But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
Examine the categories in this list of those who shouldn’t do any work on the Sabbath. Given its historical context, isn’t it amazing that the verse commands more than just Israelite men to cease their labors? The command extends to children, servants, animals, and the alien resident in your towns (v. 10). Other translations use the word foreigner or exile. While alien may conjure too many sci-fi images, “foreigner” and “exile” are familiar words in our current context.
Who are the sojourners within our gates? Who are the non-citizens who reside amongst us? Why would God name them on this list of those who should cease their labors? By including them in this instruction, what is God telling God’s people about their relationship to those they consider separate from themselves?
The Old Testament scholar I married reminds me that the Hebrew people, once foreigners and sojourners themselves, would understand God’s desire that they view everyone who is part of their community as neighbor. Leviticus 19:18 states, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus quotes this verse when naming the second greatest commandment in Mark 12:31.
When we experience the love of Jesus, we want to offer our neighbors the welcome, embrace, and love we have found. When we taste the gift of Sabbath that God wants us to experience, we will want our neighbors in our community to experience that as well.
How does the Sabbath law and Jesus’ teachings make you re-think who your neighbor is?
God, introduce us to the neighbors you want us to love. Teach us how to embrace and welcome them into our communities of grace. Amen.