Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Sabbath Day Rest

Jesus teaching in Nazareth from Emmanuel
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-3)

To tell you the truth, Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Dearborn, Michigan doesn’t have a window depicting the Seventh Day of Creation. Perhaps the church itself is a representation-in-action of the day that God blessed as holy. The window pictured here is a depiction of Luke 4:16-21 where Jesus was preaching on the Sabbath Day in a Synagogue in Nazareth early in His ministry and proclaimed that the prophesy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah was fulfilled by Him that day.

There is a lot of talk about a “six day creation” in the debate over the creation. What gets lost in this description is the very important Seventh Day of Creation. Though God rested from His work and did not create anything new, this day seven is a very important part of God’s creation.

When I teach this story to children they often ask the obvious, but impertinent, question, “Was God tired that He needed to rest?” The answer is “No.” God is almighty and created “life, the universe, and everything” (if I can be so bold as to quote the late Douglas Adams, who was often blasphemous before his untimely death) perfectly in only six days by merely saying, “Let there be …”, so clearly God does not need to rest. It was no great strain for God to create everything. He did not rest on the Seventh Day for His needs, but for ours. We are the ones who need the rest, so God led by example (to begin with). Ever since then God has been working on the Sabbath days serving our needs.

Angels worshipping at the cross
Most people think that worship is what we do to please God. This is a pagan idea, but it is not uncommon among those calling themselves “Christians”. The Holy Bible never says that we should try to please God. Scripture says, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Unfortunately, as sinners we cannot be holy no matter what we do. This makes it seem like salvation is impossible as Jesus’ disciples once realized when they asked Him, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus replied, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (see Mark 10:17-27)

If God had left our salvation in our control then none of us would have a chance of salvation. However, God didn’t leave it up to us to save ourselves. God worked out our salvation himself so that we all could be saved. Even before sin came into the world God set aside one day out of the week so we could stop and remember just how much we need God.

People reject Sabbath worship because we want to think that we don’t need God. It is humbling to have to rely on God to provide salvation, but most people don’t realize that it is far more humbling to try to save yourself – and fail.

“Christ is Risen” - From Emmanuel
Because God sanctified the Seventh Day of creation making that a holy day, the Old Testament people of God set aside that day for worship. Yet, today the vast majority of Christians now worship God on the first day of the week. The reason for the change is, of course, Jesus.

From the very beginning the Sabbath rest was a typological prophesy about Christ. Jesus fulfilled the promise of the Sabbath when He rested in the grave on the Saturday after He died. Jesus was in the grave part of Friday and part of Sunday, but He had a full Sabbath day’s rest from His work of salvation. Then He rose from the dead on Sunday to proclaim our salvation. Since then we remember Christ’s victory over sin and death for our sake when we go to worship every Sunday.

The Seven Days of Creation

In the Beginning
The Orderly Creation
Distinctions in Creation
The Center of the Universe
Designed by God
The Crown of God’s Creation
A Sabbath Day Rest

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