Exodus 35:2 (HCSB)
2 For six days work is to be done, but on the seventh day you are to have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord. Anyone who does work on it must be executed.
This is a very short passage starting chapter 35. God, through the intercession of Moses and by His grace, has yet again rescued Israel. The covenant has been reestablished. And then this pericope comes, a reiteration of the Sabbath command.
How important it was for Israel to be reminded that the seventh day is reserved for God. Even the construction of the tabernacle, as important and God-honoring as it was, was not to trump the command. The worship of man should be aimed at God, not the tabernacle, not the structures and systems put in place to point to Him.
And again the people are reminded that the Sabbath is a day of “complete rest to the Lord.” It’s not a day dedicated to football and restaurants. It’s not a day dedicated to the pursuit of self-indulgence. When our Sabbath turns into “our day”, we have missed what God has given us and twisted it into a path of sin. Our rest comes from God and is found in Him: God should be the center of our Sabbath. Is it a wonder sometimes that our weekends feel so short and rushed? Perhaps we are not truly resting in the Lord.
And this remains a serious command, punishable by death. There is always a line where we, as humans, sit in judgment about God and His choice of penalties for certain things. It might seem extreme to us that God would command execution for spending some time on a Sabbath day catching up on a few work files, yet that’s what God says in Exodus 35:3b. But doesn’t it seem logical that if we cannot follow God concerning a command that refreshes, rejuvenates, and gives us rest, that when hardship comes as a believer, or anything challenging, we are so much less likely to follow Him? In other words, if I cannot, or will not, follow laws that are clearly beneficial to me, am I really a law-abiding citizen?
The confusing part of this passage is the final verse, Exodus 35:3. There are apparently a few explanations that much smarter people have come up with. One being that this possibly refers to metal-working, or some sort of fire necessitated work outside of food preparation. Another suggests it is in fact speaking of food preparation, and that anything that would have required fire should have been done the day before. There is even mention that fire for heat is part of the target, and that flame should have been started before sunset. I don’t know, but I would tend to take this literally and say that if there was going to be a need for fire, it should have already been lit prior to sunset. We can only assume that Moses had some sort of clarification on this.
Lord, thank You for designing Your creation, and the way we operate within it, so that we can rest, so we can realign ourselves to You. I pray that we would honor the Sabbath, not just to serve ourselves, to indulge in selfish pursuits, but to be truly refreshed and focused on You, to honor and glorify You, through that day. Amen.