OPEN FOR BUSINESS! The mantra that every startup entrepreneur wants to shout as they finally realize that their dream seems ready to acquire customers and start providing them with the indispensable service or product that their new business is certain to supply better than any of the competitors. In the midst of the current global pandemic of Covid-19, businesses are finding out whom the higher powers in the medical community and governing agencies describe as indispensable – they call it “essential services”. Somehow, your indispensable service is no longer validated by the market and customer choice, but by proclamation of our bureaucratic elites. Talk about dream-crushers. You thought that you were on to something that could be of benefit to the larger society even if it was only your locality and, especially, to your family as a means to support them. Not any more. Your business is not “essential”. Essential to whom? Yes, in the name of “being safe”, big government once again chooses winners and losers in the American (and global) economies. Having faith that once this is “over”, the optimistic American spirit can just kick back up and replace what has been lost in the shut-down. Sorry – some of those dreams will never happen for the startup entrepreneur. To be sure, there will be new opportunities for the entrepreneurial types, but probably not for many of the previous dreamers who just lost all their personal assets, not to a virus, but to government edicts that may be proven to be driven more out of a concern for temporary “safety” rather than long-term security. Today’s prevalent mantra (ie. BE SAFE) has never been the driving value for entrepreneurs. In fact, that particular slogan was the basis of Lucy’s question about Aslan (the lion) being safe. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’” (C.S.Lewis 1950) At this point, who can tell if our society preference to “be safe” overwhelms our search for the “good”? Ahh – but there is ONE who can tell – even now and in the future.
For some time now, I have been thinking about doing business in a way that reflects favorably on my God, whom I believe to be the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. Theologian Carmen Imes speaks of the Hebrew meaning of the English translation, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” (Exodus 20:7). Her basic premise is that this command is not about cursing, but is better represented as instructing Israel to not misrepresent the Lord by carrying (or bearing) His Name by which He branded them as His special people. Carry out whatever work you do, however you live in a way that represents Him well. This Old Testament scholar goes on to connect the specific biological Israel with the New Testament Jesus followers in such a way as to easily see the application of Old Testament precedents applied to us today. Belonging to God means that we have a vocation of being His representatives on the earth. We are His treasured possession branded by His name with whom God considers us as highly regarded treaty partners via His covenant love. In her explanation of this verse, she also elaborates on the concept of the Sabbath commanded to the Israelites. Sabbath means “rest”.
In my own study of the Holy Scriptures of the Bible this past year, I discovered a few verses talking about the Sabbath in a way of which I never considered. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, wrote:
“If thou turn away thy foot because of the sabbath, from pursuing business on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, and the holy of the Lord honorable; and shalt honour it, not doing thy wonted ways, nor pursuing the business, nor speaking thereof; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord , and I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and I will feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Masoretic Text translation of Isaiah 58:13-14)
In this scripture the Lord instructed, twice, for Israel to NOT pursue business on the Sabbath (day of rest). The admonition does not stop there, but goes on to say that Israel should not even speak of business on the Sabbath. Total rest and refrain from the weight of doing business! Looking back on Professor Imes’ contention that our effective bearing of the Name of God – making Him look good – incorporates this mandated sabbath rest. Somehow, that makes Him look good. In Egypt, the Israelites had no day of rest. This, at Sinai, is new. Slaves have no day of rest. God’s redemption from slavery is celebrated by a day of rest. The analogies are abundant when applied to our workaholic, 24/7 society. God’s people are to be a 24/6 people when it comes to doing His work. The other day is a day of trusting that He can “cover for us” while our bodies and minds restore. Isn’t interesting that such 24/6 businesses as Hobby Lobby and Chick-filet are, both, industry leaders? Maybe this thought is a bridge too far, but I noticed that Israel did not keep the command of the Lord to give their land a sabbath rest every seventh year, without planting on it. When they were judged for all their iniquities, they went into captivity for 70 years. According to Moses (Leviticus 26:32-35) the Lord would provide the land (Israel’s “business” and source of provision) 70 years of rest, one year for each of the last 70 “sabbath years” that Israel refused to honor. Here are some thoughts for God’s people of today to ponder. Throughout my childhood there were “blue laws” in our country prohibiting businesses from being open. Did those businesses survive? Could the “forced rest” of Covid-19 have a similar impact that Israel’s exile had on their prescribed source of physical provision (the land)? Does your business need some sort of “rest” or does the Sabbath concept just apply to us as individuals? Even so, how are we as hard-working Americans applying the Isaiah 58 mandate to NOT pursue, not speak of business when we should sabbath (rest)? In the midst of my grumbling about government elites mandating this slowdown, am I also complaining and resisting the rest commanded by my slave-freeing God for my own health?