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Divine Rest for Human Restlessness #14

The Sabbath and Redemption

                  DIVINE REST FOR HUMAN RESTLESSNESS #14


                  THE SABBATH  -  GOOD NEWS OF REDEMPTION

                                    by
                          Samuele Bacchiocchi PhD



     The struggle to become and to remain free from external and
internal restraints has engaged humanity ever since the Fall.
Much blood has been shed, countless lives have been sacrificed
during mankind's history, to gain freedom from external
oppression and exploitation! Perhaps an even greater investment
of human resources has been made and is presently being put forth
to liberate human beings from the internal tyranny of sickness,
sorrow and death. God's Good News to mankind is that this
struggle for human liberation from both external and internal
bondage has been won. It has been won, however, not through human
efforts but through divine intervention. The history of salvation
is the story of God's intrusion into human time and life, to
liberate His people not only from the physical bondage of Egypt
or of Babylon, but also from the spiritual captivity of
disobedience and death (I Cor.15:54-56). To accomplish this
redemptive mission Christ came into this world. He came "to
proclaim release to the captives ... to set at liberty those who
are oppressed" (Luke 4:18).
     The Christian mandate is to proclaim the Good News of how
God has wonderfully delivered humanity from the bondage of
darkness and death and led them into His marvelous light and life
(1 Pet.2:9). This Good News is to be proclaimed verbally and
accepted personally. Symbols such as baptism, the Lord's Supper
and the Sabbath provide vital means to appropriate and experience
the Good News of God's redemption in one's personal life. This
chapter will examine how the last of these sacred symbols, the
Sabbath, has been used by God both in the OT and the NT to give
to His people the assurance and experience of a present and
future divine redemption.


PART I

REDEMPTIVE SABBATH THEMES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

l. The Blessing and Sanctification of the Sabbath

     The story of creation is in a sense a redemption story
redemption from disorder into order, from chaos into cosmos?
Within the creation event the Sabbath reveals the purpose of
God's first redemptive act. It tells us that God created this
world not merely for the enjoyment of making something new and
beautiful out of formless matter (Gen.1:2), but especially for
the pleasure of sharing Himself with His creatures. Our earlier
study of the divine blessings and sanctification of the Sabbath
has already shown that these divine acts represent God's
assurance to His creatures of abundant life through His holy
presence.

A promise of Emmanuel. 

     When the prospect of a joyous life at the presence of God
was shattered by sin, the Sabbath became the symbol of divine
commitment to restore broken relationships. From being the symbol
of God's initial cosmological accomplishments (that is, the
bringing into existence of a perfect cosmos out of chaos), the
Sabbath became the symbol of God's future soteriological
activities (that is, the redemption of His people from bondage
into His freedom). From serving as a symbol of God's initial
entrance into human time to bless and sanctify a perfect world
with His divine presence, the Sabbath became a symbol of God's
future entrance into human flesh to become "Emmanuel - God with
us." The first as well as the second coming of Christ represent
the fulfillment of God's purpose for this world, expressed
initially through the blessings and sanctification of the
Sabbath.
     To trace how the Sabbath has fulfilled this redemptive
function both in the OT and in the NT is not an easy task. Why?
In the first place, because the Sabbath has provided the basis
for constant new reflections. Various strands of sabbatical
concepts such as the "rest" theme, the cosmic week and the
liberation experience of the Sabbath years, have all been used to
express future (eschatological) expectations of divine
deliverance. Second, the liberation message of the Sabbath has
been applied, as we shall see, both to immediate national
concerns for political restoration and to future expectations of
divine redemption. This dual application to the same theme
readily creates confusion in the mind of an unwarned reader.
Third, the Biblical and extrabiblical sources provide us with
fragmented information rather than systematic explanation of the
various levels of meanings attributed to the Sabbath. We shall
find that certain allusions to sabbatical themes in the OT become
clearer in the light of their NT interpretation. To comply with
the brevity required by the non-technical nature of the present
study, attention will be given only to two additional redemptive
themes of the Sabbath, namely, the Sabbath rest and the Sabbath
liberation.


2. The Sabbath Rest

     The Sabbath Rest in Hebrews. It might be helpful to trace
the theme of the Sabbath rest from the NT back into the OT,
rather than vice versa. This procedure is suggested by the fact
that it is the NT that clarifies the Messianic implications of
the Sabbath rest. The logical place to start is the fourth
chapter of the book of Hebrews, where the writer on one hand
reassures the Christian community that "there remains a sabbath
rest for the people of God" (4:9), while on the other hand he
exhorts them "to strive to enter that rest" (4:11). The tension
between permanence and perseverance, the already and the not-yet,
recurs several times in Hebrews. Our immediate concern, however,
is not to explore the significance of this tension, but rather to
ascertain the meaning and usage of the term "sabbath rest ---
'sabbatismos' which occurs in this form only here (4:9) in the
NT. Does it refer to the rest of the seventh-day Sabbath and if
so, what meanings are attributed to such a rest?
     The context and the linguistic usage of sabbatismos --
"Sabbath rest" indicate that the reference is indeed to the rest
of the seventh day. The theme of the rest to be found in God by
His people is introduced in chapter 3:7 with no apparent
connection with the Sabbath rest. But as the author develops the
theme of rest, he traces its origin back to God's rest on the
seventh day of creation, by quoting from Genesis 2:2, "And God
rested on the seventh day from all his works" (Heb.4:4). Having
identified the promise of God's rest to His people with the
seventh-day creation rest in verse 4, the author feels free in
verse 9 to substitute the common term "rest"--katapausis, with
the more specific term "Sabbath rest or Sabbath-keeping" -
'sabbatismos.' That the latter denotes specifically the
observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is further indicated by the
usage of the term with such an explicit meaning in the writings
of Plutarch, Justin Martyr, Epiphanius and others. Moreover, the
cognate verb sabbatizo - "to rest" is also used several times in
the Septuagint in clear reference to Sabbath observance (cf. Ex.
16:30; Lev.23:32; 2 Chron.36:21). These factors strongly suggest
that the "Sabbath rest" - sabbatismos that remains for the people
of God (4:9) is indeed related to the rest experience of the
seventh day.


Three levels of meaning. 

     What meaning does the writer of Hebrews attribute to the
Sabbath rest? By welding together two texts, namely Psalm 95:11
and Genesis 2:2, the writer presents what one might call three
different levels of meaning of the Sabbath rest. At a first
level, the Sabbath rest points to God's creation rest, when "his
works were finished from the foundation of the world" (4:3). This
meaning is established by quoting Genesis 2:2. At a second level,
the Sabbath rest symbolizes the promise of entry into the land of
Canaan, which the wilderness generation "failed to enter" (4:6;
cf. 3:16-19), and which was realized later when the Israelites
under Joshua did enter the land of rest (4:8). At a third and
most important level, the Sabbath rest prefigures the rest of
redemption which has dawned and is made available to God's people
through Christ.
     How does the author establish this last meaning? By drawing
a remarkable conclusion from Psalm 95:7, 11, which he quotes
several times (Heb.4:3,5,7). In Psalm 95, God invites the
Israelites to enter into His rest which was denied to the
rebellious wilderness generation (vv.7-11). The fact that God
should renew "again" the promise of His rest long after the
actual entrance into the earthly Canaan, namely at the time of
David by saying "today" (Heb.4:7), is interpreted by the author
of Hebrews to mean two things: first, that God's "Sabbath rest"
was not exhausted when the Israelites under Joshua found a
resting place in the land, but that it still "remains for the
people of God" (4:9). Second, that such rest has dawned with the
coming of Christ (4:3,7). The phrase "Today, when you hear his
voice" (4:7) has a clear reference to Christ! The readers had
heard God's voice in the "last days" (1:2) as it spoke through
Christ and had received the promise of the Sabbath rest. In the
light of the Christ event, then, ceasing from one's labor on the
Sabbath (4:10) signifies both a present experience of redemption
(4:3) and a hope of future fellowship with God (4:11). For the
author of Hebrews, as Gerhard von Rad correctly points out, "the
whole purpose of creation and the whole purpose of redemption are
reunited" in the fulfillment of God's original Sabbath rest.


The Sabbath rest in the Old Testament. 

     One wonders, on what basis does the author of Hebrews
interpret the Sabbath as the consummation of God's purpose for
creation, accomplished through Christ's redemption? Is this to be
regarded entirely as his own innovative interpretation or is he
giving a fresh approach to existing eschatological notions of the
Sabbath rest? A study of the theme of the Sabbath rest in the OT
and in contemporary Jewish literature indicates the latter to be
the case. The concept of the Sabbath rest--menuhah-- "to the
biblical mind," as Abraham Joshua Heschel explains, "is the same
as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony." The notion was
utilized in the OT to describe not only the weekly Sabbath rest
experience, but also the national aspiration for a peaceful life
in a land at rest (Deut.12:9; 25:19; Is.14:3), where the king
would give to the people "rest from all enemies" (2 Sam.7:1; cf.
1 Kings 8:5), and where God would find His "resting place" among
His people and especially in His sanctuary at Zion (2 Chron.
6:41; 1 Chron.23:25; Ps.132:8,13,14; Is.66:1).
     The rest and peace of the Sabbath, which as a political
aspiration remained largely unfulfilled, became the symbol of the
Messianic age, often known as the "end of days" or the
"world to come." Theodore Friedman notes, for example, that two
of the three passages in which Isaiah refers to the Sabbath are
linked by the prophet with the end of days (Is.56:4-7; 58:13, 14;
66:22-24) ... It is no mere coincidence that Isaiah employs the
words 'delight' (oneg) and 'honor' (kavod) in his descriptions of
both the Sabbath and the end of days (58:13 - 'And you shall call
the Sabbath delight ... and honor it'; 66:11--'And you shall
delight in the glow of its honor'). The implication is clear. The
delight and joy that will mark the end of days is made available
here and now by the Sabbath.


The Sabbath rest in Jewish literature. 


     Later rabbinic and apocalyptic literature provide more
explicit examples where the Sabbath is understood as the
anticipation and foretaste of the world-to-come. For example,
Pirke Rabbi Eliezer describes the structure of history as
follows: "Seven aeons has God created, and of them all He has
chosen only the seventh aeon. Six are for the coming and going 
[of men and one the seventh, is wholly sabbath and rest in
eternal life." This seventh sabbatical age is frequently
associated with the coming of the Messiah. "Our Rabbis taught,"
says the Babylonian Talmud, "at the conclusion of the septennate
the son of David will come. R. Joseph demurred: But so many
sevenths have passed, yet has he not come!" 
     In the apocalyptic work known as "The Book of Adam and Eve"
(about first century A.D.), the archangel Michael admonishes
Seth, saying: "Man of God, mourn not for thy dead more than
six days, for on the seventh day is a sign of the resurrection
and the rest of the age to come." 

     How did the Sabbath come to be regarded as the symbol of the
resurrection and rest in the world to come? Apparently the harsh
experiences of the desert wandering first, and of the exile
later, encouraged the viewing of the Edenic Sabbath as the
paradigm of the future new age. In fact, the new age which is
generally equated with the Messianic age is characterized by
material abundance (Amos 9:1314; Joel 4:19; Is.30:23-25; Jer.
31:12), social justice (Is.61:1-9), harmony between persons and
animals (Hos.2:20; Is.65:25; 11:6), extraordinary longevity (Is.
65:20; Zech 8:4), refulgent light (Is.30:26; Zech 14:6,7) and
absence of death and sorrow (Is.25:8). These various
characteristics of the Messianic age are grouped together in 2
Baruch, another Jewish apocalyptic work of the latter half of the
first century A.D. Its author describes "the time of My Messiah,"
saying: "And it shall come to pass, when He has brought low
everything that is in the world, and has sat down in peace for
the age on the throne of His kingdom, that joy shall then be
revealed, and rest shall appear." The description of the
Messianic age continues and includes the familiar themes of the
absence of death and sorrow, of social justice, of harmony in
nature, etc.

     This brief survey indicates that after the Fall the Sabbath
rest was understood, both in the OT and in later Jewish
literature, as the consummation of God's purpose for His
creation. The weekly experience of the Sabbath rest epitomized
the national aspirations for a resting place in the land of
Canaan and in the sanctuary of Jerusalem. But all of this in turn
pointed forward to the future order of peace and rest to be
established by the Messiah. "The time of salvation" came to be
viewed as "wholly sabbath and rest."  The existence of this
Messianic/eschatological interpretation of the Sabbath rest
provides the basis for understanding why the author of Hebrews
identifies Christ's redemption with the Sabbath rest. With the
coming of Christ "the good news" of the Sabbath rest has been
realized and is being experienced by all those "who have
believed" (Heb.4:2,3,7). This redemptive understanding of the
Sabbath rest is not a unique conception of the author of Hebrews.
Christ Himself, as will be shown later in this chapter, viewed
His redemptive mission as the realization of that rest promised
by the Sabbath (Matt.11:28; 12:7; Luke 4:18-21; John 5:17; 9:4).
     For the present it suffices to notice that in the OT, the
experience of the Sabbath rest both at a personal and national
level served to nourish the hope of a future Messianic
redemption.

 
3. The Sabbath Liberation

The Sabbath and redemption. 

     The theme of Sabbath freedom or liberation is another
significant redemptive motif which appears in various forms both
in the OT and in later Jewish literature. Being a day of rest,
the Sabbath is uniquely equipped to function as a symbol and
agent of both physical and spiritual liberation. The release from
the pressure of work provided by the Sabbath could effectively
epitomize both past and future divine deliverance. This may
explain the reason for the frequent association of the Sabbath
with the theme of redemption. Both in the Exodus and in the
Deuteronomic version of the Decalogue, God introduces Himself as
the merciful Redeemer: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you
out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Ex.20:2;
Deut.5:6). To guarantee this newly given freedom to every member
of the Hebrew society, God enjoins through the Fourth Commandment
that freedom from work must be granted to "you, or your son, or
your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your
cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates" (Ex.20:10; cf.
Deut.5:14).
     The link between the Exodus liberation and the Sabbath is
implicitly suggested in the Exodus version of the Fourth
Commandment by the preface where God introduces Himself as
Israel's Liberator (Ex.20:2). However, in the Deuteronomic
version, the link between the Sabbath and the Exodus liberation
is established explicitly by means of the "remembrance clause"
"You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt,
and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand
and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded
you to keep the sabbath day" (Deut.5:15)? "Here," writes Hans
Walter Wolff, "the reason for observing the day of rest is that
affirmation which was absolutely fundamental for Israel, namely,
that Yahweh had liberated Israel from Egypt. On every sabbath
Israel is to remember that her God is a liberator." This motif of
redemption constitutes an addition to that of creation given in
Exodus 20:11. The fact that the theological scope of the Sabbath
is enlarged in Deuteronomy to include the remembrance of the
Exodus indicates that this institution is not static but dynamic.
Its meaning and function increase with the unfolding of salvation
history.



Remembering deliverance. 

     Why is Israel called upon to remember on and through the
Sabbath her past liberation from Egypt? A first reason is that by
recalling vividly the divine benefits received, a person can
meaningfully experience and express indebtedness and commitment
to God. To remember God as one's Creator means to acknowledge the
ground for one's existence. Nevertheless, creation remains a
distant past act that does not easily touch the immediate
concerns and needs of a person. Redemption, on the other hand, is
God's constant intervention in history and thus speaks more
directly to immediate human needs. In a sense there is a
deliverance from Egyptian bondage which is not limited to a
particular country or century, but which may recur in every
country, in every age and in every soul.
     A second reason for the summons to remember the Exodus
deliverance was to motivate the Israelites to be compassionate
toward dependent workers. Niels-Erik Andreasen emphasizes that
"the real purpose of this 'remembrance clause' in Deuteronomy
5:15 is to provide a strong motive for all Israelites who
remember their own deliverance from servitude, to extend such a
deliverance from servitude on the Sabbath to those in their midst
who are not free to observe it."  In other words, as the same
author explains, "every seventh day the heads of the households
in Israel are called upon to provide the dependents in a small
but real way with the kind of freedom which they received from
God at the exodus." 
     Thus the call to remember the Exodus deliverance through the
Sabbath was for the Israelites a concrete experience which
involved showing consideration toward the less fortunate. This
implies a fundamental principle, namely that the blessings of
redemption evoked by the Sabbath are to be enjoyed not at the
expense or neglect of others, but rather by manifesting a genuine
concern for the human rights and needs of others. We shall find
that this essential principle, which unfortunately in the course
of time was largely ignored, was clarified and emphasized by the
Savior's Sabbath teaching and ministry.


Sabbath years. 

     The temporary weekly release from the hardship of life and
social inequalities assumed a heightened and more permanent
nature at the time of the sabbatical year (every seventh year -
Lev. 25:8) and in the jubilee year (every "seven sabbaths of
years" - Lev.25:8). Both of these annual institutions were
closely linked to the weekly Sabbath. This is indicated not only
by their dependency upon the cycle of seven (reflective of the
week ending in a Sabbath), but also by the fact that they were to
be kept as "a sabbath to the Lord ... a sabbath of solemn rest
for the land, a sabbath to the Lord" (Lev.25:2,4). At these
annual institutions, the Sabbath truly became the liberator of
the oppressed in Hebrew society. The land was to lie fallow, to
provide free produce for the dispossessed and animals. The slaves
were emancipated if they so desired and debts owed by fellow
citizens were remitted. The jubilee year also required the
restoration of property to the original owner. If no kinsman
(goel) offered to redeem his fellow Jew who on account of
financial distress had sold himself to servitude, God Himself
became his Redeemer (goel) from bondage by means of the
sabbatical legislation (Lev.25:54-55).
     Though seldom observed, these annual Sabbath institutions by
promising a national restoration to the people and to the land
became the symbol of the future restoration to be accomplished by
the Messiah. As the rest of the Sabbath served to epitomize the
future rest, harmony and peace of the Messianic age, so the
restoration of these annual Sabbaths served to announce the
future restoration and liberation to be brought about by the
Messiah. Before mentioning specific examples of Messianic usages
of the Sabbath-years themes, it may be helpful to note why the
latter were uniquely well-suited for such a purpose.


Redemptive features o f Sabbath years.  

     Several features of the Sabbath years had a clear
eschatological import. First, the theme of release of debts,
slaves and property provided an effective imagery to illustrate
the expected Messianic liberation. It is noteworthy that the
sabbatical years are technically referred to as "the release, the
Lord's release, the year of release" (Deut.15:1,2,9; 31:10; Lev.
25:10). The term "release " - aphesis is commonly used in the
Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) to translate the Hebrew
designations for the sabbatical and jubilee year (shamat,
shemittah, yobel, deror). The same term "aphesis" is used in the
NT almost always with the meaning of "forgiveness." This suggests
that the vision of the sabbatical release from social injustices
functioned as the prefiguration of the future Savior's release
from the bondage of sin. Such a Messianic typological usage of
the Sabbath release is clarified and corroborated, as we shall
soon see, by the redemptive meaning attributed to the Sabbath in
the NT.
     A second eschatological feature can be seen in the trumpet
blast by means of a ram's horn (yobel - from which the term
"jubilee" derives) which ushered in the jubilee year. The ima-
gery of this trumpet blast was apparently used by Isaiah to
describe the inauguration of the Messianic age (Is.27:13).
Possibly, it is to the same imagery of the jubilee that the NT
refers when it speaks of the trumpet announcing the return of
Christ (1 Cor.15:52; 1 Thess.4:16; Matt.24:31). Related to the
trumpet blast there is a third eschatological motif, namely, the
date of the tenth day of the seventh month - Atonement Day - on
which the ram's horn was blown to inaugurate the year of jubilee
(Lev. 25:9). Is it not significant that the sabbatical
restoration of the year of jubilee was inaugurated by the
cleansing (Lev.16:18-19) and new moral beginning offered by God
to the people on the Day of Atonement?
     The significance of this fact is noticed, for example, by
Rousas John Rushdoony, who writes: "Because the jubilee began on
the evening of the Day of Atonement, it made clear the founda-
tion of the new creation, atonement through the blood of the Lamb
of the Covenant. Creation and recreation were thus basic to the
Sabbath: man rests in God's finished work of redemption
proclaimed before time. By faith, man, anticipating the final
victory and rejoicing in the present deliverance, lives by faith
in the sufficiency of God." 
     The jubilee year, then, by pointing to the covenant God who
restores the land and the people to new beginnings, could
encourage faith in the future deliverance of the Messiah. The
infrequency of these Sabbath years may well have contributed to
heighten the expectancy and hope for the Messiah's future
deliverance.


Sabbath years and the Messiah in the Old Testament. 

     The vision of the sabbatical and jubilee years was actually
utilized to represent the expectation of the Messianic
redemption. A few examples will suffice to substantiate this
statement. 
     Daniel 9 provides an interesting instance of the double use
of the sabbatical and jubilee year time periods. The chapter
opens describing Daniel seeking to understand the time of the end
of the captivity in the light of Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 years
(Jer.29:10). This prophetic period is explicitly explained in 2
Chronicles 36:21 as representing a prolonged "Sabbath" (ten
sabbatical cycles) of desolation that the land would experience
as a result of Israel's disobedience (cf. Lev.26:34-35).
     In the light of this prophecy, Daniel prays to understand
the time when the predicted repatriation would occur (9:3-19). In
response, the angel Gabriel appears to make known to him God's
plan for a greater Messianic restoration to take place not after
seventy years but after "seventy weeks of years" (9:24). As the
70 years of Jeremiah, which predicted the end of national
captivity, consisted of 10 sabbatical years (10x7), so the 490
years (70x7) of Daniel, which predict the end of spiritual
bondage, contain 10 jubilee years (10x49). That this jubilary
division of time points directly to the coming of the Messiah is
indicated both by the specific reference to "Messiah Prince"
'masiah nagid' (v.25) and by the description of His mission ("to
finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for
iniquity ..." - v.24). As the theme of the Sabbath rest is used
to epitomize both political and Messianic expectations, so the
vision of the release of the Sabbath years is here utilized to
announce the time of both the national and Messianic restoration.
     Isaiah 61:1-3 provides another example where the theme of
the jubilee year is applied to the mission of Yahweh's Anointed
Servant (61:1). While the original identity of this figure is
disputed, there is no question that at Qumran and in the NT, the
personage described in this text was understood to be the Messiah
who ushers in the end-time restoration. His mission is presented
as being "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (61:2), a
clear reference to the proclamation of the year of jubilee (Lev.
25:10). The latter is indicated also by the use of the
designation "release" - deror (v.1), which is the technical term
employed to designate the year of jubilee (Lev.25:10; Jer.34:8,
15,17; Ezek.46:17). The "good tidings" (Is.61:1) proclaimed by
Yahweh's Anointed (Messiah) by means of the delightful jubilee
imagery is the promise of amnesty and release from captivity.
     Christ, as we shall soon see, utilized the same imagery to
announce and explain the nature of His redemptive mission.


Sabbath years and the Messiah in Jewish literature. 

     There are indications that the language and imagery of the
Sabbath year found in Isaiah 61:1f. was used both in rabbinical
and sectarian Judaism, to describe the work, of the expected
Messiah. For example, a fragmentary text discovered in 1956 in
Qumran Cave 11 (known as 11Q Melchizedek) utilizes the very theme
of the sabbatical restoration of Isaiah 61:1f. to explain the
work of the Messianic figure known as "Melchizedek" (lines 5,8,
9,13). He ushers in the year of jubilee (line 2), proclaiming
"remission" - 'shemittah' (line 3), and "release" - 'deror' (line
6) to the "captives" (line 4). The reference is clearly to Isaiah
61:1, the very text quoted by Christ in His opening address in
Nazareth to announce His mission (Luke 4:18-19). The seventh
line, unfortunately very fragmentary, seems to refer to the
"seventy weeks of years" of Daniel 9:24, since it speaks of "the
year of the la[st] jubilee" as being "the [t]enth [julbilee" (10
X 49 = 490 which is the same as Daniel's 70 X 7 = 490). Moreover,
like Daniel 9:24, this last year of jubilee involves atonement
for iniquity ("to atone for all sons of [light - and] men ..." -
line 8). The existence of this Messianic interpretation of the
jubilee is confirmed also by rabbinical sayings. Elijah, for
example, is reported to have said to Rabbi Judah, "The world has
no less than 85 jubilee cycles and in the last jubilee-cycle the
Son of David will come." 

     This brief survey of sabbatical themes such as the Sabbath
blessing/ sanctification, the Sabbath rest and the Sabbath
liberation, suffices to show that the Sabbath served in OT times
not only to provide personal rest and liberation from social
injustices, but also to epitomize the hopes for future political
and Messianic restoration of peace and prosperity. We have found
that the Sabbath has been understood as representing the very
goal of human history. In fact, the sabbatical-septenary
structure of time was used by some to measure the waiting time to
the coming of the Messiah. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel captures
vividly the OT redemptive understanding of the Sabbath, when he
writes: "Zion is in ruins, Jerusalem lies in the dust. All week
there is only hope of redemption. But when the Sabbath is
entering the world, man is touched by a moment of actual
redemption; as if for a moment the spirit of the Messiah moved
over the face of the earth." 


PART 2

REDEMPTIVE MEANING OF THE SABBATH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

     The existence of this Messianic/redemptive understanding of
the Sabbath in OT times, poses important questions: How does the
Sabbath in the NT fulfill such OT redemptive expectations? What
is the relationship between Christ's redemptive mission and the
Messianic restoration contemplated by the Sabbath in the OT? Did
Christ fulfill the eschatological expectations inherent in the
Sabbath, by bringing to an end its function as in the case of the
Temple's services (Heb.8:13; 9:23-28), or by enriching its
meaning and function through His redemptive mission? To answer
these questions it is necessary herewith to examine some
significant testimonies reported in the Gospels regarding the
Savior's Sabbath teaching and ministry.


1. The Nazareth Address

A model of Sabbathkeeping? 

     Luke's account of the opening scene of Christ's ministry
provides a suitable starting point for our inquiry into the
relationship between the Savior and the Sabbath.  According to
Luke, it was "on a Sabbath that Jesus officially inaugurated His
ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth, by making a programmatic
speech. It is noteworthy, first of all, that Luke introduces
Christ as an habitual observer, of the Sabbath ("as his     
custom was" --4:16). Does he intend by this to set Christ before
his readers as a model of Sabbathing.

                            ...................


To be continued


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