Eternal Sabbath

As we come to the end of our brief study on the Biblical concept of Sabbath, it remains for us to deal with the eschatological aspects. In other words, what does the future hold for Sabbath observers?

The Epistle to the Hebrews anticipates an eschatological “sabbath rest” (sabbatismos) that remains for the people of God. Hebrews 4:1-11, is an important passage for us to read in this regard.th

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

The term sabbatismos, Sabbath rest, appears nowhere else in the New Testament, and may be the writer’s own creation to indicate the superiority of our future rest to that of the seventh day. Though a superior quality of rest, it is still marked chiefly by the cessation of labor patterned after God’s rest on the seventh day.

This final rest is only for Christians. Revelation 14:12-13 states

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

So, this eternal, rest will not be a complete stoppage of all activity. It will be like an active retirement. It will look like this,

 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

the sun shall not strike them,

nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17).

The idea is that you work during your lifetime, but don’t allow yourself to become a slave as Israel did when they worked 400 years without a vacation (Deuteronomy 5:15) and were, therefore counted as slaves. Always be looking forward to the time when you are no longer a slave to schedule but will have the opportunity to worship God as your full-time activity.

 

NOTE: Next week we conclude this study with a comment (guest blog, if you will) from a Puritan writer.

 

The Sabbath as a Holy Day

Most of us enjoy our holidays, whether it be a day off for Labor Day, a national holiday, or simply a vacation day (or week). In some places, of course the entire concept is taken to extremes. Workers in France, for instance, often take the entire month of August off.

Here in Curt’s blothg, we return to our study of the original Holy Day. Having looked at Sabbath as a sign of the covenant and as a mandate rather than a suggestion, let’s turn our attention to the enjoyment of the holy day.

The spirit of the Sabbath is joy, refreshment and mercy, arising from remembrance of God’s goodness as Creator and as the Deliverer from bondage. The Sabbath was given as a perpetual sign and covenant, and the holiness of the day is connected not only with the holiness of God, but also with the holiness of the people. They are holy because the God of the Sabbath sanctifies them. As we read in Ezekiel, “Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” (Ezekiel 20:12; see also Exodus 31:12-17).

  • Joy was the key-note of Israel’s services. Nehemiah commanded the people, on a day holy to Jehovah, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-13).
  • The Sabbath is also named as a day of special worship in the sanctuary. We read in Leviticus “You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:30; 26:2). My thoughts on the all-too-forgotten concept of a sanctuary can be found here.
  • The sabbath was proclaimed as a holy convocation. Leviticus teaches, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.” (Leviticus 23:3). As I’ve written in a previous blog, controversy abounds as to what constitutes work on the sabbath. “Can we enjoy recreational activities? Watch football on TV? Do we have to attend two or more church services on Sunday? Does corporate worship include clapping, drama, music? We will leave those arguments for some other time. The fact is that we are to observe a Sabbath, which includes worship of the Creator who has blessed that day.”

The observance of a Sabbath is not intended to be a burden. Nor is to be seen as merely taking off a day out of the week. It is a sign of recognition that God is God. It’s an indication of our trust in a sovereign God who can take care of things quite nicely even if we take a day off.

Keeping the Sabbath

After a bit of a hiatus, we return, this week, to our ongoing look at the Sabbath anthd what it means. The last time we look at the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant . This week’s topic is “Sabbath as Obedience.”

We’ve all probably heard jokes – or even serious comments – regarding the nature of the Ten Commandments as mere suggestions. One such statement says that, “if God had been a Liberal, we wouldn’t have had the ten commandments. We’d have had the ten suggestions.” The fact of the matter, however, is that God is not a liberal. He handed down the moral law with the expectation that it would be followed by His people.

Jesus told us that the law is still in force. It is not just an Old Testament device to keep people in line. He said,

 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, ESV).

This is not intended as an essay on the Ten Commandments, but I wanted to establish the binding nature of the Law before stating that the keeping of a Sabbath is not suggested. It is required. It is one of the commandments. Exodus 20:8-11 makes it clear that the reason we must keep the Sabbath is because God did.

 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Theological arguments abound as to exactly how we are to keep the Sabbath. Can we enjoy recreational activities? Watch football on TV? Do we have to attend two or more church services on Sunday? Does corporate worship include clapping, drama, music? We will leave those arguments for some other time. The fact is that we are to observe a Sabbath, which includes worship of the Creator who has blessed that day.

Why would God make this a command, instead of a helpful suggestion, we might ask. Because people don’t always respond to suggestions. Good intentions there are aplenty, but actions don’t necessarily follow the intent. “Nothing less than a command has the power to intervene in the vicious, accelerating, self-perpetuating cycle of faithless and graceless busyness, the only part of which we are conscious being our good intentions.” (Eugene Peterson).

 What, dear readers, do you think of the Sabbath?

 

 

 

What’s Your Sign?

Back in the 1970s and ‘80s a popular pick-up line was, “What’s your sign?” It was intended as a sort of icebreaker, something to say to someone you’d like to get to know. It referred to signs of the zodiac and astrology, which were quite trendy in popular culture at that time (the “Age of Aquarius” and all that).th-2

I often told congregations at that time that a good and proper answer would be, “I was born under the sign of the covenant.” I know that this answer stopped many an unwanted advance. (For a discussion of Biblical covenants go here.)

Actually there are many signs of the covenant. Here are just a few:

  • The Sabbath is a sign of God’s covenant faithfulness.

As we continue in our look at Biblical sabbath, we need to recognize that the sabbath is a sign of the Covenant. In Exodus 31:13 God says “This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” He is holy, therefore only He can make us holy.

In the church we employ certain signs and symbols. Baptism symbolizes our dying in Him and becoming a new creation. The LORD’s Supper indicates that He shed His blood that we might have communion with Him. The Sabbath is a sign that the people who follow it are God’s people; a people set apart, made holy.

Let us not disdain the Sabbath.

__________

Next week we will look at the fact that Sabbath-keeping is not a mere suggestion.

 

Keeping it Holy

This morning my wife and I were reading in Numbers, chapter 15. Verses 32-36 treat the topic of Sabbath. As is our habit, we followed up on some of the cross- references. There are many. The idea of Sabbath is important to God. Unfortunately, it does not seem nearly so important to man.

thThe origin of the Hebrew sabbat is uncertain, but it seems to have derived from the verb sabat, meaning to stop, to cease, or to keep. Its theological meaning is rooted in God’s rest following the six days of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). The meaning of the Sabbath can be found in several places. Exodus 20:8-11 tells us this:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

This passage makes a clear connection between the Sabbath day and the seventh day on which God the Creator rested. Sabbath observance therefore involves the affirmation that God is Creator and Sustainer of the world. In the New Testament, believers found it appropriate to use the day of Resurrection as the day of Sabbath rest and worship. (See Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

To “remember the Sabbath” meant that the Jew identified the seven-day-a-week rhythm of life as belonging to the Creator. If the Creator stopped his creative activity on the seventh day, then those who share in his creative work must do the same. Sabbath contravenes any pride that may accompany human mastery and manipulation of God’s creation. In ceasing from labor we are reminded of our true status as dependent beings, of the God who cares for and sustains all his creatures, and of the world as a reality belonging ultimately to God.

_______

In the next few entries, we’ll look at several aspects of the Sabbath. In the meantime, I’d be interested in seeing YOUR ideas on Sabbath. What does it mean to you? Does it require anything of us? On what day should it be observed?