Sabbath: The Rhythm of Creation & Re-Creation
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
The Scriptures tell of how God spoke and created everything out of nothing over the space of six days. And on the seventh day, God rested.
Not all Christians agree about how literally we are to take the six days of creation as we read in Genesis. But I believe the most important question is not “Did it really take six days?" but “What does it mean?” What does it mean that God did the work of creation in six days, and then rested on the seventh day? This isn’t just a flannel-graph Sunday School lesson (remember those?), or an academic question of primeval history; it has everything to do with how we live. And the quarantine we find ourselves in today just may be the perfect time to consider it together… (And if none of that makes any sense, please hang in there!)
In my limited experience, conversations about Sabbath usually go straight for the rules you have to observe in order to keep it. And usually those are about what you are NOT allowed to do. If you grew up in a community that took those rules seriously, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The children of Israel had a boatload of rules to follow, and then even more traditions were built on those rules.
But behind all these prohibitions is the order of creation itself. It’s a pattern, a rhythm that runs through all of Scripture – a seven-beat song. We work, but God provides rest. It’s not that work is bad in itself, but we easily become enslaved, and we look to God for rescue and liberation. We get all bound up, until we receive God’s offer of delight. We live as if things were up to us, until we’re reminded that they’re not. (Yes, that’s a confession.)
Sabbath is just one of several important Hebrew words than can be translated as “rest.” Sabbath means to cease. Knock it off. Stop. God wasn’t tired after all that work of creation; God ceased, and his ceasing created the rhythm of life and salvation that still beats today and that points to the day when everything will be Sabbath delight.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote: “After the six days of creation—what did the universe still lack? Sabbath. Came the Sabbath… and the universe was complete.”
In a weird sort of way, many of us are experiencing an un-asked-for Sabbath of sorts, or at least the opportunity of Sabbath rest. Let’s not resist it. It’s calling our name, like it always has done. Let’s let it teach us, free us, re-create us.
I’m not talking about the rules. For today, set aside at least five minutes to turn everything off, take some deep breaths, and ask God the Creator of the universe to help you rest in him. (A tip: the One Minute Pause app (www.pauseapp.com) may help…)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus (Matthew 11:28)
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.