Word Study: Heart Attack שׁבת



Exodus 16:30: “So the people rested on the seventh day.”

I remember as a child watching an old TV series called The Millionaire. Each week a reclusive Billionaire practiced his hobby of giving away to total strangers a cashier’s check of a million dollars tax free. This is how the story began, the rest of the story was post miracle or how the person’s life changed after he got the money. Many times the money ended up causing more problems.

A lot of books and teachings have been offered on how to get a (your) miracle from God. But I find very little teaching on post miracle. Often getting a miracle from God is like the TV series, The Millionaire, the story is not in the miracle but what you do with that miracle. Sometimes getting a miracle from God is like winning an elephant in a raffle, you’ve got it, what are you going to do with it?

Ok, maybe the word miracle is a little too heavy for some of you, so let’s just call it a gift from God. We can all identify with that. Everyone can point to something in their life and honestly say that it is or was truly a gift from God. It could be your job, your house, your mate, your children, your health, etc. Whenever the preacher says: “Let’s give thanks,” everyone of us can think of something that we can thank God for.

Yet, being thankful for a miracle or gift from God does not stop there. There are conditions attached to any miracle or gift from God. This passage teaches of the one condition that comes with any gift or miracle from God, it is call rest. You see for the children of Israel living in Egypt, life may not have been a bowel full of cherries, but in reality it really was, as well as grapes olives, cucumbers and a variety of food. Yes, they were slaves, but recent Archeological finds in Egypt suggest the life of a slave was not such a bad deal, at least they had a place they could call home, they knew where their next meal was coming from and there was the local well to get water. But now that they were in the wilderness, they had no home, they had no local well to draw water, they had no shelter from the desert storms. There was nothing but death in a desert which meant no source of food. Their only source was God. Six days a week, God would open the windows of heaven and send down bread. Not a bad deal. They did not have to get up early in the morning and plow a field, they did not have to push a shopping cart and swipe a debit card at a check out, all they had to do was get up and collect their daily bread. And the price was right as well. God only gave two conditions. Take only what you need for one day and no more. On the sixth day, take extra for the seventh day and rest on the seventh day. Do not go out and collect anything on the seventh day. We learn in Exodus 16:30 that after much trial and error, the people of Israel final figured it out and they rested on the seventh day.

Why does God want us to rest one day of the week? Ok, I am for that, but do I have to get up, shower, shave and drive to a church to listen to some music that is totally out of my sphere of enjoyment and listen to a 30-45 commercial on God after throwing in 10% of my hard earned wages to pay for this commercial. By the time it ends half the day is gone and I sure haven’t rested too much.

The word and they rested is vayishevethu. From the root word shabat where we get the word Sabbath from. It does not mean to lay back and catch up on your sleep. It is the same word used in Genesis 2:2 where God rested on the seventh day. I mean all that creating into being can probably wore poor God out. Surely God needed a rest after six days of creating a whole world and filling it up.

The English word rest can be a little misleading. It is not to rest to regain your strength as we consider the word rest. It means to cease, to bring to an end. Actually in digging around the library at the University of Chicago recently I traced this word to a Sumerian origin. There the word means the ceasing of the heart. In other words to have a heart attack. The ancients knew that if you did not hear that thump a de thump in your chest, you were not waking up.

In a way celebrating the Sabbath is like reminding ourselves that life will end and we must not forget what is important in life. I have driven any number of people on my disability bus who have had near death experiences and they all speak of a change in their life. It was that experience that caused them to learn what was really important in life. Family and loved ones become more important than a job and making money. Many selfish pursuits suddenly become irrelevant. During the week we can become so caught up in our struggle to live and survive that we forget how frail life is, how short it is and how quickly it could end. The Sabbath is there to remind us once a week that this life could end with just an unexpected heart attack. It is there remind us that it is eternal things that are important, not the temporal things.

In Luke 12 Jesus tells a story of a man who had a good harvest, stored up his wealth for a pleasant retirement and said; 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”
The Sabbath is there to remind us that we could have a heart attack at any time or any number of life ending events could occur at any time. The Sabbath is there to remind us that the most important thing is to nurture our relationship with God. That is what will last for eternity.