Wednesday, October 08, 2008

There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God

One aspect of our Day of Learning with Dr. Black was a discussion of the nature of the Church. We briefly looked at word-pictures Scripture uses toward this end. Body, Bride, Building were three chief analogies. The classic theological definition of the church is "one, holy, Catholic and apostolic."

Later, in a discussion of the worship of the Church, Dr. Black reminded us of the use of sacred time and space. These two tributaries ran together in my thinking into a stream of possibility.

One view of the nature of the church is that we have been grafted into the blessings of Israel. Paul actually uses this terminology. One thing God asked of His people was to be holy -- set apart from surrounding culture and to Him. Besides the kosher laws, Israel did this through the marking of sacred time. Weekly they sat aside a day for Him -- Sabbath. Monthly they marked the new moon. Annually there were sacred seasons of activity and memorial celebrating and renewing His mighty acts for humanity. While most of this is ritual and is not "binding" on God's people today, one remains.

Sabbath is rooted in the creation of all things. It was the seventh day when God "rested" from His initial creative activity because it was complete. Later, the nation received the Decalogue as the foundational definition of morality. It contains, at Command #4, Sabbath. The recording of the Decalogue in Deuteronomy ties Sabbath to the deliverance from bondage experienced at the Exodus. So Sabbath is a celebration of God's creation and deliverance, both of which allow us to be at rest in His goodness and power.

With the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, those who were not a people (non-Hebrews) were invited, through Jesus, into the life of blessing. While not obligated to observe any law as a way to "qualify" with God, His grace, purchased by Jesus and poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, empowers us to live right. We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2. 10.)

Of all the Law, the Decalogue seems still to describe morality. As believers in Jesus, then, we can enjoy the rest of Sabbath.

Obviously, Christians have moved the emphasis day from Sabbath to the Lord's Day. Even in the Scriptire we see the early church gathering and worshipping on this first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16.1 - 2, Revelation 1.10.) They still meet on Sabbath, often in synagogues, to share the message of Jesus. The first day celebrates God's new creation and His deliverance begun with the resurrection of Jesus on the same day, Sunday.

The most specific discussion of Sabbath-rest by the first New-Covenant people of God in the Bible is found in Hebrews 3 & 4. Here is an exposition of Psalm 95.7-11. The theme is "Entering into [God's] Rest." It refers to creation's rest, the rest at the conclusion of the Exodus and expressly says, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God..."

So could our post-modern, much-too-scheduled, hectic society benefit from the blessings associated with setting aside a Lord's Day? Could we have thrown the baby of blessing out with the bathwater of legalistic application of this principle of rest? I am starting to believe the answer is, "YES!"

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