To Sabbath or Not to Sabbath?

Twelve years ago my wife and I attended a Bar Mitzvah service for the son of her long time Jewish friend. It was on the seventh day of the week where the young 13 year old conducts the service much as a rabbi would. He read, for the first time, from the scrolls of the Torah, the first five books of Moses. It was impressive to see the rabbi unlock the ark in which the Torah is kept, bring out the scrolls, unroll them on the table, as Jews have done for centuries, and hear the teenager read in Hebrew from the scrolls. At the end he gave thanks for two things which have been the treasure of Israel for centuries, the Law and the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is one of the oldest institutions in the world dating back to the very earliest appearance of man upon the earth when, in Genesis 2:1-3, God blessed and proclaimed the Sabbath holy. Then, later in the biblical record it became part of the Law given to Moses for Israel (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). There are a number of Christians today who are concerned by the thought: “Should we still be observing the Sabbath?” Some would say we are not genuine Christians unless we observe the Sabbath. What does the Sabbath mean to Christ-followers?

Therefore, to answer this puzzling question, Worthy Words will be a bit different in the next several weeks. It will be a discussion on this vital part of successfully living the Christian life. The understanding of the Sabbath is the key to that success. There are seven facts to solving this puzzle.

Let’s read this text of Genesis 2:1-3 from the English Standard Version:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

FACT #1: What stands out here from the other days of creation is the absence of the reference of evening and morning. All the verses of the other six creation days include the phrase, “and there was evening and there was morning.” There is no mention in this seventh day passage. Note that “days” do not predominantly emphasize time, but expansion of creation. The evening and morning were indicators of this expansion process. Creation expanded from an incomplete state of darkness moving toward light. On this seventh day no evening no morning. Twice in the text is the word, “finished.” It is apparent then there is no more need for expansion. The work of God is complete and on the seventh day no need to mention evening or morning.

So, whatever the Sabbath is it is a perfect thing. It is always the same whenever we experience it. It is not something to grow into. However, it is something to step into and to discover it to be exactly what it always is perfect, finished. That is fact number one in our solving the Sabbath puzzle.

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