Keith Hunt - The Sabbath as REST! Restitution of All
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The Sabbath as REST!

A WONDERFULL Day of Spiritual Refreshing

From  the book "The Sabbath Under Crossfire"

by Dr.Samuele Bacchiocchi Ph.D.


PART 3 

THE SABBATH AS CHRIST'S REST FOR HUMAN RESTLESSNESS



     Rediscovering the Sabbath is not just a matter of accepting
the Sabbath commandment by resting and worshipping on the seventh
day. It also involves learning how through the Sabbath, we can
enter into God's rest (Heb 4:10). Our tension-filled and restless
lives today more than ever before need the rest and renewal the
Sabbath is designed to provide. In this, the conclusion of this
book, it is well for us to reflect on how the Sabbath can enable
us to experience the awareness of Christ's presence, peace, and
rest in our lives. So far I have endeavored to reaffirm the
validity of the principle and practice of Sabbathkeeping by
refuting the major attacks launched against this divine
institution. At this juncture, by way of conclusion, I would like
to focus on the physical and spiritual value of the Sabbath for
our lives.

The Search for Inner Rest and Release

     We live in a tensionfilled and restless society where many
people try to work off tension by joining athletic clubs, and
meditation groups, or by taking tranquillizers, drugs, and
alcohol. Some seek release from their tension by taking vacations
to some fantasy island. Experience tells us, however, that even
fabulous vacations or magic pills provide at best only a
temporary relief and not a permanent quieting of inner tension
and restlessness.
     True rest is not to be found in places or through pills, but
rather in the right relationship with a Person, the Person of the
Savior who says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest" (Matt.11:28, NIV). Perfect rest and
peace are not a human achievement but a divine gift. It is an
experience that comes to us when we allow Christ to harmonize our
lives ("I will give you rest" - Matt.11:28).
     Perfect rest does not come about accidentally but is the
result of an harmonious accord of the physical, mental, and
spiritual components of our being. Can we by ourselves harmonize
these three, that is, our body, mind and soul? We can stretch our
tired body on a bed, but if our mind and soul are troubled, we
have not rest but agitation, tension, or even nightmares. As the
various components of an orchestra need the direction of a
skilful maestro to blend them into harmonious music, so the
physical, mental and spiritual components of our being need the
direction of our supreme Master in order for us to experience
harmonious rest and peace.


Rediscovering the Sabbath

     Augustine expresses this truth eloquently in the opening
paragraph of his autobiography entitled Confessions: "Thou hast
made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until
they find rest in Thee." How can we enable Christ to harmonize
and quiet our restless lives? Our study shows that God gave
mankind before and after the Fall a vital institution, the
Sabbath day-a day specifically designed to free us from our daily
work in order to allow God to work more fully and freely in our
lives (Heb 4:10).
     To grasp more fully this important function of the Sabbath,
we now consider, by way of conclusion, seven significant ways in
which proper Sabbathkeeping enables the Savior to bring rest and
peace to our restless lives.

(1) The Rest of Creation

     The Sabbath brings Christ's rest to our souls by constantly
reassuring us that our lives have meaning, value, and hope
because they are rooted in God from creation to eternity. We may
call this "Christ's creation rest" for the human soul. It is the
rest that Christ brings to those thinking persons who are
searching for meaning and value in their lives-to those who
wonder if their existence as well as that of the whole cosmos is
the result of chance or of choice, that is, of a merciless fate
or of a merciful God. To these persons, through the Sabbath,
Christ offers His restful assurance that their ancestral roots
are good because they are rooted in God Himself (Gen 1:26-27) and
that their existence has value because it is not the product of
chance but of a personal creation and redemption by a loving God.
This reassuring message of the Sabbath is found in the creation
story where on and through the seventh day God declares His
creation "finished" and "done." Three verbs characterize God's
assessment of His creation on the seventh day as being fully
"done" (repeated thrice). "finished," or "created" (Gen 2:2-3).
Another three verbs describe how  God celebrated His magnificent
accomplishments: "He rested ... blessed ... and hallowed" the
seventh day. These verbs emphasize that on and through the
seventh day God proclaimed the good news that His creation was
"finished" and fully "done." To dramatize the importance of such
glad tidings, twice we are told in Genesis 2:2-3 that God
"rested" in recognition of the fact that everything was very good
and there was no need of further improvement.

     The Sabbath invites believers to renew their faith in the
perfect Creator by delighting in the beauty of His creation. To
celebrate God's perfect creation on the Sabbath means to
experience Christ's rest of creation. It means to rejoice in the
divine assurance that human existence, in spite of its apparent
futility and tragedy, has value because it proceeds from God and
moves toward a glorious divine destiny.
     Augustine expresses this truth poetically: "Thy resting on
the seventh day after the completion of Thy works foretells us
through the voice of Thy Book, that we also, after completing our
works through Thy generosity, in the Sabbath of eternal life
shall rest in Thee." 

     To celebrate the Sabbath in this restless world means to
experience a foretaste of the future rest and peace that awaits
God's people in the world to come; it means to rest in the
assurance that "he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6).

Resting as if All Work Were Done

     To celebrate the completion and perfection of God's original
creation it is important to rest on the Sabbath as if all our
work were done. This may sound unrealistic since we often find
ourselves at the end of a work week frustrated over unfinished
tasks. In spite of our best efforts, we often accomplish during
the six days only part of what we set out to do.
     A vital function of the Sabbath 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 of labor.
True, the Sabbath often seems to arrive earlier than expected. We
may feel disappointed with ourselves because of unfinished tasks.
This is a forceful reminder of our human finiteness and
limitations. By enabling us to detach ourselves from our daily
tasks, the Sabbath 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).

     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 a continuous, meaningless,
and linear existence.

Renewing Faith in a Perfect Creator

     We celebrate on the Sabbath the perfection of God's original
creation by renewing our faith in God as our perfect Creator.
Faith in God as Creator is the cornerstone of Christian beliefs.
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: "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."
     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. This can
be true also 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
loving letters and to look at her pictures. That helped me to
overcome my incipient skepticism and to renew my commitment to
her. In a similar fashion the Sabbath provides a weekly
opportunity to overcome any incipient skepticism by inviting us
to "remember" God as our perfect Creator.
     Through the Sabbath, God invites us week after week to hear
and to celebrate His perfect creation by contemplating His
handiwork and thus renewing our faith in Him as our 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 or ever be legitimately
contemplated. Thus, any human attempt to invest another day of
the week with the symbolic-memorial function of the
creation-Sabbath would mean to disregard the event for which the
day stands.

Delighting in God's Creation 

     A tangible way in which we renew our faith in God as our
perfect Creator on the Sabbath is by taking delight in the beauty
of His creation. 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 the
admiration experienced by the first human pair.
     The Sabbath offers us 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" (Is 58:13-14). To ensure the festive atmosphere of
the Sabbath, the Jews prepared themselves for the event with
special clothing, meals, and a proper frame of mind. No fasting
was permitted and even the seven-day mourning period was to be
interrupted.
     Everything is more beautiful and delightful on the Sabbath.
The divine services seem richer, the people friendlier, the food
more delicious, ladies, gentlemen, and children more beautiful
internally and externally. The reason is that 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 ultimately will be again. It is like
putting on for 24 hours a pair of spectacles that make flat
pictures look three-dimensional.
     Christians who love the Lord of the Sabbath find the Sabbath
to be a day of joyful celebration of God's marvelous
accomplishments in the world and in their personal life. When
Friday evening comes, they gratefully say: "Thank God it is
Sabbath!" They rejoice 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, 0 Lord!" (Ps 92:4-5 - A Song
for the Sabbath).

(2) The Rest of Divine Presence

     Proper Sabbathkeeping brings Christ's rest to our lives by
enabling us to experience the awareness of His divine presence.
It is Christ's presence that brought stillness to the stormy lake
of Galilee (Matt 8:23-27) and it is also the assurance of His
presence that brings peace and stillness to troubled lives. This
is basically the meaning of the holiness of the Sabbath which is
frequently stated in the Bible.
     We have found that the holiness of the Sabbath consists in
the special manifestation of God's presence through this day in
the life of His people. Believers who on the Sabbath lay aside
their secular concerns, who turn off their receivers to the many
distracting voices in order to tune in and listen to the voice of
God, experience in a real sense the spiritual presence of Christ.
The heightened sense of the nearness of Christ's presence
experienced on the Sabbath fills the soul with joy, peace, and
rest.
     Relationships, if they are to survive, need to be
cultivated. This is true both at a human and a human-divine
level. I vividly recall the A. B. C privilege-system that
governed the social relationships among students of the opposite
sex at Newbold College, England, where I received my college
education. A couple with an "A" status was entitled to a weekly
encounter of about one hour in a designated lounge. However,
those couples who qualified for a "B" or a "C" privilege could
officially meet only biweekly or monthly. Frankly, I did my best
to maintain the "A" status because I viewed those brief weekly
encounters with my fiancee as indispensable to the survival of
our relationship.
     The Sabbath is in a sense a special weekly encounter with
our Creator-Redeemer. This encounter lasts not merely one hour
but a whole day. It is a sobering thought that to enter into the
holy Sabbath day means in a special sense to enter into the
spiritual presence and communion of the Lord. Believers who
cultivate Christ's presence during the Sabbath time and
activities experience His rest and peace every day of their
lives.

An Experience of God's Presence

     I vividly recall the many Sabbaths I spent in the town of
Fano, Italy, worshiping God alone in the seclusion of my room or
out in nature. At that time I was a teenager selling Christian
literature during the summer to earn a scholarship. During the
weekdays, I had to face considerable hostility from various
quartersfrom the local religious and civil authorities who
constantly threatened to punish me for distributing unauthorized
literature; from superstitious customers who feared being
contaminated by the unendorsed literature I was selling; and from
my relatives who gave me hospitality but viewed me as a heretic
to be rescued from hellfire.
     When Friday night arrived, I rejoiced at the thought that
for one day I could forget the hostile world around me and enter
into the peace of God's presence. Since no fellow believers lived
in the immediate area, I would worship God alone, but not lonely,
in the privacy of my room or in an open field. So the Sabbath has
been for me, as for countless believers throughout history, a
truly portable sanctuary-a day to forget human misery through the
experience of the closeness of God's presence.
     The experience of God's presence on the Sabbath reminds us
of the purpose of Christ's coming into this world to become
"Emmanuel, God with us." The Incarnation fulfills blessing and
sanctification of the Sabbath, which, we have seen, consist in
God's assurance to His creatures of abundant life through His
presence. What God promised to His creation by blessing and
sanctifying the Sabbath, He fulfilled by sending Christ into this
world to become "Emmanuel - God with us."
     "How often have we heard," writes Herbert W. Richardson,
"that Jesus Christ abolished the Sabbath so that men may be truly
free! But this suggestion is sheer theological nonsense. The work
of Jesus Christ cannot contradict the purpose for which God
created the world. To assert such a contradiction, by explicitly
or implicitly opposing the Sabbath, is to reiterate the old
Gnostic claim that the God of the Old Testament and the God of
the New Testament are two different 'Gods.'"
     Richardson continues by rightly affirming that "the Sabbath
Day was created by God, so that He Himself might enter into the
world and sanctify it by His personal presence." God's
sanctification of the Sabbath represents a most telling
revelation of God's concern for this world. It tells that God so
loved this world, not only by entering into the limitation of
human time on the seventh day of creation to bless this world
with His Holy presence, but also by entering into the limitations
of human flesh at the Incarnation to become again "Emmanuel - God
with us."

(3) The Rest from Competition

     True Sabbathkeeping brings Christ's rest to our lives by
releasing us from the pressure to produce and achieve. The
pressure that our competitive society exerts on us can cause
untold frustration. Competition can dishearten, dehumanize, and
demoralize a person. It can turn friends into foes.
     In order to keep up with the Joneses, some Christians today,
like the Israelites of old, choose to "moonlight" on the Sabbath
(Ex 16:27), hoping to secure added income and goods. But
Scripture points to the senselessness of such an effort when it
pointedly says "they found none" (Ex 16:27). That is to say, one
misses obtaining both the material and the spiritual manna by
doing extra work on the Sabbath, consequently finding
restlessness and dissatisfaction.

The Sabbath and Gratefulness 

     Sabbath teaches our greedy hearts to be grateful-to stop for
one day looking for more and to start instead to gratefully
acknowledge the blessings received. A person who learns gratitude
experiences inner peace, inasmuch as a grateful heart is the
abiding place of Christ and of His peace.
     The Sabbath rest teaches that the chief end of life is not,
as advocated by Marxism, to work to transform nature, but to rest
to enjoy God's presence and creation. The Sabbath rest also
teaches freedom from things. One of the most difficult lessons to
learn is how to have things without becoming addicted to them-how
to live with people without losing one's independence. On the
Sabbath, by abstaining from the production or purchase of goods,
we learn detachment and independence from matter and attachment
to and dependence on the Spirit.

     By freeing us from work, the Sabbath makes us free for God.
It invites us, to use Aquinas' happy ex ression, to have "a day
of vacation with God" - ad vacandum divines."     
     How sour the weekdays would be without the Sabbath vacation
with God and fellow beings! Weekdays without the Sabbath are like
spaghetti without sauce or food without salt. As a spicy sauce
gives gusto to spaghetti, so a joyful Sabbath radiates a festive
gleam to every day of the week.
     By restricting temporarily our productivity, the Sabbath
teaches us not to compete but to commune with one another. It
teaches us to view fellow beings not quantitatively but
qualitatively, that is, not in terms of their income but in terms
of their human worth. If Mr.Jones lives on social security,
during the week we may be tempted to think of him in terms of his
small income. On the Sabbath, however, as we worship and
fellowship with Mr.Jones, we appreciate not the little that he
makes but the much that he offers to the church and community
through his Christian witness and example.
     By releasing us from the pressure of competition and
production, the Sabbath enables us to appreciate more fully the
human values of people and the beauty of things. This free and
fuller appreciation of God, people, and things brings joy,
harmony, and rest to our lives.

(4) The Rest of Belonging

     Genuine Sabbathkeeping brings Christ's rest to our lives by
reassuring us of our belonging to Him. At the root of much human
restlessness is the sense of alienation and estrangement. The
sense of not belonging to anyone or anything will cause a person
to feel bitter, insecure, and restless. On the contrary, in a
relationship of mutual belonging, one experiences love, identity,
security, and rest. To enable human beings to conceptualize and
experience a belonging relationship with Him, God has given
helpful signs and symbols such as the rainbow, the circumcision,
the Passover lamb and blood, the bread and wine, and the Sabbath.
The Sabbath occupies a unique place among these various Godgiven
covenant signs or symbols, because it has functioned as the
symbol par excellence of the divine election and mission of God's
people. It is unique in its origin, because it is the first sign
given by God to reveal His desire to fellowship with His
creatures. It is unique in its survival, because it has survived
not only the Fall but also the Flood, the Egyptian slavery, the
Babylonian exile, the Roman anti-Sabbath legislation, the French
and Russian temporary introduction of the ten-day week, blank-day
calendar proposals (disrupting the weekly cycle), antinomianism,
and modern secularism. The day still stands for God's people as
the symbol of God's gracious provision of salvation and of
belonging to Him.

Divine Ownership

     The Sabbath constantly reminds believers of their belonging
to God, because it is the seal of divine ownership. The meaning
of ownership is explicitly expressed both in the Fourth Com
mandment and in its sister institutions, the sabbatical and the
jubilee years. In the Sabbath Commandment, believers are invited
to "remember" that "in six days the Lord made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them (Ex 20:11; 31:17). As Creator,
God is the only legitimate Owner of this world. In the sabbatical
and jubilee years, the Israelites were enjoined to relinquish the
use of the land and to liberate their fellow beings from poverty
and bondage (Lev 25; Deut 15:1-18) in order to acknowledge that
Yahweh is the only rightful owner of the land ("The land is mine
and you are but aliens and my tenants" - Lev 25:23, NIV).
     As the symbol of divine ownership, the Sabbath enables
believers to realize constantly and effectively that this world
and their very lives belong to God. This recognition of God's
ownership of one's life is indispensable for a total commitment
and belonging to God. This is true also at the human level.
Husband and wife truly belong to each other when they are willing
to say to each other, "I am yours and you are mine."
     One of the pitfalls of a life style characterized by
husbands, wives, and children working to earn separate incomes
(often irrespective of need) is the false sense of independence
and separate ownership it fosters. It often leads a member of the
family to say: "This is my money, my car, my house. I have worked
for it, so I am free to do with it whatever I wish." This
deceptive sense of ownership, which sometimes strains and even
destroys human relationships, also can weaken the very connection
between a person and God. The wealth and abundance of goods which
a person may acquire as a result of diligent work can easily
induce a false sense of autonomy and independence from God.

Sign of Dependency upon God

     Are not autonomy and independence-living one's own life
without any regard to God-the essence of a sinful life? The
Sabbath, symbol of divine creatorship and ownership, is designed
to aid the believer in overcoming any incipient feeling of
selfsufficiency. As the first couple observed Sabbath on their
first full day of life, standing before their Creator
empty-handed, acknowledging their indebtedness for all, so
believers who on the Sabbath cease from their own work
acknowledge their indebtedness and dependency upon the workings
of God.
     To observe the Sabbath means to confess God as Creator and
Owner of all life and wealth. It means to recognize that God's
total claim over one's life is expressed by consecrating the
Sabbath time to God. Ownership implies boundaries; there is to be
no trespassing. God has chosen to set in time the boundaries of
His dominion. Believers who accept God's claim over the last day
of the week - the Sabbath - accepts God's claim over their whole
lives and world. Those who accept this particular sign of God's
ownership, stopping their work on the Sabbath in order to allow
God to work in them, demonstrate and experiences a total
belonging to God.

Divine Commitment 

     The Sabbath reminds us of our belonging to God because it
effectively expresses the mutual commitment that binds God and
His people. A mutual belonging relationship can endure only if
both parties remember and honor their respective obligations. The
Sabbath expresses both divine and human commitments.
     The Sabbath stands first of all for divine commitment. God's
last creative act was not the fashioning of Adam and Eve but the
creation of His rest for mankind (Gen 2:2-3). Such a divine rest
has a message for the creation as a whole as well as for human
beings in particular. With regard to creation, as noted in
Chapter 2, God's rest signifies His satisfaction over the
completion and perfection of His creation. With regard to
humanity, God's rest symbolizes His availability to His
creatures.
     By taking "time out" on the first Sabbath to bless the first
couple with His holy presence, God committed Himself to be
available for His creatures. As aptly expressed by A. Martin,
"The promise to which God commits Himself through the Sabbath is
to have time for mankind. God is not an idea but a Person who
assures all creation of His presence. The Sabbath is the sign of
this promise. However, this is not limited solely to the Sabbath
time. In the same way as Christ's presence is not limited to the
space occupied by the bread, so the Sabbath reminds mankind of
the permanence of God's [presence]." This divine commitment
becomes explicit in the covenant relationship in which the
Sabbath is presented as God's assurance of His sanctifying
presence among His people (Ex. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12). Human
disobedience did not alter God's original commitment. On the
contrary, when the estrangement caused by sin occurred, God
through the Sabbath guaranteed His total commitment to restore
the broken relationship.

Human Commitment

     The Sabbath stands not only for divine but also for human
commitment. It signifies not only "that I, the Lord, sanctify
you" but also that "you shall keep my sabbaths" (Ex 31:13). By
reassuring human beings that God is available and "working until
now" (John 5:17) to accomplish the ultimate restoration of this
world to His eternal fellowship, the Sabbath invites the believer
to assume his responsibility by making himself available for God.
By accepting God's invitation to keep the Sabbath with Him, the
believer enters into a special relationship with God.
     The free offering of time to God is a supreme act of worship
because it means acknowledging God with the very essence of human
life: time. Life is time. When "time is up" life ceases to be.
     The offering of the Sabbath time to God enables believers to
acknowledge that their whole life, not just one-seventh, belongs
to God. It represents the Christians' response to God's claim on
their lives. By bringing all routine work to a halt for one day,
Christians act out their commitment to the Lord.
     Sabbath, then, on the one hand, symbolizes God's commitment
to be available for His creatures. On the other hand,
Sabbathkeeping expresses the believers' acceptance of the Creator
and Redeemer's claim upon their lives. In a sense, the Sabbath is
the insignia of the believer, a sort of badge worn at God's
request in order to recall God's loyalty to us and our loyalty to
God. It is a placard we carry to show the world what we stand for
and whom we serve.
     During the week a person may feel frustrated by a sense of
anonymity. "Who am I" he may ask, as he lives and moves among the
crowd. The answer that often echoes back is, "You are a cog in a
machine and a number in the computer." On the Sabbath, the answer
is different. The Christian hears the Lord saying, "You may know
that I, the Lord, sanctify you" (Ex 31:13).
     Being the symbol of divine ownership and sanctification, the
Sabbath assures believers of their own divine election and
sanctification. By renewing the sense of belonging to our
Creator-Redeemer, the Sabbath restores to us a sense of human
dignity, identity, peace, and rest to our lives.

(5) The Rest from Social Tensions

     True Sabbathkeeping enables us to experience Christ's rest
by breaking down social, racial, and cultural barriers. The
inability or unwillingness to appreciate and accept another
person's skin color, culture, language, or social status is a
major cause of much unrest, hate, and tension in our contemporary
society.
     After the Fall, an important function of the Sabbath has
been to teach equality and respect for every member of the human
society. Every seven days, seven years (sabbatical year), and
seven weeks of years (jubilee year), all persons, beasts and
property were to become free before God. Genuine freedom leads to
equality.
     The uneven divisions of Hebrew society leveled out as the
Sabbath began. Samuel H. Dresner rightly notes that the
equalizing function of the Sabbath has seldom been recognized.
"Although one Jew may have peddled onions and another may have
owned great forests of lumber, on the Sabbath all were equal, all
were kings: all welcomed the Sabbath Queen, all chanted the
Kiddush, all basked in the glory of the seventh day ... On the
Sabbath there were neither banker nor clerk, neither farmer nor
hired-hand neither rich nor poor. There were only Jews hallowing
the Sabbath."

     It is noteworthy that Isaiah reassures the outcasts of
Israel, specifically the eunuchs and the foreigners of whom the
Assyrian and Babylonian wars had produced a great number, that by
observing the Sabbath they would share in the blessings of God's
covenant people, "for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples" (Is 56:1-7).
     Many social injustices could have been avoided in the
ancient and modern society if the concern for human rights
expressed by the Sabbath (and its sister institutions) had always
been understood and practiced. The Sabbath forces upon us the
important issues of freedom and humanitarian concern for all,
from our son to our servant (Ex 20:10; 23:12; Deut 5:14). By
placing such issues before us at the moment of worship-the moment
when we are truest to ourselves-the Sabbath cannot leave us
insensitive toward the suffering or social injustices experienced
by others.
     It is impossible on the Sabbath to celebrate Creation and
Redemption while hating those whom God has created and redeemed
through His Son. True Sabbathkeeping demands that we acknowledge
the Fatherhood of God by accepting and strengthening the
brotherhood of mankind.

     The bond of fellowship which the Sabbath establishes through
its worship, fellowship, and humanitarian services influences by
reflex our social relationships during the week. To accept on the
Sabbath those who belong to ethnic minorities or to a lower
social status as brothers and sisters in Christ demands that we
treat them as such during the weekdays as well. It would be a
denial of the human values and experience of the Sabbath if one
were to exploit or detest during the week those whom the Sabbath
teaches us to respect and love as God's creatures.
     By teaching us to accept and respect every person, whether
rich or poor, black or white, as human beings created and
redeemed by the Lord, the Sabbath breaks down and equalizes those
social, racial, and cultural barriers which cause much tension
and unrest in our society and, consequently, makes it possible
for the peace of Christ to dwell in our hearts.

(6) The Rest of Redemption

     A sixth way in which Sabbath-keeping brings Christ's rest to
our lives is by enabling us to experience through the physical
rest the greater blessings of divine rest and peace of salvation.
The relationship between the Sabbath rest and Christ's
redemption-rest was examined in chapter 4. There we saw that from
the symbol of God's initial entrance into human time, the Sabbath
became after the Fall the symbol of God's promise to enter human
flesh to become "Emmanuel - God with us."
     The rest and liberation from the hardship of work and from
social inequalities which both the weekly and annual Sabbaths
granted to all the members of the Hebrew society was understood
not merely as a com memoration of the past Exodus deliverance
(Deut 5:15), but also a prefiguration of the future
redemption-rest to be brought by the Messiah. Christ fulfilled
these Old Testament Messianic expectations typified by the
Sabbath (cf. Luke 4:21) by identifying His redemptive mission
with the release and redemption of the Sabbath, thus making the
day the fitting vehicle through which to experience His rest of
salvation.
     It was on a Sabbath day that, according to Luke 4:16-21,
Christ inaugurated His public ministry in the synagogue of
Nazareth by quoting a passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 and by claiming
emphatically to be the fulfillment of the sabbatical liberation
announced in that passage. In His subsequent ministry, Christ
substantiated this claim by revealing His redemptive mission
especially through His Sabbath healing and teaching ministry (cf.
Luke 13:16; Matt 12:5-6; John 5:17; 7:22-23).

     Finally, it was on that historic holy Sabbath that Christ
completed His redemptive mission ("It is finished" - John 19:30)
by resting in the tomb (Luke 23:54-56). Christ's Sabbath rest in
the tomb reveals the depth of God's love for His creatures. It
tells us that in order to give them life, He was willing to
experience not only the limitation of human time at creation but
also the suffering, agony, and death of human flesh during the
Incarnation.
     In the light of the Cross, the Sabbath is the weekly
celebration and jubilation of a liberated people. It memorializes
not only God's creative but also His redemptive accomplishments
for mankind. Thus, "the Sabbath rest that remains for the people
of God" (Heb 4:9) is not only a physical cessation from work to
commemorate God's perfect creation, but also a spiritual entering
into God's rest (Heb 4:10) made possible through Christ's
complete redemption. The physical act of resting becomes the
means through which believers experience spiritual rest. We cease
from our. daily work on the Sabbath to allow God to work in us
more freely and fully, and to bring to our lives His rest of
forgiveness and salvation.

(7) The Rest of Service

     The Sabbath brings Christ's rest to our lives by providing
time and opportunities for service. Inner peace and rest are to
be found not in selfcentered relaxation but rather in God and
other-centered service. The Sabbath provides the time and the
reasons for serving God, ourselves, and others. Let us look at
each of them.
     The Sabbath as Service to God. Repeatedly, Scripture reminds
us that the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the
Lord (see Ex 31:15; 16:23; 20:10; Lev 23:3; Mark 2:28).
     Obviously, we serve God every day, but our everyday service
to God differs from the Sabbath service. During the week we offer
to God what may be called the Martha type of service in which we
acknowledge our Saviour while serving an employer and meting the
many demands of life.
     On the Sabbath, however, we offer to God what may be called
the Mary type of service in which we desist from gainful
employment and from secular pursuits in order to fully and wholly
honor our Saviour. The deliberate act of resting on the Sabbath
for God is a most meaningful act of worship because it signifies
our total response to God. It is an act of worship that is not
exhausted in the one-hour attendance at the worship service but
lasts for twenty-four hours.
     To appreciate the profound religious significance of the
Sabbath rest as service to God, we need to remember that our life
is a measure of time, and the way we spend our time is indicative
of our priorities. We have no time for those toward whom we feel
indifferent, but we find time for those whom we love. To be
willing on the seventh day to withdraw from the world of things
in order to meet the invisible God in the quietness of our souls
means to show in a tangible way our love, loyalty, and devotion
to God. It means being willing to tune out the hundreds of voices
and noises that clamor for attention in order to tune in our
souls to God and to hear His voice. It means not merely
sandwiching in one hour of worship for God in a hectic day spent
seeking selfish pleasure or profit, but rather serving God wholly
during the Sabbath; it means offering to God not only lip service
but the service of our total being.

The Sabbath as Service to Ourselves 

     Sabbath-keeping means not only service to God but also
service to ourselves. The very service we offer God on the
Sabbath by resting and worshiping Him is designed not to add
strength or power to God but to enable God to strengthen and
empower our personal lives.
     God does not need our Sabbath rest and worship, nor does He
need our weekday work. What He wants is a receptive heart, mind,
and soul willing to receive and experience His peace and rest
that only can fulfill the deepest longing of our hearts. On the
Sabbath we can experience divine peace and rest by taking time to
meditate in the climate of stillness and free reflection the day
provides.
     According to some social analysts, the lack of reflection is
a fundamental cause of our restless culture. Many today live
intensely active, restless lives without understanding their true
selves; thus, they ever sense an inner emptiness and
disillusionment. Some often go from one round of activities to
another in an attempt to find peace and joy by forgetting their
inner tensions. But inner peace and harmony are to be found not
in forgetting oneselves by doing an endless round of activities
but rather in discovering ourselves by being still.
     The psalmist expresses this truth eloquently when he says:
"Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps 46:10). For many of us, it
is difficult to "be still" during the week. The Sabbath, however,
by releasing us from the pressure of our daily work, provides us
with time and opportunities to restore order and harmony to our
fragmented lives. It enables us to restore equilibrium between
our bodies and our souls, between the material and spiritual
components of our being.
     During the week as we work to produce, to sell, to buy, and
to enjoy things, we tend to become materially conscious, to view
our material wants as more important than our spiritual needs.
Our bodies seem to become more important than our souls. The
Sabbath is designed to restore the equilibrium between our bodies
and our souls.
     The story is told of some African workers who were hired to
carry pieces of heavy equipment on their backs to a remote post
in the interior of Africa. After several days of marching, one
day they refused to pick up their burdens and go any further.
They sat by the side of the road turning a deaf ear to the
appeals of the man in charge. Exasperated, the leader of the
expedition asked them, "But why don't you want to go on?" One of
the workers replied, "Sir, we are waiting for our souls to catch
up with our bodies."
     This story well illustrates the function of the Sabbath to
give a chance to our souls to catch up with our bodies - to give
a change to our souls, through worship and meditation, to be
enriched with new moral and spiritual values. This spiritual
renewal that comes to us on the Sabbath through worship and
meditation enables us to turn a new page in our life, to start a
new week with a fresh provision of divine wisdom and grace.
The Sabbath as Service to Others. The Sabbath provides precious
opportunities to serve not only God and ourselves but also
others. After helping us to find God and ourselves, the Sabbath
helps us to reach out to others. After renewing us with a fresh
understanding and experience of God's creative and redemptive
love, the Sabbath challenges us to reach out to others, to
respond to human needs.
     To help us to remember others, the Fourth Commandment gives
quite an inclusive list of persons to be remembered on the
Sabbath. The list goes from the son to the manservant, from the
daughter to the maidservant, and includes also the sojourner and
the animals. This humanitarian function of the Sabbath tends to
be neglected. We prefer to think of the Sabbath in terms of
service to ourselves rather than service to others. Thus, Christ
took pains through His Sabbath teaching and ministry to clarify
and emphasize this function of the Sabbath commandment.

     The Saviour proclaimed the Sabbath to be a day "to do good"
(Matt 12:12, NIV), "to save" (Mark 3:4), to liberate people from
physical and spiritual bonds (Luke 13:12)-a day to show mercy
rather than religiosity (Matt 12:7,8). Through His Sabbath
ministry, Jesus taught that the Sabbath is not rules to obey, but
people to love; it is the day to share God's blessing with
others.
     During the week, many pressures may cause us to neglect
needy persons. On the Sabbath, as we celebrate God's creative and
redemptive love, we are motivated to share our concern and
friendship with the needy. The service we render on the Sabbath
to needy persons not only honors God but also enriches our lives
with a sense of joy and satisfaction. The unique opportunities
the Sabbath provides to serve God by consecrating our time to
Him; to serve ourselves by experiencing physical, moral, and
spiritual renewal; and to serve others make it possible to
experience a larger measure of the Saviour's rest in our lives.

Conclusion

     At a time when the Sabbath has come under the crossfire of
controversy-being attacked not only by Sundaykeepers but also by
some former Sabbatarians - it is reassuring to know that there
are many Chris tians who are rediscovering the Sabbath as God's
gift to the human family. Our survey has shown that an increasing
number of scholars, religious organizations, and Christians in
general are rediscovering the meaning and value of the Sabbath
for their lives. These Christians are discovering that the values
of the Sabbath as a day for spiritual, physical, moral, and
social renewal are essential for revitalizing the religious
experience of millions of Christians today.


     Rediscovering the Sabbath in this cosmic age provides the
basis for a cosmic faith, a faith which embraces and unites
creation, redemption, and final restoration; the past, the
present, and the future; man, nature, and God; this world and the
world to come. It is a faith that recognizes God's dominion over
the whole creation and human life by consecrating to Him the
seventh day; a faith that fulfills the believer's true destiny in
time and eternity; a faith that allows the Savior to enrich our
lives with a larger measure of His presence, peace, and rest.

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

Entered on this Website May 2008

Dr.Samuele Bacciocchi's Website is:

www.biblicalperspectives.com


 
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