I’m finding a helpful use for this blog lately…posting thoughts and questions for folks who miss out on classes or small groups at Church and want to catch up. The past few weeks we’ve ventured into conversation about Sabbath in one of those adult classes. Lots of good interaction and plenty of “What about…?” So in the interest of keeping everyone in tune and perhaps drawing a few others into the discussion, here goes a four part series on the question of Sabbath. A four part, “What if…?”
Question number one: What if time got stamped with the imprint of divine holiness?
What if, when searching for holiness, instead of starting with cathedrals or mountains or even the lifestyles of Godly people, we soaked in a day? What if a day in the cycle of time somehow possessed indicators of Divine beauty and holiness? What if long before anything in space or any living thing was worthy to be declared holy, a day was blessed and so made holy?
These are questions that for me seem to swirl around the phrase, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:3).” Perhaps, because we are hardworking Americans who enjoy our days off, we tend to focus on the “God rested…” part when we think about Sabbath. But lately, I wanna know about the making it holy part. How is a fragment of time holy? And what are the implications?
The question is intensified when we come to Sinai and the Ten Commandments. In this charter for the newly claimed children of God, the Israelites are told to finish all their work in six days and rest on the seventh because…and this is the intriguing part…because God made the day holy back at creation. In other words, the day isn’t made holy every time Israel is faithful and rests. The day is already holy. The day already bears in some way the mark of holiness because of God’s blessing. Hence Israel is called not to make the day holy but to keep it holy, to remember this pre-existing element of time called Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). And how do they do that? How do they preserve for themselves this gift of holiness? How do they put that gift on display for pagan nations looking in from the outside?
They cease their diligent efforts of cultivating God’s creation and sustaining the life He gives and instead spend a day listening, remembering, worshipping. In order for the holiness of the day to seep in, recapture their imaginations, and reorient their lives, work and other preoccupations or distractions need be put to rest. In order for surrounding nations to catch a glimpse of true holiness (not the cheap knock-offs adorning their temples and statues), God’s people need to embrace, delight in, and publicly celebrate His holiness bestowed in some way on this blessed day.
This is what we tried to think through in week one of our class on the Sabbath (Sabbath in the Old Testament). There were a few more passages discussed: Deuteronomy 5 and its hint that Sabbath-keeping is a way of participating in mission with the God who delights to redeem the enslaved and oppressed, Exodus 31 and the severity of profaning the Sabbath, Isaiah 58 and rich promises associated with keeping the Sabbath a delight. But again, the main concept we wrestled with was this idea that God sanctifies (in the Old Testament) not just people and temples but also a routine portion of time, that Sabbath is a wonderful revelatory gift to God’s people that exposes them to His holiness and brings them in on His purposes in creation and redemption. And as such, His people are expected to remember and cherish it.
So what if…what if it still is a gift worth consuming to the last drop…or hour?