Sabbath unRest

Years ago I was blessed to take part in a traditional Jewish Seder meal where the Messianic Jewish host explained the meaning and spiritual significance of each element of the meal. When we were finished, the host encouraged all the Christian participants to observe the traditional Jewish Sabbath. It was a moving experience and launched me into prayerful study to determine how my wife and I should approach the Sabbath. In the end, neither my wife nor I felt led to observe it on a weekly basis as do the Jews. Speaking for myself, I felt that way long before ever attending the Seder meal. What the study did do for me was to show me why I feel the way I do about traditional Sabbath observance. Such is not unusual, for simple discernment often precedes knowledge and understanding.

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At Rest

Controversial as the subject is and having had my fill of so many self-appointed defenders of man’s religious kingdom who were threatened by the tithe articles (link) the Father led me to write, I never figured to write anything about the Sabbath. That is, until recently, when I heard a man argue for keeping the Sabbath by claiming “I recently informed my wife that I will begin sleeping with other women because of this new found freedom (that) I have (in Christ) to disregard the 7th commandment which says ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’.” I hope dear reader, that you find the man’s crass and manipulative analogy as nauseous as I do.

Here’s the problem I have with such warped reasoning. It is written “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart … and love your neighbor as yourself … the law and the prophets hang on these commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). What that means is, the law and the prophets are wholly derived from perfect love for God and one’s neighbor. Whether or not there is a 7th commandment is wholly irrelevant for the man who truly loves God and his neighbor as himself; such a man would NEVER do anything so selfish, so thoughtless and hurtful to God, his own wife or his neighbor, as to sleep with his neighbor’s wife. The man who suggested as much, has a very serious love problem if he thinks the 7th commandment is the only thing stopping him from committing adultery. I shudder that the man was introduced as “a prophet”.

Several times since the Father first led me to put in a Back to Eden garden (link) late last year, He has prompted me to read Genesis 1 and 2 where He has shown me things I’ve never noticed before. In meditating on Creation as it was before the fall, the Spirit has led me to consider that Eden was perpetually in God’s 7th day of rest. In other words, before the fall it was always the Sabbath in Eden because Creation was on God’s (kairos) time. It was only after the fall, that death and thereby, chronos time, entered into the picture.

Consequently, Adam’s work tending Eden was wholly compatible with God’s Sabbath rest. And that answers a few questions I’ve always had concerning the many accusations Yeshua endured from the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath.

Specifically, when the Pharisees accused His disciples of breaking Sabbath, Yeshua replied “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:23-28). So what were the disciples doing that offended the Pharisees? They were threshing and eating grain while walking farther than the law allowed. From Yeshua’s perspective however, the disciples were working in His garden (Psalm 24:1) where by following Him, they were under His covering. The disciples were abiding in the Sabbath rest of the “Lord of the Harvest”, thus it was not a sin to pick and thresh grain while walking with Him.

The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. (Psalms 24:1 JUB)

When the Pharisees accused Yeshua yet again, He replied that His Father was always working (John 5:15-17), and so was He; in other words, like Father, like Son. It’s worth noting in Genesis 1-2, that God, who made Adam in His image, did not tell Adam to rest from tending the garden before the fall. Once again, like Father, like Son.

These things have made me consider God’s purpose in making the law concerning the Sabbath. Also what it really means to break the Sabbath, since Yeshua clearly demonstrated that healing and restorative work in His garden (Psalm 24:1) does not defile the Sabbath.

There is no doubt the Father wants us to rest from our toils. And for us to draw near to Him in fellowship where we are spiritually nourished. But is the Sabbath rest God wants for us a rigidly timed religious observance, from the stroke of sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, where we pack all the work of Saturday into twice the work on Friday and save the dirty dishes for Sunday? Or do believers enter into a never-ending Sabbath rest through abiding in the Son (see Hebrews 4:1-11)? Certainly the latter is more in keeping with the perpetual Sabbath rest the Creator built into His Creation.

Concerning the law, I will say something that no doubt will infuriate some believers. The law is given for those who have a love problem. Since the law hangs on the 2 greatest commandments to love God and your neighbor, pray tell would the man who truly loves God, worship false gods, make idols and graven images or take God’s name in vain? Likewise, would the man who truly loves his neighbor as himself sleep with his neighbor’s wife? Clearly then, the law is given for those who are selfish, hard-hearted, stubborn, stiff-necked and hard-headed, in whom love is not perfected, and who, therefore, need God’s stern warning “THOU SHALT NOT!” and the specificity of innumerable acts of sin.

I suspect God’s purpose in making the Sabbath for man, is to teach us repentance by reminding us of that from which we fell – God’s beautiful self-sustaining garden where we knew only life, fellowship, and rest – where God’s work for us was joy and never toilsome – and to give us hope and a glimpse of the place He is leading us back to. He did say, after all REMEMBER the Sabbath”. I don’t think God is talking about the 7th day of the week (Saturday) so much as He is simply expressing the longing of His heart, for us to re-join Him, in His garden where it is always the Sabbath. Surely Yeshua is echoing His Father’s sentiment when He said to the disciples at the last supper “REMEMBER Me (Luke 22:19).

Truly, my own heart would be overcome with grief for Creation’s Sabbath lost if not for the abiding Sabbath rest I have (Hebrews 4:9), and all who believe in God’s Son (Hebrews 4:3) and do not surrender it through disobedience (Hebrews 4:6). This I believe is why Yeshua tells us to come away and rest with Him (Mark 6:30-32) and Paul tells us to repent of vain works of the flesh (Hebrews 6:1) which separate us from our Sabbath rest in the Son.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. (2) For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (3) For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,'” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. (4) For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” (5) And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” (6) Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, (7) again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. (9) So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, (10) for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (11) Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-11 ESV)

Until the day of the Lord, I hope to go about God’s work to restore that which He has entrusted to me while at the same time abiding in the Sabbath rest of His Son.

Like Father, like Son. I, too, am a Son.