Friday, February 5, 2010

Sunday Sabbath or Sabbath-rest?

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!’

~Mark 2:27-28 (NLT).

Those poor Pharisees. How unlucky they were to encounter the wisdom and wit of Jesus. He had an answer for all their wiles, well intended and (mostly) not.

Sabbath had been part of the religious framework from the beginning for the Hebrews. Six hundred and thirteen Mosaic laws later and the regulations were even tighter than simply being a command to rest once a week. It had gotten to a point, certainly in Jesus’ day, where dealing with the Sabbath was proving unworkable. It had become celebrated even in paganised ways; honouring the LORD in dishonourable ways. By example, Jesus was condemned for healing on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:10-14).

Jesus saw right through the Pharisees’ legalistic motivation, however. He came to show us an entirely different view of Sabbath—an eternal rest we can have at any time. True Sabbath, after all, was and is reconciliation to the Father, through Jesus the Saviour himself.

Hebrews chapter 4 is, of course, our Christian instruction on the concept of ‘Sabbath-rest.’ This Sabbath-rest is at once, and always about, congruence. It’s alignment in an instant with obedience and faith, in and through the Holy Spirit. The disobedient are disallowed to ‘enter the rest.’ They cannot enter the Holy of Holies; not the Temple, but the Presence within us via the Holy Spirit.

And we enter this rest carefully. Literally, “let us be afraid” of not entering.[1] For the ancient Israelites the rest was the land. For us, it is simply the salvation we experience from moment one with God; salvation (God’s Presence) is a continual experience contingent only on our obedience. All this has to be motivated by the appropriate ‘fear of the Lord,’ as presented most cogently in Proverbs and throughout Scripture.

Obedience is necessarily simple. So is the fear of the Lord. Both are about alignment, again, to righteousness, justice and fairness (Prov. 1:3; 2:9). When we do this, trusting and obeying the Lord our God, we naturally experience the Sabbath-rest—the salvation (Presence) of God—in the moment.

We can only fall short of this Sabbath-rest when we’re backsliding in our disobedience—again, congruence. “The word of God is living and active... it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

There’s no fooling God for he is within us, inherent and intrinsic to our beings. He desires that we seek his rest and he certainly wishes for us to accept it, the way it is offered.

The ball’s in our court.

“Rest for the restless, and the weary, hope for the sinner...” our amazing God, in the words of the Newsboys’, In the Hands of God, is through Jesus, our Easy Yoke and Light Burden (Matt. 11:28-30). He is our ultimate Sabbath-rest.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Fred B.Craddock, The Letter to the Hebrews – Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections – Vol XII (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 52.

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