[On Sabbath] Discipline Song (Deuteronomy 5:12-15, 32:23-27)

Bible opened to Deuteronomy 32 with Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s Chocolate: Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Today’s PassageDeuteronomy 5:12-15, 32:23-27

Like Numbers, Deuteronomy is much more spare in its mentions of the Sabbath than I expected. One of them we’ve already visited and revisited: it’s the reiteration of the Ten Commandments in chapter 5. And by now you’re familiar with the story: six days do your work, rest with your whole household on the seventh, remember you used to be a slave in Egypt. On to the next.

In chapter 32, Moses sings a song about God the Father and his rebellious children the Hebrews. We’ve already seen in Psalm 90 that Moses knows how to write a song, and here he performs one. In essence his song is a narrative about God’s use of the pagan nations around his children to discipline them–a scenario that we see played out time and time again throughout the Old Testament. Near the midpoint, as the song begins speaking God’s words from God’s perspective, we come to these lines:

I would have said, ‘I will cut them to pieces,
I will remove the memory of them from men,’
Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy,
That their adversaries would misjudge,
That they would say, ‘Our hand is triumphant,
And the Lord has not done all this.’ (32:26-27)

That verb in the second line, “will remove?” That’s the verb shabathGod is on the verge of putting the history of his people to rest–making it stop, making it quit from humanity’s collective memory. What’s keeping him from doing so? That the nations God used will think they triumphed over Israel on their own, that their victory is a victory over Israel’s God as well. It’s the obverse of David’s argument in Psalm 30: if God wipes out his children, not only are they no longer around to praise him, but also the pagan nations will scorn God (“anti-praise” him!) for failing to deliver his people. So God, after a fashion, talks himself down from ditching his chosen people.

What’s this teach us about Sabbath, though? It’s an ordinary, everyday word that Moses uses in his song lyrics. We talk about Sabbath as a religious observance, and the word can take on a sacred sense of religious ritual, a specialized terminology. And that’s well enough, since the commandment says to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. But this is an ordinary Hebrew word, with an everyday meaning! Cease, desist, rest. The Sabbath Day is just our Stop Day. That’s what it means.

Anyway, I got some Unreal peanut butter cups. Check out the underside of these things.

underside of Unreal dark chocolate peanut butter cup

What does that mysterious pattern mean? I feel like you could stick these things into a disc-shaped stone recess and open the gate to another world of magic and adventure.

 

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