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Topic: Sabbath
Scripture: Mark 2:27; Hebrews 12:29; Romans 2:12; Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Corinthians 3:12-13; Galatians 3:24
Source: “‘They Were So Pure,’ Father Says of 7 Kids Killed in Fire” by Michael Balsamo ASSOCIATED PRESS, posted On, March 22, 2015
Author: Illustration Exchange

A Brooklyn father came home to his worst nightmare to find that a house fire had killed seven of his eight children and critically burned his wife and surviving child. The house, itself, was a total loss.

The cause of the fire was determined to be the use of a malfunctioning hot plate. It sparked a fire which rapidly spread up the stairs, trapping the children in their bedrooms.

The Sassoon family, members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, moved to Brooklyn less than two years prior. The father escorted the remains of his children back to Israel for burial.

Why, you might ask, was the hotplate left on while the family was sleeping?

ABC News reports:

The hot plate was left on for the Sabbath, which lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Many religious Jews use one to keep food warm, obeying the traditional prohibition on use of fire on the holy day as well as work in all forms, including turning on appliances.

As a result of the tragedy, Orthodox communities around the world are reconsidering the practice of keeping a hotplate plugged in as a means to circumvent the restrictions imposed by this religious tradition.


The law that served as the rationale for the ultra-Orthodox practice of keeping a hot plate plugged in during Sabbath is found in Exodus, where we read, “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the LORD. Anyone who works on that day must be put to death. You must not even light a fire in any of your homes on the Sabbath.” Then Moses said to the whole community of Israel, “This is what the LORD has commanded” (Exodus 35:2-4, NLT).

The stringent demand of this, and the other over-600 Old Testament regulations, forces the human heart in one of two directions. We are either left to search for loopholes that offer relief from the overwhelming burden, while also allowing the semblance of compliance, or in honest desperation, we are left no choice but to turn to God for grace.

The search for grace is where Jesus comes into the picture. He came to be our Sabbath—our rest—from the weighty demands of the law. To those who held no delusions about their ability to fully and honestly comply, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Additional Application:

“Anyone who works on that day must be put to death,” seems like a bizarre overreaction on God’s part. This command appears to be saying, “Relax or Die!”

In what universe does that kind of punishment fit this crime? How do we reconcile this, and a host of other similar passages, that seem to clearly contradict what the Bible has to say about God’s love for humanity?

Add to these questions the lengths people have gone in their attempts to satisfy this command, and we see how, without an understanding of Jesus, the law quickly becomes absurd. Absent an understanding of the promised Messiah, the law presents what appears to be a bizarre, rigid, religion that relies on hot plates to keep it propped up.

“Relax or die!” makes no sense without Jesus; with Jesus, it makes perfect sense.

He is the Sabbath rest from the impossible demands of the law which we all need. Grace demands that we place our trust in Him for salvation, or die in a futile attempt to earn it oursleves. God spoke of observing the Sabbath as a life and death issue because knowing Jesus, the source of real Sabbath rest, is a matter of life and death to the soul. We not only need Jesus to enter Sabbath rest, we also need Him to rightly understand that the law is not intended to be the answer, but to point us to the answer.

“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24, NASB).

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