Carved in Stone, Part 5: Rest in Peace before You Die (Exodus 20:8-11)
On September 21, 1956, a test pilot by the name of Tommy Attridge shot himself out of the sky. It was a classic case of two objects trying to occupy the same space at the same time—one being his Grumman F11F-1 Tiger jet, and the other being a gaggle of his own bullets. Attridge was test-firing his 20mm cannons while flying at the speed of Mach 1.
At one point he entered a shallow dive, and at 13,000 feet he pulled the trigger on his guns for a 4-second burst. He fired again for a few seconds to empty the belts. Eleven seconds later, at 7,000 feet, he caught up to his own bullets and was struck by them. He had overtaken and then passed through his own gunfire! The plane crash landed into some trees, but Attridge was able to escape, relatively unharmed. It was the aerospace equivalent of a tiger biting its own tail.
What a great metaphor for workaholics who are so driven they can never take a break. They never slow down, never go on vacation, and never take time to smell the roses. Despite all the time-saving devices in our modern world, they still don’t have time to get everything done they want to accomplish. So, they fly through life at Mach 1 with their hair on fire. But there’s a price to be paid for moving through life too fast—namely, physical exhaustion, mental weariness, emotional distress, spiritual disillusionment, or good old-fashioned burnout.
Thankfully, God understands the human need to rest and re-charge. In fact, the fourth commandment teaches us that God’s people are to rest in peace before they die. Quite significantly, the Sabbath law is the longest commandment of the ten, and it’s the most unique. It took Israel out of sync with the heavenly bodies, out of sync the Egyptian workweek, and out of sync with the entire known world. It was simultaneously oriented toward God, others, and oneself. In that sense, it aligns with Jesus’s teaching that the greatest command is to love God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor as oneself.
Most surprisingly, the Sabbath was a “mini suspension of the curse.” Keeping it meant not having to sweat from the brow or handle thorns from a cursed earth. Implementing it is to experience God’s grace in the midst of life’s fallenness. No wonder 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Like Father, like Son. God wants his people to have a safe landing. An this life and the next.