I know what those prophets have said who speak lies in my name and claim that I have given them my messages in their dreamsGNT One of the puzzles through the centuries has been how to discern who is a true prophet. It is just as important now as it ever was. Prophets live among us today. They are often people we would least suspect. God speaks through all kinds of people. How do we know who is who?

The rest of this reading in Jeremiah assures us that false prophets will meet a bad end. To answer the above question, we need to look at the Monday reading of 1 John 4:1-3. Don’t trust every spirit, dear friends of mine, but test them to discover whether they come from God or not. For the world is full of false prophets. You can test them in this simple way: every spirit that acknowledges the fact that Jesus Christ actually became man, comes from God, but the spirit which denies this fact does not come from God. The latter comes from the anti-christ, which you were warned would come and which is already in the world. Phillips

In practical terms, we can check what a preacher says against what Jesus said. An easy one is almost anything that comes out of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. “God hates fags” is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. Not to get into that debate, but I think it is fair to say that Jesus was more concerned with a person’s faith in God than with his sexuality. (I know, God did discourage men from having sex with men, but that’s not quite the same as hate.)

How about a tougher one? In 2007 in Neosho, Missouri, a gunman entered the First Congregational church and shot three members during a Sunday service. The pastor was Tom Thorne, a fellow schoolteacher for over a decade. Should he have started carrying a gun in the pulpit after that, as so many pastors have done? I can’t find anything in the Gospels to support such an action. Jesus even ordered Peter to put down his sword.

This is not an argument against the military or police. Jesus seemed to support both. Yet, he was all about peace. In the new Jerusalem, peace will prevail. On this earth, peace is the ideal, but not easily achieved. We try for it but prepare for the worst.

Reading Jeremiah should warn us of the importance of preaching only the Word of God. False prophecy leads to death. John adds the responsibility of each of us to test any preaching against the teachings of Jesus. That means we need to study the Word ourselves. If someone makes a statement which seems to contradict the message of Jesus—the Good News—then we need to ask some questions.

Any Christian who preaches from the Old Testament must keep in tune with Jesus’ fulfillment of that portion of the Word of God. Adultery is a sin, but eating shrimp, according to the OT, is just as evil. How does the preacher reconcile all that? It’s not enough to quote Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-16, or Jesus’ with the adulterous woman in John 7:53–8:11; both of which are helpful. It is necessary to look deeper into the Word.

Jesus condemned nearly ever human when he said, I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fireESV I stand with President Carter who famously said, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” I will not recount my anger issues.

What does Jesus offer to those of us who know we have sinned—violated all ten of the Ten Commandments? Forgiveness.

If Forgiveness is not in the sermon, you should have serious questions for the Preacher.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here and here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

P.S. If you don’t know the Carter, quote, look it up.