As far as Exodus is concerned, Egypt was a place where one’s value came from their productivity. In this stratified society, the one above, whipped the one below and winced with pain from the whip that landed from the one above him. It was a place where those at the top demanded more and always more.
Nobody rested in this land, no, not even the gods. How could the when they had slaves to supervise?
They never gave away anything for nothing. They demanded and demanded.
One thing we all have in common is that we become what we revere. Thus, those who revered consumerist gods found themselves consumed by the implacable desire for more and its consequent inability to see nothing more in others than cows fed only to be milked and cups to be drained but never filled.
God freed His people from that and gathered them around Sinai to reveal a different type of kingdom (Exodus 20). He began with a revelation of Himself as Yahweh, their God and emancipator.
This freedom entailed remembering to keep the seventh day holy. For six days, they were to engage in productivity but on the Sabbath, they were to cease productive labour. In this way, God gave them a weekly reminder that their value came not from productivity but from the fact that He was their creator and liberator.
Having received liberation, the Sabbath was an opportunity for the people to spread liberty, from home to everywhere else. This freedom from the oppression of relentless productivity was declared even for the most vulnerable of any society: children, employees, animals and immigrants (Exodus 20:10).
Wives were not mentioned here because God was restoring their dignity. They were absent from the list because they were equals and not subordinates just as it was on the first Sabbath when God took a break (Exodus 20:11 cf Genesis 2:2,3).
To keep the Sabbath holy is to stand still in protest of materialism. It is to declare God as the source of security and significance by refraining from productivity – “I depend on God and not my hands.”
I wish I could find that because sometimes, church feels like school without the homework. The Sabbath is crammed with programs that leave no rest. We rush to Sabbath School, languish through announcements, sleep through sermons and rush through lunch to make it back in time to sleep through lullabies disguised as afternoon programs. It seems the old implacable productivity is back but with a religious gown.
Could we go back to the essence of Sabbath? At its heart, Sabbath points us to a God who makes a weekly appointment with us to just chill and hangout.