Raised in a Pentecostal church, I was well aware of the classical prohibition against Sunday shopping. Still, when our small-town IGA decided to open on Sundays, I was scheduled to bag groceries. Fortunately, my church (and family) was grace-filled enough to also recognize the value of making a bit of money to pay for college.
In Sabbath as Resistance, Brueggemann takes a huge step away from these cultural issues (which are now firmly in the rear-view mirror of most North American Christians). Instead, he interprets the fourth commandment in light of other Old Testament passages.
Unlike some of the shorter prohibitions against murder and theft, the Sabbath command is quite robust:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11 ESV)
The essence of this command, for Brueggemann, counteracts life in Egypt where the Israelite’s worth was determined by their around-the-clock brick making ability. Sabbath reminded Israel that they were more than producers and consumers.
This command is incredibly life-giving. In consecutive studies, we see how it has the potential to free us from anxiety, coercion, exclusivism, and even multitasking!
If you’ve ever felt overloaded with the simple task of living in our consumer-oriented society, this short study is gold. Mediate on these passages and learn the freedom that comes when we resist “the seductions of Pharaoh”.
—Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).