The chapter in Nehemiah condemns the practice of trading in Jerusalem on a Sabbath-day. ‘What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city?’ The city ‘gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath’. There is a lot to ponder when we have a look at how our life is governed by restless trade and consumption.
The Sabbath interrupts time ‘occupied by humans’. Indeed, we colonise everything, filling up all space and time with our activities, let them be trade, entertainment, noise, virtual reality, etc. Dedicating the Sabbath-day to God is a great reminder - a constant one - that we are not sovereign lords of history. Resting and praying on the Lord’s day, our Christian Sabbath-day, is also a warning: we are accountable for the sum total of our daily businesses, History.
Paul’s letter to the Romans reveals that Love is at the heart of ‘Sabbath’. Love interrupts the routines (which tends to treat people like objects) of humans. The apostle captures the dynamic (transforming power) of this interruption. ‘And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, But put he on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lust thereof.’
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..