The Sabbath commandment is the fourth of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments was recorded twice in the Old Testament. Once in Exodus chapter 20; and a second time Deuteronomy chapter 5. Let us compare the two rendering of the Sabbath commandments:
Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
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 male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants 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.
The observance part of the two renderings are largely the same. But the motivation behind keeping the sabbath is quite different. In Exodus, we are reminded of creation; In Deuteronomy, we are reminded of redemption.
Why such difference? The main difference was in the audience. In Exodus, the audience were former slaves whom Moses had recently led out of Egypt. Sabbath was a completely foreign concept to them – which Egyptian slave owner would give his slave a day off every seven days? Deuteronomy on the other hand happened 40 years later, where the audience were the decedents of the Israelite of the Exodus. These generation grew up eating manna from heaven, which God has divinely scheduled its delivery according to a sabbath friendly schedule (Exodus 16). For them, sabbath was a familiar reality. What they need to be reminded of was to continue to keep sabbath after they enter the prosperity of the Promised Land.
Doesn’t these two renderings of the Sabbath Commandment fit our Christian calling? We are first of all called to be living images of God and then we are to be benefactors of our neighbors. True holiness is not just personal holiness but a holiness that outflows to benefit those around us – especially those who are less fortunate.