Sabbaths in an Election

Elections are a stressful season. It is during this time that both political parties sink billions(!) of dollars into promoting their own candidate, and (perhaps more frequently) accusing their opponents. It's a season where you see the least loving, least charitable, and least Christian behaviors in people who ought to be role models. It's exhausting.

My wife's least favorite holiday is Halloween, largely due to the focus on horror and the undead. As much as I share her distaste for Haloween, I think the season that I am coming to dislike the most is the month before the election. While I think that elections are absolutely critical for our democracy in America, and am by no means advocating that we do away with them, Satan uses the time to bring out the worst in all of us. For example, Scripture identifies Satan as

  • the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10)
  • a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8)
  • desiring to be the highest exalted being (Ezekiel 28:15, 17-18, Isaiah 14:12-15)
  • a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44)

We've seen a fair amount of accusing of our fellow Americans, folks seeking a scapegoat to devour, desiring to be the highest, and lies in this election cycle, and I can safely say that there is little biblical basis for any of it. Personally, I have found this election cycle to be emotionally and mentally exhausting. God is aware that life on this sin-filled planet would be exhausting. Jesus himself, lived a life where He experienced all of the toil and stress that we ourselves go through (Hebrews 4:15). The Desire of Ages also says that "No other life was ever so crowded with labor and responsibility as was that of Jesus" (Desire of Ages, p. 362). Jesus instituted the Sabbath, not because man needed more obligations, but that man could benefit from coming apart from the world, resting, and finding strength in God (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath is what God designed to separate His people from the rest of earth's inhabitants, both physically and symbolically. The Hebrew word for "holy" is קדשׁ (qodesh) which literally means to set apart, or to be different. God asked us to keep the Sabbath days holy (Exodus 20:8-11), and we can only keep the Sabbath holy if we ourselves are "holy" by allowing God to separate us from the rest of the world, especially on the Sabbath.

For example, in Jesus' time, there was political division in Israel. As I blogged about earlier, Jesus' disciples spanned the fully range of political thought. Matthew was a conservative, who held a government job and was interested in the Romans maintaining power. Judas the Zealot was a radical liberal who wanted to overthrow the government with violent uprisings. Under normal circumstances, these two individuals would never get along with each other. However, when they experienced true rest in Jesus on the Sabbaths, both disciples had a chance to lay aside their worldly and political opinions, and find communion and fellowship together. While the rest of Israel was quarreling about whether the solution was to keep the Romans or get rid of them, these disciples were focusing on the truth that the real solution didn't involve the Romans at all, but that what Israel needed more Jesus.

There is a parallel also in the Old Testament about the Sabbath being a solution to "political division" in the camps of the Hebrews during the Exodus. Shortly after passing through the Red Sea, we see two groups of people. One group of people is rejoiocing in Exodus 15 that the Egyptians have perished in the Red Sea. Another group in Exodus 15 and Exodus 16:2-3 is grumbling that although the Egyptians had their faults, the Egyptians did a wonderful thing for Israel in providing a constant supply of fresh water and all the food that the Israelites wanted. Naturally, the division between the pro-Egyptians and anti-Egyptians in the camp would be a cause for division. This is the context in which we find the first mention of the word "Sabbath," when God is introducing manna to the Israelites. God explains to them that He is going to provide food to them as they journey through the desert. Extra food is going to fall on Friday, so the Israelites don't need to gather on Sabbath. The Sabbath was a reminder of God's magnificent ability to sustain the entire nation when they were in the middle of a desert place, and that the people didn't need to rely on their own power, or on the power of the Egyptians, to sustain themselves (Isaiah 45:22).

So for the remainder of this election season, I'm going to make it my goal to remember the following points when it comes to the Sabbath:

  1. God designed the day as a way to trust that God (and not politicians) is ultimately going to provide for the needs of my country. I do not need too be worried that everything is going to fall apart because this nation is in God's hands.
  2. I need to allow God to make me holy (set me apart) on the Sabbath from the rest of the world, and not get caught up in checking the polls, the news, the blogs, etc.... God gives me permission to "not gather manna" one day per week, and I ought to take Him up on that invitation to rest.