Monday: The Sabbath in Exodus

Read Exodus 20:8–11. What does the Lord tell us to do, and what reason are we told to do it?1

The entire family household, including any servants of either gender, the working class along with the “boss,” are to rest together. Sabbath is the great equalizer, the liberator of all inequities in the social structure. Before God, all human beings are equal, and the Sabbath is a unique way of revealing this crucial truth, especially in a world so dominated by class structures that place various groups “over” or “beneath” others.

This commandment is also a carefully structured literary unit:

A. Introduction: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (vs. 8, NKJV).

B. Command: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (vs. 9, NKJV),

C. Motivation: “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God” (vs. 10a, NKJV).

B1. Command: “In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor . . .” (vs. 10b, NKJV).

C1. Motivation: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, . . . and rested . . .” (vs. 11a, NKJV).

D. Conclusion: “Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (vs. 11b, NKJV).

(A) contains, as an introductory opening statement, the essential principle of the Sabbath commandment as a whole.

(B) conveys the positive command to engage in work on six days.

(B1) gives the corresponding prohibitive command of refraining from any work on the Sabbath day, including the inclusive application to the entire family. Even the domestic animals, as well as any guests in the home, are included.

(C) and (C1) supply the motivation for the commands. (C) acknowledges the time factor in the six-days/seventh-day sequence by emphasizing that “the seventh-day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.”

(C1) contains the formal motivation clause with the introductory “for” or “because.” It presents the detailed motivation in terms of the Lord’s six days of work and His resting on the seventh day, rooting it directly in the first Sabbath of Creation week.

(D) is an independent clause, starting with a “Therefore” and also forming the conclusion. The last words of the commandment, “and made it holy,” correspond to the exhortation of the opening principle

(A) “to keep it holy.” Both are linked to the holiness God endows the Sabbath with in Genesis 2:3.

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Monday: The Sabbath in Exodus — 16 Comments

  1. I'm a nurse therefore I'm requred to work on the Sabbath, and sometimes I'm asked why working on the sabbath if I'm an adventist- my reply is the Lord clearly state its lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.

  2. praise God, can someone help me here because am getting confused with Patrice's coment. yes, you are a nurse, and that is your routine, God is telling you to put aside your routine and rest. Is nursing the only good work you can do? what if a teacher said, 'by teaching on sabbath am doing good to my nation, and a restaurant owner says they are doing good by providing food to people, where will we be heading?
    I need some help here.
    God bless.

  3. As a nurse or Doctor I understand its about serving life, however what happens to those patients when we are off or take a holiday lasting about 4 weeks or more. Are we not just making excuses. After the shift you get paid. If you are doing voluntary work I can understand (not getting paid for the shift) then thats doing good on a Sabbath, but if one is getting paid for it then one is working like any other day. Who saves people's life It's God, not the medication we give them, patients still die whilst we are on duty or not. Thats my opinion I stand to be corrected! God is only asking one day out six, only one.

  4. I thank God that my job never really required me to work on the Sabbath. I also feel that being employed in a nonessential service industry gave me no excuse to work on the Sabbath.

    I feel for the doctors and nurses especially those in small hospitals where staffing on weekends is a problem. And for those on call to take care of emergency situations where a doctor may have the sermon for the Sabbath it becomes rather stressful.

    It is easy for us that are not in those situations to simply say "it should be this way" but if the tables were turned I wonder how may of us would not do what they do.

    On the other hand the idea of getting paid especially for nonessential services seems a little too much like Sabbath violation to me.

  5. Medical personnel work on the Sabbath to promote healing and preservation of life in harmony with the principle of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. In Seventh-day Adventist hospitals, this usually means essential care only. For instance, custodial services are often cut back or not provided during the Sabbath.

    One can easily see that if all the nurses who are SDA in a Seventh-day Adventist hospital were to take Sabbath off then when the patient called for a nurse on the Sabbath, there might be no one to answer. Therefore, in my experience from working in one, a Seventh-day Adventist hospital is where a nurse would be least likely to get the Sabbath off.

    In non-Adventist institutions, a different principle comes into play. Are we justified in forcing someone else to work so we can take the Sabbath off? Taken to an extreme, the Jews in the past have felt this was OK and would hire gentiles to do Sabbath prohibited work for them so they could avoid doing those things on Sabbath themselves. We might ask ourselves at what point should Sabbath observance show care for the welfare of others? Of course this is dependent upon the situation as the first principle regarding healing services would be different perhaps than work involving convenience rather than essentials.

  6. My mother in law, who is a nurse, works on Sabbath when she is on duty every second weekend - and she uses this money to help the needy, she was educating a young man at Bugema. So although paid, she does not use the money herself.

  7. I think viewing the Sabbath as a great equalizer is ridiculous. Taking a day off from a weeks worth doesn't in any way erase social inequities. Take for example slavery when slaves were given Sunday off. Did the role of slave and master vanish for that day? Think critically before accepting empty rhetoric

  8. Payment alone should not be an indication of whether or not one is breaking the Sabbath. Tyler, for instance, brings up the excellent point about an Adventist Medical institution. We also pay our ministers of the gospel for work that occurs on Sabbath.

    Yes, we can take it too far and decide that everything is of some benefit to someone else, and thus can be done on the Sabbath, which would not be in keeping with the commandment.

    Work which can be avoided through preparation, should be avoided through preparation. And money has little to do with it.

    Would I wait until Sabbath to fix my car? No.
    Would I leave my car in the middle of the road if it broke down on the way to church? Of course not.
    Would I stop and help someone who had broken down on Sabbath by "working"? Absolutely.

    Doing good on the Sabbath comes in many forms, and we should use our senses as well as spiritual discernment to see what is pleasing to God. Oh, and if you feel convicted to not work in any capacity on the Sabbath, then I would never tell you differently. Be sure to maintain the conviction you have, but be sure that you don't get too enthusiastic in attempting to convict others similarly.

    • Andrew, the way I see it, the one thing we as a church should never do is to micromanage the Sabbath by making a long list of rules like the Pharisees did. Doing that got them in trouble and it will do the same to us if we follow suit.

  9. This is in reference to...Pastors getting paid on Sabbath?.... they surely are paid like any medical and auxiliary staff that's schedule to work on Sabbath...everybody is on the payroll when they work on sabbath....the Good Lord will be merciful to all of us....being concrete with Sabbath is not the main issue here...I am the greatest sinner on the score of 1-10 ( I am on the 10 +) but God's mercies will see us through. We can't work on our salvation...NEVER!

    • Dear Abbie,

      I believe it is healthy to see ourselves as the worst of sinners. I also believe it is good to be flexible enough in our Sabbath observance to make it of the maximum blessing to others. Should this also make us careless in our Sabbath observance, seeing we can't seem to anything right anyway? I'm not sure that would be a healthy attitude.

      Your last sentence said:

      "We can’t work on our salvation…NEVER!" I agree with what I think you meant. However, I'm not so sure about the way you said it. Philippians 2:12 comes to mind here.

  10. The answer is simple: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8 Whatever it is you do on the Sabbath, remember to ensure that it doesn't in any way form or means desecrate God's day and wonderful gift to man.

  11. Well folks, you may want to read this information. I must admit that I was not aware of it.

    • This says, "The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee at the General Conference Session in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 9, 1990, voted to acknowledge receipt of the above document on Sabbath observance." It does not say that the GC endorsed this document. It also does not say who prepared the document. I would be curious to know the route this document took from merely being received by the GC Executive Committee in 1990 to being posted on the official website of the church.


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