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Remembering the Sabbath

- Teachers Talk

I love the Bible, don’t you? The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, did, too. She tells us that, in her discovery of this Science of the Christ, or Mind-healing, and her consequent writing of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Bible was her only textbook (see Science and Health, p. 110). Her recognition of the Bible as the Word of God can be seen in the very first tenet of Christian Science: “As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life” (Science and Health, p. 497). 

Of course, the Bible is an ancient text and has come to us first through oral traditions and, later, through written translations of what was originally recorded. Understanding the Bible’s rich spiritual lessons requires a life of consecration and prayer.

Wanting to better understand God’s Word myself, I turned to directions given by Christ Jesus. He pointed to the Ten Commandments as guides for living and inheriting eternal life (see Mark 10 and Luke 18). So, delving deep into these simple rules seemed a good place for me to start. 

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39). Most of the Commandments—do not steal, do not kill, do not covet—are readily understood. It’s easy to see how obeying them leads us to truly love God and our neighbor as ourselves. But one commandment has confused me. It is the fourth: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God” (Exodus 20:8–10). 

This commandment was a large part of the lives of those who lived during Jesus’ time. It was strictly observed. No work was permitted on the Sabbath, not even cooking. Today, however, our busy society in the West sees little influence from this commandment because certainly not all work stops on a holy day each week. I wondered, “Am I being disobedient to God’s law because I live in a 24/7 society? And which day is the Sabbath anyway, or does it matter?” I felt there must be a deeper lesson in this commandment that would transcend time and culture and bring me closer to God. 

Studying Jesus’ healings, I noticed how often Jesus heals on the Sabbath, regardless of the strict Jewish laws. This became a point of contention between Christ Jesus and the rulers of the synagogue. At one point, they criticized his disciples for plucking corn and eating it on the Sabbath, to which he responded: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28). 

Immediately after this confrontation, Jesus entered the temple and healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day. He advised them that “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (Matthew 12:12).  

The original commandment in Exodus has its basis in the spiritual creation given in Genesis, where we read: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 1:31—2:3). God’s work was done. What a glorious revelation!

Could it be that the spiritual sense of this commandment is that we live in the “sabbath day”—the day of completion and perfection? Right now we live in God’s eternal, changeless day—the now of spiritual reality. God’s work is done, and nothing can undo it. Our job is to remember this perfect “day” and to keep it holy. We do this as we constantly turn thought away from the mortal sense of life to the purity, presence, and peace of Life, God, in whom we “live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We rest in divine Love’s sweet presence as we acknowledge the “sabbath” of God’s complete creation.

When we remember to keep the Sabbath holy at all times by resting and working in God’s day of perfect creation, we live humbly as the reflection of God, Spirit. This enables us to heal and to rejoice in the power of the Holy Ghost. The “sabbath” is the holy eternal day in which we all joyfully glorify God. It is the peaceful day in which we are refreshed, nourished, and sustained in everything we do. 

I love this commandment. I see it as a blessing that reminds me to step away from the demands of material activity and then to rest in the sure and certain understanding that divine Love is governing each moment and maintaining me (and all) in the kingdom of heaven.

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