Pick a day, any day.
That appears to be the mantra for Christian worship. When it comes to collective worship, such freedom is appropriate. However, when it comes to how Scripture defines the Sabbath command, such whims are anything but permissive.
Those are inflammatory words, but they hold up to biblical scrutiny. Those whom God chooses to esteem are said to “tremble” at God’s word; they know what it means to draw near to a Consuming Fire. It takes little imagination to consider what happens when we practice our beliefs with the straw of casualness rather than the gold of submissive obedience.
Our family study of the book Wineskins delved into the New Covenant Sabbath as a distinct command in replacement of that defined under the Old Covenant 4th Commandment. As a matter of practical theology, the book cites the scriptural evidence in how God instituted a shift in the original command.
But one direction that the book does not venture toward, was how Christians ought to view that particular 7th day of Creation which God declared, more than the other six days, to be holy. For the purposes of this post, that was part of the side-trail that my family explored in our weekly study around the warmth of the pellet stove.
For in six days God created heaven and earth, but on the seventh he rested, thereby making it holy, so we read in the Holy Book. In spite of this distinction, no record exists in scripture of that reality being recognized or observed by humans prior to the initial Sabbath command given around the pools of Marah, just prior to the delivery of the 10 Commandments at Mt Sinai.
Apparently, the fact of day seven being holy was not dependent upon human observance; it was sanctified aside from the other days purely because of what God had done (or should I say “not done”). From the beginning, it was holy because God made it so.
Scripture never removes this honor; and no other weekly calendar day has ever been given that replaces or over-rides this uniqueness. To fuel the fires, I will specifically point out, that not even the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week has such a divine declaration. By clarification, the “day” mentioned in Hebrews chapter 4 which relates to the Sabbath command, is not a weekly calendar day, and it is intended to imply something much more significant than any calendar day over another. But that issue is what is addressed in Wineskins and not the direct point of this post.
As a result, what we call Saturday, holds special significance in the created order; and, as Christians, we ought to maintain a view towards the God-defined honor placed on that day.
But how does scripture call us to do this?
So as not to tread further on the command issue of the Sabbath that our chapter emphasized, it should be simply stated here that Christians are not required, or even expected, to observe the Sabbath command as defined for ancient Israel. The Sabbath expectations for us, although related in design, are very different in practice. As such, how we acknowledge the holiness connected to the seventh day of the week has much more to do with our recognition of our Creator than with the practices of our worship.
The resting from labor that was enjoined upon the Israelites on the Sabbath day was a type–an existential picture–of “completion of purpose”. As Jesus informs us, both he and our Father continue to work to this very day in a manner of activity that implies an unfolding of that purpose rather than an instituting of something new. With this understanding, we are expected to recognize that the rest was not about business or physical labor, but a ceasing from our own ways–a resting from attempting to add to the completely satisfactory work God has already concluded from the very beginning of Creation.
What scripture seems to point us towards is meditative appreciation for the fact that all that is necessary regarding creation and the fulfillment of the plan of God has been and always will be a matter of the creative work of God without the necessity of our own contributions. That is a wordy way of saying, we ought to demonstrate our trust in what God has accomplished already in our benefit.
He created, then he rested; nothing more is necessary for life, happiness, or the pursuit of freedom.
The seventh day of creation is intended to perpetually remind forgetful humans of the sovereignty of God. We don’t have to work to gain. We don’t have to achieve our human desires in order to be satisfied. We don’t have to fix ourselves. God rested, because all that was necessary was accomplished by him from the beginning.
Do I need to repeat that even the pivotal events of the Cross that occurred mid-stream in human time, were declared to have been accomplished from before the world was even created?
The seventh day is a reminder. It no longer comes with universal behavioral expectations. It continues as it originally did as an invitation to reflection upon the awesome plan of God: a plan fully accomplished by God, a plan Christians put their faith in by “resting” from their own compass and submitting themselves fully to his direction.
When the world around us seems to boil with pain, can you find rest in what that holy 7th day represents?