Deuteronomy 5:11 "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
The word here is not misuse, it is “to take up.” In previous translations, it would say, "don’t take the name of Yahweh your God in vain." The Hebrew carries this connotation of taking up, or bearing the name of God.* Remember that before this event, the people were the children of Abraham, or Israel. After this event they are the children of God. They are bearers of his name. And the name of the One True Living God is not something to be carried lightly. As his name-bearers, they would represent him to the world. Their lives would show everyone around them about this God who brought them out of Egypt. And we have the same responsibility.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus does not tell his disciples that they should be his witnesses, he says they will be his witnesses. We are his witnesses. Our lives tell people around us about the God that we serve, and the savior who has rescued us. So how are we doing? Are we driving around cutting people off in traffic with a Jesus fish on our bumper? Are we telling off cashiers at the supermarket for being to slow while wearing our cross necklace? Are our lives good witnesses or bad witnesses of who God is in his mercy, grace, and love? One of the things that is true of God, and always has been true of him, is that he loves mankind. He made us in his image. He walked with us in the Garden. He reached out time and again to form relationships with man. And it is demonstrated in the fourth commandment of how we can honor him. It is a command to rest.
Deuteronomy 5:12 Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
This command is a blessing. Many of us who grew up under strict holiness teaching may not see it that way, but I think that is because we misunderstand the Sabbath. The people God is talking to here have been slaves for their entire lives. Their ancestors have not had a day off in 400 years. And God is saying, as a favor and honor to him, that they are to take off one day a week just to rest and enjoy his company. This is a release from toil, worry, stress, and strife. It was not a legalistic decree, it was a vacation day once a week—for everyone in the community whether they were Hebrew or not. Everyone gets a day off. Everyone is on the same footing before God on this one day a week. And I am sure that the first generation of people saw it as a blessing. But what happens when we get a set of guidelines and they carry into the next generation? They become rigid immovable laws.
Suddenly the Sabbath is not a day of rest, it is the day in which you can take no more than X number of steps. It is the day on which, if your candle goes out, you cannot relight it. It is the day on which, if you forgot to cook enough food, you would have to go hungry. Jesus confronts that kind of restrictive view of Sabbath in Mark. He and his disciples were walking through a field and picked some heads of wheat to eat because they were hungry. When they were chastised, Jesus responds like this:
Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
The Sabbath was made to be a blessing and gift for man. To show him his worth before God and to allow time for man to seek God every week. I am going to revisit again the reason why it is so important to bear God’s name in a worthy manner and why it is important to take time to rest with him; it is all because he delivered them from slavery, and he delivers us from sin.
God did not ask us to do a single thing before he saved us, but once we have his stamp on our hearts, we belong to him. We are his witnesses to show the world who he is. And we have a value and a worth to him that he wants to teach us by giving us time to spend with him in a restful way. I don’t care which day is your Sabbath. I don’t care if your Sabbath rest looks like my Sabbath rest. What I care about, and what I believe is important to God is that we push back the busyness of life and rest with him. I believe we need to do that at least in a small part each day.
We need that rest and renewal to live in the way he calls us to live. We need to remember his redemption of our souls; to remember our worth in his eyes. And we need to trust that even when we are not working, he is always at work on our behalf. We have to learn to let go of the feeling that if we take a day off the world will stop spinning. It won’t. If you are holding the world together, then we are all in trouble, because you will get sick. Someday you will fail and make a mistake. But God is perfect, he never fails, he never gets sick, he never sleeps, he never gets bogged down with things to do. He will keep things going when we mess up, when we need a break, and especially if we are resting and reconnecting with him.
Deuteronomy 6:17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said. 20 In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?" 21 tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders--great and terrible--upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."
We show our right relationship with God to the world through what we choose to do in our daily lives. Remember that he redeemed you, ask him to fill you so full of himself that all people see when they look at you is Jesus. That can only happen if you are taking regular time to get away and rest up and spend time with him. Don’t wait until it is convenient, just step out in faith, set aside some time and trust that God will take care of the rest. Then you can be the bearer of his name in a worthy manner, his ambassador to the world you live in.
*This thought first came to my attention in the book "Jesus Wants to Save Christians," by Rob Bell.