A review of Sabbath as Resistance: Saying no to the culture of now, Walter Brueggemann (Westminster John Knox Press, 2014)
By Sarah Roop
By practicing Sabbath rest, one can receive God’s gifts with gratitude and effectively counter the restless anxiety, coercion, exclusivism, and commodity of culture. By looking at the fourth commandment through the lens of the Israelites’ story throughout the Old Testament, Walter Brueggemann (Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary) shows the Sabbath as a visible way of opting for and aligning with the God of rest. People cannot serve both God and wealth, which is what is attempted by calling oneself a Christian yet ignoring the Sabbath. Sabbath provides a way to live in freedom from endless production and remain in restful, covenantal fidelity with God. It is about choosing trust in God’s provision for what is needed and avoiding greed in exchange for caring for one’s neighbor.
Brueggemann’s arguments are both coherent and supported well by scripture. He provides the reader with thorough understanding about the Israelites’ journey through slavery, exile, and their eventual relapse back into anxiety, acquisitiveness, and a production-focused mentality. Brueggemann does not extensively elaborate on what these principles look like today, but rather allows the reader space to analyze their own life.
This book would be very beneficial to understand the biblical “why” behind practicing the Sabbath. It provides a clear contrast between life with Sabbath rest and life without practicing this call to remember and rest. The first worships God through trust and freedom from anxiety, while the latter shows a life characterized by competition, achievement, and endless production.