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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Words of Life (Commandments 4, 5)
Date Posted: April 1, 2022

The Psalmist wrote, “…with you (God) is the fountain of life, in your light we see the light.” Psalm 36:9 John spoke similarly of Jesus, describing him as, “…the light of men.” John 1:4 God including the entire Jewish community, and by inference all of Christendom, in this role; calling his people to be a “…light for the Gentiles,…” Is. 42:6 (Referenced in Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47 & 26:23)

Jesus specifically claimed to be, “…the light of the world.” Promising, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 He too takes that next logical step and instructs his followers to be – like him – “…the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14 “…that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” Acts 13:47 And believe it or not, we can do that – in part – by honoring the Sabbath; or at least our version of it. The problem for many Christians being that we discard Sabbath worship as being part of the law we no longer must meticulously abide by but miss out on the spiritual blessings we could realize in observing a Sabbath.

The Old Testament Sabbath was based on God’s work week of creation, he resting on the seventh day. ( Genesis 2:2) But it isn’t a matter of God simply saying do what I did, his concern is for our quality of life. Before this commandment, working-class people were expected to work from sun-up to sun-down seven days a week. (The Israelite slaves certainly did.) For the first time in history, a nation’s God proclaimed a universal day of rest.1Deuteronomy specifically reminding the Israelites of their slavery and the opportunity for remembrance and thankfulness for their deliverance the Sabbath allowed them. ( Deuteronomy 5:15) A day set aside for the contemplation of the past, present and future. In stepping back to consider the goodness of creation on the seventh day, God modeled what the Sabbath – celebrated on Saturday or Sunday – was all about. Stopping to savor, enjoy, reflect, to be in awe and celebrate; consciously giving thanks to God as well as resting and being renewed.

To break the Jewish Sabbath was punishable with death! ( Exodus 31:13,14) Some experts surmise the “death penalty” clause for Sabbath breaking may have had an oblique reference to the early death non-stop working often brings.(?) As a result, many Jews became obsessive, not only in their Sabbath observance, but in outward expressions of holiness in general, often to their detriment. And as was noted before, commands 1-4of the original Ten deal with our relationship to God, the next six detailing correct behavior aimed at our “neighbors.” All the myriad laws coming after the dictation of the original Ten striving to hammer home their message.

Jesus studiously turned this on its head by reminding his listeners that, from the beginning, the Sabbath was meant to bless God’s people, not be a burden. Raising the question: How seriously should Christians take the observance of their Sabbath/Sunday? Is the weekly celebration of Christ’s Easter triumph over evil, hate and sin any less important – to God or us – than the Jewish commemoration of their deliverance from Egypt? (See Luke 22:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:24 & 16:2; Revelation 1:10)

I’ve been routinely scheduled to work through the weekend. At times, I’ve chosen to catch up on chores on Sunday afternoon that I couldn’t get to because of twelve hour shifts during the week. I don’t believe I’ve done so under the threat of death. But if we routinely choose to work instead of going to church, opt out of fellowship and praise to sleep in or get an early start on a day of recreation; if we choose not to worship, celebrate and commemorate Jesus as the source of creation and salvation – we may very well be signing our own death warrant.

When confronted by “an expert in the law” as to which was the greatest command of all, Jesus condensed everything down to two fundamental ideals of Judaism. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart… soul… mind… and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. (See Deuteronomy 6:5) And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. ( Leviticus 19:18) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. There is no commandment greater than these.” Matthew 22:37-40 & Mark 12:30,31

Loving God first-and-foremost means we’ll deny him nothing in the way of obedience. Loving our neighbors/fellowmen as ourselves means we’d do them no harm, at the very least. (See Romans 13:10 Jesus actually going one step further – as he often does – by “commanding” us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43,44) The earliest church fully endorsed this fundamental teaching of the Judeo/Christian faith system. Paul writing, “…he who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law… whatever commandments there may be are summed up in this one rule: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:8,9 James characterized this command as the “royal law” of Christianity. ( James 2:8) John writing, “…he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must love his brother.” 1 John 4:21 Not if, when, or how we are loved, we are told to love regardless of circumstance or response. Love becoming the means by which we will be identified as disciples of Christ. ( John 13:34)

With that being said, the first commandment detailing personal relationships is directed at our families; more precisely our parents. “…the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2,3 (Quoting Deuteronomy 5:16) Honoring one’s parents has proved foundational for the creation of not just stable families but tribes, clans, communities, states and nations as well. Lack of respect at home being predictive of disrespect outside of it. And yet, this is often the first place disrespect is shown, by “kids” of all ages.

Put in its proper historical context, this command is much more far-reaching than merely calling for children to submit to their parents’ wishes, the broader ramifications being found in its call for each generation of younger people to honor, listen to, and care for those who came before them. The Hebrew for honor alludes to weightiness, we treating our parents as “weighty” when we consider their value; responding to their needs and valuing their experience. Paul telling us straight out to, “…obey your parents, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1 The Hebrew for obey having the connotation of hearing – or listening on purpose – and then responding appropriately, lovingly. (Which includes handling “difficult” parents and requests.)

1Quote and inspiration for this article taken from Adam Hamilton’s book Words of Life , subtitled, Jesus and the Promise of the Ten Commandments, Convergent publishing

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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