Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sabbath as a revealer of idolatry

The four alternatives to worshiping God

What are the alternatives to worshiping God? There are four, according to the commandments. One is to worship a different God. This is given no elaboration, because it needs none: God has brought Israel out of slavery. What use would Israel have for any other god? A second is to make an idol. This is to worship something smaller than God, something God has made. It is to confuse the creation with the creator, to serve that which cannot liberate -- in other words, to return to slavery. A third is to trivialize God by forgetting that his name is holy, by using his name to advance our own purposes rather than his. If we frequently call on him when we don’t want him, we must accept that he won’t be there to answer when we really do.

The fourth is to make gods of ourselves. This is the underlying warning of the commandments concerning the sabbath and parents. Temptations to break the sabbath are understandable: we are needed, we are vital, we have made commitments and need this extra time to fulfill them, we don’t want to let people down, there is so much good that can be done. The temptation to break the sabbath is the temptation to do extra good. Why is extra good necessary? Because salvation is just out of reach and we are striving for it? Because we are surrounded by suffering and evil, and God can’t or won’t intervene, so we must? The sabbath is a great test of our faith in God. If we look to him, he will look after what he has given to us.


David F. Wells, "God Spoke These Words," Christian Century

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