Sabbath: a symbol of inclusion and justice

Posted Sep 19, 2019

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This week we are memorizing:

Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy.

Daily Scripture

Isaiah 56:1-8

1 Yahweh says:
    Act justly and do what is righteous,
    because my salvation is coming soon,
    and my righteousness will be revealed.
2 Happy is the one who does this,
    the person who holds it fast,
    who keeps the Sabbath, not making it impure,
    and avoids doing any evil.
3 Don’t let the immigrant who has joined with Yahweh say,
    “Yahweh will exclude me from the people.”
    And don’t let the eunuch say,
        “I’m just a dry tree.”
4 Yahweh says:
    To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
    choose what I desire,
    and remain loyal to my covenant.
5  In my temple and courts, I will give them
    a monument and a name better than sons and daughters.
    I will give to them an enduring name
    that won’t be removed.
6 The immigrants who have joined me,
    serving me and loving my name, becoming my servants,
    everyone who keeps the Sabbath without making it impure,
    and those who hold fast to my covenant:
7  I will bring them to my holy mountain,
    and bring them joy in my house of prayer.
    I will accept their entirely burned offerings and sacrifices on my altar.
    My house will be known as a house of prayer for all peoples,
8  says Yahweh God,
    who gathers Israel’s outcasts.
I will gather still others to those I have already gathered.

Isaiah 58:6-14

6 Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
7 Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
8 Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and Yahweh’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and Yahweh will answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10 if you open your heart to the hungry,
    and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
    your light will shine in the darkness,
    and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 Yahweh will guide you continually
    and provide for you, even in parched places.
    He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
    the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Livable Streets.
13 If you stop trampling the Sabbath,
    stop doing whatever you want on my holy day,
    and consider the Sabbath a delight,
    sacred to Yahweh, honored,
    and honor it instead of doing things your way,
    seeking what you want and doing business as usual,
14 then you will take delight in Yahweh.
    I will let you ride on the heights of the earth;
    I will sustain you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob.
    The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.

Reflection Questions

Leviticus 25 set out a “Sabbath” principle for land use and even the forgiveness of debts. In actual practice, “this legislation seems not to have been observed historically.”* That may be one reason Isaiah 56 and 58 linked keeping Sabbath with practical steps to welcome and help excluded groups like eunuchs and immigrants (e.g. Deuteronomy 23:1-6), and the hungry and homeless poor. These prophetic passages called Israel to keep Sabbath not idly, but as a nation in which everyone was responsible to seek the well-being of all.

  • Isaiah 56 challenged the human inclination to shut out people who are, in various ways, not “like us.” How did this passage teach that treating “outsiders” justly is a key part of keeping the Sabbath? What kinds of attitudes and actions, guided by the God who gathers outcasts, can help make all of Resurrection’s campuses more fully “a house of prayer for all people”?
  • The first part of Isaiah 58 showed that some Israelites complained that their pious fasting brought no reward from God. But “the acceptable fast means refraining from taking economic advantage of others, and instead offering assistance necessary for health and dignity…. Self-serving piety is called trampling the Sabbath. Those who honor Sabbaths and holy days do what pleases God on those days.”** How can you avoid “self-serving piety” (on Sabbath or any time), and do what pleases God?

Prayer

God of justice and compassion, grow in me a spirit that seeks to truly revere your Sabbath commands by doing the things that please and honor you. Amen.


* A. E. Willingale, article “Debt, Debtor” in The New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

** Patricia K. Tull, study notes on Isaiah 58:5-7 and 58:13-14 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, pp. 1190OT.

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Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

I don’t buy cheesecake when I’m at the store. It’s not because I don’t like it. Au contraire! It’s because I LOVE it! As in, I can’t say no to it. If there is cheesecake in my presence, I will eat it. It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry or if I’ve just eaten a buffet’s worth of food. There is never a time when I will utter the words, “I’m too full for cheesecake.” I don’t even understand the meaning of that sentence. Can you be too full for cheesecake?! Is that a thing?

It’s for these reasons I only allow myself to eat cheesecake on occasions when it is served outside my home, when there are parameters on how much I can consume. If left to my own willpower, I would eat cheesecake every day – white chocolate raspberry, turtle, strawberry, even plain. There is enough variety in flavors that it would never get old. While this sounds perfectly delightful to me, I understand that though cheesecake is super delicious, that doesn’t make it a super food. Too much cheesecake would take a serious toll on my health. Thus, the reason I don’t keep it in the house.

I’ve learned that no matter how badly I want to resist cheesecake, it probably won’t happen unless I put protections in place. It’s just who I am. In order to be the best me, I sometimes have to protect me from me. I do this with cheesecake, and I do this with work. I love what I do, and I love where I do it. To work at Church of the Resurrection, an organization in which I am passionate about and driven by the purpose and mission, is a blessing that I do not take for granted. Because of that, I often struggle with working too much. I do my best to work efficiently. Not so that I can work less, but so that I can do more – do more and do it better. I HATE dropping the ball or letting things slide. I’m not the type of person who can see an email needing my attention and simply not reply. That is painful to me!

And listen – there will always be certain times when my role requires this, and that’s okay. But regularly overworking is just as detrimental to my health as if I were to regularly eat a whole cheesecake. It’s not good for my body, my soul, my family, my mind – and what I have to constantly remind myself is that it’s not impressive. If God took a day to rest, who do I think I am that I shouldn’t?

For these reasons, I put protections in place. Maybe you don’t struggle like I do, but if this sounds familiar, let me share with you a few things that have helped me: 

  • I get work email on my phone, but I have turned off the push notifications, meaning that I only get new email if I request it. This keeps me from constantly feeling the need to reply. 
  • I know the rhythm of my body and I adjust when I do certain work accordingly. I save major projects that require a lot of my concentration to when I know I’m at my best. I understand that it will take me twice as long to accomplish difficult tasks if I attempt to do them when I am drained.
  • I love nothing more than a good goal, and it is easy to create goals for work. As ridiculous as it may sound, I make goals to spend more time with my family, bless others, engage socially, grow closer to God, etc. This feeds my need to accomplish in ways that make me a better person and a better Christian.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t always get it right. This is a huge struggle for me. For me to succeed, I have to think of it in terms of the cheesecake. It’s okay to eat it from time to time. Just don’t eat it ALL of the time. For these reasons, I put protections in place to save me from me. This is what I must do if I am to be who God wants me to be. We must all remember that God wants what is best for us. He longs to bring us joy and peace. To do this means we have to listen to all of the essential instructions to achieve this, including “Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy.”

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