On the whole, this All the Paul study has surprised me. I expected to encounter more friction between me and Paul; I’ve never been quite the Paul enthusiast that some of my church peers are. In my thirty-ish-year history with his writing, at times certain passages have struck me as too authoritarian, while others have seemed too theologically nebulous, too Greek, borderline pantheistic. But in tackling All the Paul here, while I’ve had to grapple with a few passages, on the whole I’ve been able to take something valuable away from each passage, dig up some good stuff and share it with you. And then Paul starts talking about slavery.
Are you familiar with the expression “lower than a duck’s instep?” Given how many of you are my relatives, you probably are. But in case you need an explanation, it means “super-low”–because a duck, with its flat feet, has the lowest instep you can imagine. It’s basically the opposite of being “fine as frog’s hair.” And today’s psalm is for people in a situation that is lower than a duck’s instep.
Sometimes the psalm summarizes itself for you. Consider the opening lines of today’s psalm: “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!” (112:1). The rest of the psalm is basically a litany of blessings for the man who fears the Lord. He receives a well-established family tree, material wealth, a good legacy, victory over his adversaries, and more. But let’s zero in on a verse in the middle of the psalm, characterizing this man of many blessings. The man is merciful–and a creditor.
Welcome back, everyone. I hope you had a restful Sabbath and a productive Sunday–or the other way around, if you choose to keep Sunday as your day of rest. I’m sure we’ll get to the matter of resting on Sunday soon enough in this study. But for now we’re picking up where Friday’s post left off, taking a look at the differences between the fourth commandment as it’s issued in Exodus and reiterated in Deuteronomy.
In our study on the Sabbath today, like yesterday, we’re looking at a letter-for-letter appearance not of the English word “Sabbath,” but of the Hebrew word shabath, “to rest.” When Moses and Aaron are pushing for Pharaoh to let the enslaved Hebrews celebrate a feast to the Lord, Pharaoh uses the word when he denies their request. He repudiates Moses and Aaron: “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!” (Exodus 5:5). The word translated “cease” here is shabath. Pharaoh forbids them from stopping: not only are they denied a weekend, they are denied a vacation. Welcome to Egypt, the No-Sabbath Zone, the Labor Hole.