Is a Day of Rest and Worship all that God requires? ...

The Sabbath and Social Justice

Gnana Robinson, 1988: Does just the provision of a rest-day meet the need of modern man?

In a social system the provision of rest days alone is not enough. Rest-days, if they are not accompanied by social justice, become a burden on the underprivileged and the exploited, they become a time of anxiety, depression and self-humiliation to the poor. In the so-called "third world" countries, millions of people struggle hard to manage even one meal a day, and they earn this one meal through a daily wage. For them, a day off work means a day of starvation. In such societies "rest days" are a luxury to the rich, but misery to the poor. [The same remarks apply equally to "tithing".]

In the industrialized Western Societies, the rest-day is not seen as the culmination and the completion of the work-days, but as an escape from the work-days. As there is no real harmony between work and rest, the tensions and the problems of the work-days are carried over to the rest-day.

A true sabbath rest-day presupposes days of "good works". The O.T. commandment to rest is always accompanied by a commandment to work: "Six days you shall do your work". Only those who can say at the end of every work-day, "this day I have done a good work" (Gen. 1:4 etc.), can relax at the end of these work-days. Work-days attended by no intrigues, no deceit, no laziness, no injustice, no compulsion, no oppression, can make the rest-day a delight.

The sabbath being a day of worship, a day of being in the fellowship of God, it brings the week's work to the realm of worship. Worship and work go together. The sabbath is intended to enable man to see the purpose of his life and work, the purpose of God's creation both for himself and for his fellow men: "Whenever man is unable to see God's creation, his existence inevitably becomes devoid of meaning. Apart from it, man does not find the right relation to his work or to his leisure" (Karl Barth).

Excerpted from Gnana Robinson (1988) "The Origin and Development of the Old Testament Sabbath", New York: Peter Lang, p. 358-9. Written in Madurai, 1986.

ABCOG: In this work, Robinson presents a "comprehensive exegetical" examination of the Sabbath and its development and purpose. Her analysis contains many insights overlooked by most scholars. For instance, the uncorrupted observance of the Sabbath will be a sign that God's kingdom is indeed instituted on Earth (Ezek. 45:17 etc.). Amazingly, after presenting a mountain of evidence that God identifies Himself through the Sabbath, Robinson succumbs to conventional "Christian" rationalizations that Sunday has replaced the Sabbath. She admits, however, that it was a late development: "From [321 A.D., when Emperor Constantine made it an official holiday], Sunday began to acquire the rest characteristics of the Jewish sabbath, and Christians began to look at Sunday as a Christian alternative to the Jewish sabbath" (p. 351).

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