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  • Jeff

Shabbat: Do not kindle a fire.

Exodus 35 Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do. 2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3 You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.”

Shabbat has been talked about since Genesis Chapter 2 in the Bible. Moses is adding a more information to Shabbat here. He states what has already been given, six days work and seventh day rest as it is holy to the L-rd. Then he adds, that they were to kindle no fire in their dwelling places. This verse has caused great controversy throughout the centuries within and without the Jewish community. There are and have been several interpretations for this verse. For example, one view is that a fire may not be started on Shabbat. Another one is that it may be started before Shabbat but cannot be fed during Shabbat. Another one is that it cannot be started on Shabbat but CAN be fed and maintained during Shabbat. Other questions that come up are “what constitutes a fire?” “what is kindling?” For the Christian today this verse is one of the reasons people say we are not “under the law.” The argument is that this was for the Israelites during the desert time and therefore we, who are followers of Yeshua / Jesus no longer are required to follow this command.

Each of these questions and arguments plus many others can be made and with vigor, but the true question we need to ask is "what was G-d really trying to teach Israel when this was given and how do we apply it today?"

Remember, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of those to whom this was being given. Israel was delivered from 400 years of slavery in Egypt and was in the process of forming a nation with a civil government. They were however a theocracy. Thus every decision for the civil society was in relation to the commands of G-d and His way of managing society. When we look through the lens of the Israelite and realize they were in a society that required labor and work to build a fire, that fire was being used for every single task of the other six days of the week, then we can begin to discover the purpose behind restriction. But before we do that we must first establish a very important foundational belief. Shabbat was a command of the Bible and it had among its several reasons a singular main purpose. REST. This rest is connected to another critical word. HOLY. As you study the passages that talk about Shabbat you will begin to notice the connection of the Shabbat being a day that is separate from the other days and is considered a Holy Day. This Holy Day is such that G-d Himself exampled it for us in Genesis 2:1-3.

We are commanded to keep this day holy and the way in which we act on that command is by resting. Once we begin to grasp the magnitude of that concept then we can begin to try and discern the meaning of this passage. In that "light" (pun intended) spend some time meditating on His word. Here are some questions to consider.

  • What does kindling a fire, rest and holiness have in common?

  • What are the ways in which kindling a fire then and now can prevent rest and thus result in unholy living?

  • Are there ways in which we kindle a fire that would fall under the same restriction?

  • Do you rest on Shabbat? If not, why?

I will leave you with this thought today. Shabbat is a gift from G-d and any restriction to the normal life we lead the other six days a week should be viewed as a blessing that will bring us much joy and happiness. Seek G-d and you will find Him.

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