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The Right Way to Remember the Sabbath

This week’s adult Sabbath school lesson covered the importance of the Sabbath, including the history of the Roman Catholic Church changing Sabbath to Sunday. Most of the lesson goes over the prooftext showing the Sabbath to be Saturday and the importance of observing the day of worship.

While the Sabbath day is important, I suggest that we go deeper. As a recovering people-pleaser and pastor, I can attest to the work that goes into “keeping” the Sabbath. Ironically, a lot of Adventists who claim to adhere to keeping the day, miss the concept altogether.

Most of us grow up hearing the phrase “keep the Sabbath day,” in reference to the fourth commandment from Exodus 20 telling us to “remember the Sabbath.” When I was a kid, the word “remember” was drilled into my mind regarding that fourth commandment. Since it’s the only commandment beginning with “remember,” many pastors and teachers taught us that the word refers to the fact that we might forget what day we are supposed to worship God on.

What if the word “remember” actually means “don’t forget where to find your worth, don’t forget to stop, don’t forget to take care of yourself, don’t forget that you are loved regardless of activity.” Maybe keeping the Sabbath is the practice of remembering who we are in Christ, saying no and getting away for a while like Jesus did. Maybe it’s more about the Sabbath keeping us out of the rat race of activity, idolatry, and ego. What if the impending conflict, as the lesson is titled, isn’t just about rulers and kingdoms changing laws, but about the conflict within us to remember and let go, resting in God’s sovereignty?

The idea of stopping all activity on the Sabbath may look like laziness to some Adventists. Those people are also known as workaholics, masking their activity as ministry. Sometimes those activities, even good ones, can become idols of self-worth. Resting from those activities can seem terrifying because in the silence they must deal with exhaustion and loneliness. Perhaps this is why the word “remember” is so important. Don’t forget who you are and where your true identity lies. As Rick Warren writes in his book The Purpose Driven Life, “we are human beings, not human doings.” 

Thursday’s lesson covered the prophecy from Revelation 13, including the lamblike beast rising from the earth. Adventists interpret it as representing the United States. According to the lesson, the two horns “represent the United States’ power and success – political and religious liberty . . . according to this prophecy, the United States forms an image to the beast – a union of church and state – and it will require everyone to worship this image.”

In light of recent events happening in the United States right now surrounding Christian nationalism and the prophecy of Revelation 13, it is imperative that Adventists not align themselves with the Christian nationalist movement sweeping Christendom. Take a closer look at this concept in the May 4-8 Sabbath school lesson commentary

An interesting note from Revelation 13 is that the beast (United States) claims to be like a lamb (lamb representing Jesus), yet speaks like a dragon (symbolizing satan). So much in United States history and current events reveal the signs of hypocrisy in the lamblike beast, including Sabbath rest.

According to the reading, the lamblike beast will make a union of church and state, forcing others to worship as they see fit. This is one reason Christian nationalism and Adventism are diametrically opposed. Someone claiming to be Adventist and believing the prophecy of Revelation 13 must understand the importance of the separation of church and state, and therefore cannot bow at the altar of Christian nationalism. 

To wrap up, we come back to the word “remember” from the fourth commandment. Remember that true Sabbath keeping is deeper than just observing the right day. God is God and we are not. There is no political party that can save us and make us great. True rest for our body, mind, and soul can only be found in God, not activity. We are human beings, not human doings.

About the author

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
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