Keith Hunt - Divine Rest - Page Six   Restitution of All Things

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Divine Rest for Human Restlessness #6

The Celebration of Creation

                    DIVINE REST FOR HUMAN RESTLESSNESS


PART II continued from previous page


CELEBRATING THE GOOD NEWS OF CREATION


     How are we to celebrate on the Sabbath the Good News of
God's perfect creation? What is the significance of this
celebration as far as our personal life and our relationship with
God, with nature and with others is concerned? Various responses
will be given to these questions in subsequent chapters. At this
junction three suggestions will be made.


1. Resting as if All Work Were Done

     A first way to celebrate the completion and perfection of
God's original creation is by resting on the Sabbath as if all
our work were done. This may sound like an unrealistic sug-
gestion, since we often find ourselves at the end of a working
week frustrated over unfinished tasks. Does it not frequently
happen that, in spite of our best efforts, we accomplish in the
six days only part of what we set out to do? How then can we
celebrate the Good News of the Sabbath by resting as if all our
work were done? The answer is to be found in the very function of
the Sabbath, which is to give a sense of "completeness" to our
incomplete work and life. A rabbinical comment on Exodus 20,:9
("Six days you shall labor, and do all your work"), hints at this
function of the Sabbath: "Is it possible for a human being to do
all his work in six days? Does not our work always remain
incomplete? What the verse means to convey is: Rest on the
Sabbath as if all your work were done. Another interpretation:
Rest even from the thought o f labor."  
     True, the Sabbath often seems to arrive earlier than
expected. We may feel disappointed with ourselves because of
unfinished tasks. Is this not a forceful reminder of our human
finiteness and limitations? The Sabbath, however, by enabling us
to detach ourselves from our daily tasks, gives a sense of
completion to the work of the previous six days and to life
itself. In some weeks the result of our labor seems greater than
in others, but it is a fact that whether our best efforts have
produced much or little, during each Sabbath God invites us to
celebrate His creative and redemptive accomplishments on our
behalf, by entering into His Sabbath rest. He invites us to
interrupt our daily routine and rest as if all our work were
done, in order that we may enter into the joys of His "finished"
creation and salvation (Gen.2:2; John 19:30). This emphasis is
found in the Fourth Commandment where God's completion of His six
days' creation work and His rest on the seventh are given as the
basis for human beings to share in the same experience (Ex.
20:8-11).
     It would be impossible on the Sabbath to praise God for His
marvelous accomplishments while living under a deep sense of
personal failure and frustration because of work that remains
undone. Thus on and through the Sabbath, God invites us to view
our work in the light of His accomplishments. He tells us,
"whether your hard work has produced little or much, rest on the
Sabbath as if all your work were done, because My grace is
sufficient for you." The sense of completeness that the
celebration of the Sabbath brings to our life gives meaning and
direction to what otherwise would be continuous, meaningless, and
linear existence. Human beings cannot endure life as an unending
stretch without breaks of some kind. As the student needs tests
and examinations at regular intervals to discover where he
stands, so the Christian needs the weekly Sabbath, to discover
the joys, the direction and significance of his own existence.

     Pacifico Massi acutely observes that "after man has detached
himself from the things of life by ceasing to work, man can
really assume the attitude of a priest of the creation, and the
sacred day has been specifically made for this, so that man might
be able to exercise this priesthood in expressing his praise and
elevating it to God with intellectual light full of love."  What
a challenging thought! The Sabbath not only provides a sense of
completeness to our imperfect and unfinished work, but it raises
us also to the level where we can function as ministers who
celebrate the Good News of the Sabbath by offering to God
admiration and praise for what He has done for us, in us and
through us. This experience of offering to God on the Sabbath not
only our praise, but also the accomplishments of our work, gives
a sabbatic quality to the preceding work days.


2. Renewing Faith in a Perfect Creator

     A basis for true worship. A second way to celebrate the
perfection of God's original creation is by renewing our faith in
God as our perfect Creator. Faith in God as Creator is the
cornerstone of the Christian faith. The first article of the
"Apostles' Creed" which most Christians recite and/or accept,
states: "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven
and earth - creatorem caeli et terrae."  Such a belief is implied
in the opening declaration of the Bible: "In the beginning God
created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). To celebrate the
Sabbath means to subscribe to this fundamental Biblical teaching
by confessing, not merely with words but also with corresponding
actions, belief in God as the perfect Creator. It means to
recognize that the existence of this world itself is an absolute
gift from God. George Elliott eloquently writes that "Against
atheism, which denies the existence of a personal God; against
materialism, which denies that this visible universe has its
roots in the unseen; and against secularism, which denies the
need to worship, the Sabbath is an eternal witness. It
symbolically commemorates that creative power which spoke all
things into being, the wisdom which ordered their adaptations and
harmony, and the love which made, as well as pronounced, all
'very good.' It is set as the perpetual guardian of man against
that spiritual infirmity which has everywhere led him to a denial
of the God who made him, or to the degradation of that God into a
creature made with his own hands." 

     Why is the belief in God as perfect Creator vital for a
meaningful relationship with Him? Why does such a belief
constitute the first article of the Creed and the first statement
of the Scripture? Basically it is because no one can truly
worship God unless he first accepts Him as his perfect Creator.
To worship means to acknowledge and praise the worthiness of God.
Would God be worthy of praise if He had not originally created
this world and all its creatures perfectly? Could a person find
reasons to praise the company that produced and sold him a car
full of mechanical defects? In the same way it would be hard to
find reasons to praise God if His original workmanship had not
been perfect or if He had not been directly responsible
for our existence. Moreover, as well stated by Barth, "if the
confession of the work of creation is false and impotent and
impossible, so too is that of reconciliation and redemption."


Renewing faith in the Creator. 

     Why has the belief in God as our perfect Creator been
challenged in so many different ways during much of mankind's
history? The reasons differ.
     Ancient polytheistic peoples, as some who are living today,
preferred to worship that which can be seen or touched. Thus the
sun, the moon, the wind and the lightning were viewed not as
God's creations but as gods in themselves. The question for them
was not, "Is there a God?" - but rather, "Who is your God?" The
struggle for supremacy among the many gods obscured the belief in
the true Creator-God. In our time the reasons for disbelief in
God as the Creator of an originally perfect world are largely of
a different nature. The triumph of scientific and rational
thinking has resulted in the tendency to discard the whole
concept of the existence of a supernatural God. A major
contributory factor to this shift in human thinking from
polytheism and/or monotheism to agnosticism and atheism has been
the theory of evolution, and its influence on the natural
sciences. The attempt to explain the origin of life and of this
world on a natural and rational basis has led not only secular
thinkers but also many professing Christians to reject the
Biblical teaching of a Divine fiat (spoken) creation. The
prominent contemporary question is no longer, Who is your God?
but rather, is there a God? For many "God is dead" or, if He is
alive, He has no direct involvement in the origin or subsistence
of this world.

     Why is there such a prevailing skepticism about God being
the Creator of an originally perfect world? Why do many persons
today have greater faith in the theory of spontaneous generation
than in an original divine and perfect creation? Is it possible
that the widespread abandonment of the seventh-day Sabbath - the
reminder of God's perfect creation - has facilitated such
prevailing skepticism? Ellen White provides an affirmative answer
to this question when she writes: "Had the Sabbath been
universally kept ... there would never have been an idolater, an
atheist, or an infidel." The statement needs some qualifications,
since the mechanical observance of creation's memorial day does
not guarantee per se the acceptance of God as Creator. It is
possible to go through the motions of the observance of a day
without understanding of or commitment to what is being
celebrated. Yet the fact remains that skepticism can be an
outgrowth of forgetfulness. A person who neglects the Sabbath,
the memorial of creation, is liable to forget and become
skeptical about the God of creation. Is this not similarly true
in human relationships? I was engaged to be married for four
years, which to me seemed like an eternity, because much of the
time my fiancee and I were separated by an ocean. During the
prolonged separation I was tempted to forget and to doubt who my
fiancee was and how much she loved me. How did I overcome my
incipient skepticism? I would take time to read and reread her
letters and to look at her pictures. That helped me to overcome
any doubt and to renew my commitment to my fiancee. In a similar
fashion the Sabbath provides a weekly opportunity to overcome any
incipient skepticism by inviting us to "remember" and thus to
renew our faith in our perfect Creator.

     During the week as we use and admire the many sophisticated
man-made machines, we are tempted to place our trust in human
achievements and resources. God was well aware of this very real
danger that human beings may lose sight of their Creator and
worship instead human creations. Therefore, in His divine concern
and wisdom, He established the seventh-day Sabbath to safeguard
His creatures from the disaster of selfworship. Through the
Sabbath, God invites His people week after week to hear and to
celebrate the Good News of His perfect creation, by contemplating
His handiwork and thus renewing their faith in the perfect
Creator. Because this vital function of the Sabbath meets a
continuing human need - greater today than ever before - no
Sabbath discontinuance can ever be sanctioned nor ever be
legitimately contemplated. Thus any human attempt to invest
another day of the week with the symbolicmemorial function of the
creation - Sabbath would mean to disregard the event for which
the day stands.


3. Delighting in God's Creation

     A weekly interlude. A renewed faith in the Creator makes it
possible to celebrate the Sabbath in a third way, namely, by
taking delight in the beauty and perfection of God to be found in
the worship experience, in our lives, in the lives of others and
in the world around us. The Sabbath invites us not to prostitute
the world but to delight in its beauty. It invites us to look
above and beyond the cloud of sin and suffering that darkens our
world and recapture in thought the astonishment, the joy and
admiration, experienced by the first human pair.
     Harvey Cox maintains that thousands of Westerners are today
turning to Eastern meditation because "it provides a modern
equivalent of what the observance of Sabbath once did but
does no more." Why turn to Eastern meditation, which is based on
strange and un-Biblical world views, when the Sabbath affords
both the setting and valid reasons for meditating, contemplating
and rejoicing in the goodness of God's creation? Oriental
meditation often encourages a total way of life based on escaping
the sad realities of this world. The Sabbath, on the other hand,
encourages not a permanent escape from this troubled world, but
only a one-day weekly interlude in order to catch a glimpse of
the divine realm of order, purity and love. Such a renewed vision
equips the believer with hope and faith to live in this present
world, while looking forward by faith to the world to come, or we
might say, to live in time while preparing for eternity.


A window of eternity.   

     The Sabbath affords the means of recapturing some measure of
Edenic delight. It offers the opportunity to look at the world
through the window of eternity. In the Judeo-Christian tradition
the Sabbath has been regarded as a day of joy and jubilation.
Isaiah calls the Sabbath "a delight," and a day to "take delight
in the Lord" (58:13-14). To ensure the festive atmosphere of the
Sabbath, the Jews prepared themselves for the event with special
clothing, meals, and proper frame of mind. No fasting was
permitted and even the sevenday mourning period was to be
interrupted. Similarly many Christians have experienced the
Sabbath delight. Luke tells us that all the people who were
blessed by the Sabbath ministry of Christ "rejoiced at all the
glorious things that were done by him" (Luke 13:17). Ellen White
urges parents to do all in their power to "make the Sabbath ...
the most joyful day of the week.... [to] lead their children to
regard it as a delight, the day of days, the holy of the Lord,
honorable."
     How difficult it is for the members of one church to
understand the joys, the intimacies and paradoxes experienced by
those of another! The sense of release, peace and tranquility
that the Sabbath brings cannot be understood, unless one
experiences them. Abraham Joshua Heschel perceptively interprets
such an experience, when he says: "The seventh day is like a
palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an
atmosphere. It is not a different state of consciousness but a
different climate; it is as if the appearance of all things
somehow changed. The primary awareness is one of our being within
the Sabbath rather than of the Sabbath being within us. We may
not know whether our understanding is correct, or whether our
sentiments are noble, but the air of the day surrounds us like
spring which spreads over the land without our aid or notice." 

     Why is everything more beautiful and delightful on the
Sabbath? Why does it seem, to use the words of Maltbie D.
Babcock, that "all nature sings, and round me rings the music of
the spheres"? Why do the divine services seem richer, the people
friendlier, the food more delicious, ladies, gentlemen and
children more beautiful internally and externally? Basically,
because the Sabbath offers not only the time but also the
spiritual resources to perceptibly enjoy God, people and things.
By renewing faith in a perfect Creator and Redeemer, the Sabbath
enables the believer to view things not merely as they are, but
as they must have been originally and as they will again be
ultimately. It is like putting on for 24 hours a pair of
spectacles that make flat pictures look three-dimensional. Those
who do not find the Sabbath delightful but depressing are those
who casually accept the Sabbath time but not its Good News. They
fail to renew their faith in a perfect Creator and do not allow.
their Savior to bring His rest into their restless lives.
Consequently they find the Sabbath a burden rather than a
blessing, a day of gloom rather than of gladness, bad news of
things that cannot be done rather than Good News of things to be
enjoyed. But to the Christian who loves the Lord of the Sabbath
and who accepts its Good News, the Sabbath is a day of joyful
celebration. It is a day to celebrate God's marvelous
accomplishments in the world and in his personal life. When
Friday evening comes, he gratefully says: "Thank God it is
Sabbath!" He rejoices at the thought that another Sabbath has
come; a day to taste and know that the Lord is good; a day to
thank God for the accomplishments of a week that is past; a day
to renew one's faith in and commitment to the perfect Creator and
Savior; a day to sing the Psalmist's Sabbath song, "Thou, O Lord,
hast made me glad by thy work; at the works of thy hands I sing
for joy. How great are thy works, O Lord!" (Ps.92:4-5 - A Song
for the Sabbath); a day to celebrate the Good News of God's
Perfect Creation.

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


To be continued


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