Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lord of the Sabbath and Sabbath Rest

Hebrews 4 talks about the place of "rest" within the community of believers. It begins by pointing out that the community of Israelites that had been redeemed from Egypt were also the same people that did not enter into God's rest. "For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest..." (Heb. 4:2). The author of Hebrews connects Sabbath rest with faith. If we were to stop here we might assume that faith is something we must strive for, which does not sound restful at all. If faith is something that we must build and construct, then salvation is not dependent upon God. Yet, Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the "author and perfector" of our faith. God "gifts" us faith. It is the message that we have heard and are simply called to respond in obedience to. If we are "working" to earn our salvation then we have not truly entered into the rest which God gives. Furthermore, we have not submitted our lives to the sovereignty of the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). If faith and salvation are really by God and from God, then it is not dependent upon us to establish our own faith or salvation. Rather, we are simply called to respond in thanksgiving and obedience to the good news we have received. There is an assurance and confidence that accompanies this type of faith. God is faithful and we can depend upon God's character and nature to see both the initiation and the completion of our faith.

Hebrews sets up the importance of Sabbath for us by reminding us of David's words: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (4:7). Sabbath rest is about giving ear to hear what God is saying. It is about giving space for God to speak into our lives. But, it cannot be left at that alone. The author of Hebrews understands "hearing" as something more than just "listening." Rather, "to hear is to obey." Our obedience is a sign that we have truly "heard" God speaking. That is to say, Sabbath is primarily about orienting our lives entirely to God's w(W)ord to us. God's word "is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account" (4:12b-13). Sabbath opens up space in our busy, hectic, self-centered lives in order to center our lives on the One who shows us who we truly are. But, God doesn't leave us there if we are willing to "hear." Rather, God transforms us through faith to be "a great cloud of witnesses" whose testimony points to our light and life: Christ Jesus - Lord of the Sabbath.

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