Previously, we have seen that Sabbath pushes us outside of ourselves, commanding us to remember the people around us, guarding them, giving them life and rest, making a holy people. Last week, we focused primarily on the Sabbath building project. Sabbath is for giving ourselves and our resources to the building of God’s house. This week we look at the kind of culture over generations the Sabbath ought to create.
When sin entered the world dislocations and tensions entered the world in three areas: God and man, man and man, man and the world (Gen. 3:13-24). Sin, guilt, and death make this world a threatening place to be, and fear reigns over all of it: fear of betrayal, fear of loss, fear of death. But Jesus came “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). In the Old Covenant, the Exodus and the building of the tabernacle are types of Jesus to come: God freed His people from bondage to Pharaoh and brought them to Sinai to build His house. All of this testifies of God’s intention to reconcile all things: God and man (Passover/Sinai), people with one another (Sabbath, Manna, convocations), humanity with creation (Red Sea crossing, life in the wilderness). The Ten Words are the pattern of living that would mark this reconciled humanity, and the Sabbath command in particular is a bridge between our love for God and our neighbor. God knows that even a redeemed people will still fight and bicker and have different ideas and values. So He commanded them to have a weekly meeting (Lev. 23:3) and throughout the year have extended retreats full of meetings (e.g. Lev. 23:7, 21, 24, 35). All successful leaders and organizations know that central to accomplishing goals is regular, clear communication. And when the goal is the salvation of the world, this is even more important.
Turning the Hearts
The fact that these “calling togethers” are called “holy” (e.g. Lev. 23:3) is not accidental. We have noted that holiness has everything to do with safety and security. God’s holiness is His safe presence, His perfection which is absolutely free of threats. By the working of the Holy Spirit, God calls us to be that holy presence. The word for “called together” in the New Testament is “church,” (E.g. 1 Cor. 1:2, 11:18, Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18-22), and every week we confess our faith in the one, true God as members of this “holy catholic church.” We confess every week that we are the safe presence of the Triune God in this world, for this world. We live in a broken world, and we all share in its brokenness, but we are called together to be reconciled to one another. This brokenness is frequently evident over generations: conflict between parents and children, older and younger. The final breath of the Old Covenant promises that God will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the children to their fathers (Mal. 4:6). This is not merely a nice sentiment; this is being accomplished in and through the holy convocation of the Church. But this is not merely the restoration of families; this is the death of family and the resurrection of a new way of being family (Mk. 10:29-30). This is also a description of the way culture must be built in the New World. Anti-sabbatarian cultures tend ride a pendulum swinging from primitivism to revolution, conservatives vs. liberals. But Sabbath and the holy convocation of the church is the required meeting in the middle, between the past and future, between the generations.
Examples, Applications, and Conclusions
Jesus is the Sabbath. He is the beginning and the end, the old and the young, the original and the new. God is in the process of reconciling all things in Him through the cross (Eph. 2:16, Col. 1:20). This is the radical, universal leveling of all humanity in the cross. This is the humiliation of the proud, the exaltation of the humble, and the loving justice of God for all.
The Church is the place where this reconciliation is taking place, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). This means that we must be the place where generations talk, listen, and eat together. What are common ways our culture passes values and loves between parents and children? Sports? Music? Movies? Jokes? Parents must talk to, listen to, and eat with their children. What are your family dinners like? Is there give and take between parents and children? Real fellowship? Do you frequently invite others to your dinner table to interact with and teach your children to interact with others? What’s it like with your parents? Your neighbors? Are there ways you can bring Sabbath to dinner?
After Jesus rose on the first day of the week, He made it a habit to visit His people on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:1, 19, 26), and Christians have gathered together expectantly ever since (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2). The Lord’s Day is our Christian Sabbath, our day of victory and feasting and remembering. We are no longer under the Old Covenant regulations concerning days, months, and years (Gal. 4:19, Col. 2:16-17). But neither should we be under any of the other old elements (e.g. materialism, commercialism). This requires a kind Spirit-filled, joyful maturity. It requires remembering those around you. It requires a holy people who give themselves to and for one another to make a holy place, God’s presence for the world. And this is only possible through the cross.