September 17, 2017

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Sabbath Observance
Exodus 31:12-18

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“Laying Idols to Rest”

The story of the exodus cannot be simplified as a case of the ancient Hebrews and the oppression they suffered at the hands of ancient Egyptians during the reign of Ramses II. What makes the grand narrative of YHWH’s deliverance of God’s people from an unjust system of enslavement is the demonstration of God’s love for the sake of living in covenant with Jacob’s descendants. YHWH’s intervention in Israel’s history changed the fate of God’s chosen people from one of living solely as unpaid laborers of the vile Pharaoh to an existence of resting before the Holy One. The observation of the Sabbath is grounded in the divine gift of freedom; that is, the fourth commandment harkens back to the opening chapters of Genesis. “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:3).

Two very important things stand out in the creation narrative: (1) Elohim (Hebrew for God) is responsible for creating all that is, and (2) the creation of heaven and earth had reached its completeness by the sixth day (Genesis 2:1-2). What makes Pharaoh a wicked ruler is that he tries to compete with the one true Creator God. In his quest to dethrone God, Pharaoh needs a subservient population to do his bidding as he tries to complete creation on his own—with monuments, military victories, and pyramids—all for the sake of his glory. Pharaonic dynasties weren’t in and of themselves evil; they in fact represent a common archetype in the human story—that some people view themselves as somehow far more transcendent than other human beings. The pyramids were supposed to be these wonders of the world, ancient towers built as testaments to the immortality of Pharaoh, his family, and friends. This is why when God commands God’s people to remember the Sabbath, we also are to remember the part in Genesis where the creation of the heavens and the earth was completed. If these majestic works do not need any further aid from human hands, then no one else can lay claim to the divine throne that was already finished.

Recently, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the removal of statues of wicked rulers who once reigned in the United States. If we look back to Genesis and the story of the exodus, we see that it is God’s will for us to lay these idols to rest. The call to observe the Sabbath in our personal and corporate relationships with God means that Christians should prioritize God’s salvation history over and sometimes against national history.

  • What are some of the ways you find it best to rest in the LORD?
  • Why do humans still have a hard time believing that creation was and is complete? Where is this prevalent?

—Rod Thomas,

© 2017

Rod Thomas is a child-centered, fair-minded academic; a Christian who sometimes writes; and an aspiring preacher and layperson at University Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He is actively involved in his congregation’s homeless and children’s ministries and is a syndicated blogger for MennoNerds.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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