Enjoying God’s Creation
“You make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what Your hands have done” (Psa. 92:4).
Read EXODUS 31:12–18
12 Then the Lord said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.
14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”
18 When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Sabbath keeping is a sign between Yahweh and Israel, not to be nullified by the passage of time.
God’s words on the mountain form seven speeches: Exodus 25:1; 30:11,17,22,34; 31:1,12. The first six concern the tabernacle; the culminating seventh shifts attention from a holy place (“sanctuary”; 25:8) to a holy time, embracing all space. By his own “rest” at creation (17) God had made the seventh day “holy” (Gen. 2:3). Through the exodus he makes the people holy and now the seventh day is to be “holy to you” (14). They participate in “my Sabbaths” (13). The tabernacle was a spatial reminder of God’s presence, pointing to his glory filling the whole earth; similarly, the Sabbath provides a new perspective on time and human endeavor. As a time of enjoyment with God of his creative and saving purposes, the Sabbath looks forward to when all creation will enjoy rest (Heb. 4:1–11).
After being delivered from slavery, the Israelites experience the Sabbath when manna is provided. The command not to collect manna on the seventh day frees people to enjoy life and God’s provision (16:11–35). On the Sabbath, whatever our excuse (“to make ends meet,” “to ensure success and prosperity” or “because it depends on me”), we should not do “any work” (15). God created us to share his “rest” and enjoyment.
Christian understanding of the Sabbath law has been contentious from the beginning (Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16), but the widely read Jewish rabbi Abraham Heschel (1907–1972) inspires and challenges all, particularly in a society that emphasizes productivity and acquisition. A sample: “He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil… On the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul… The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life” (The Sabbath).
Do you have times when you are set free from tasks “I have to do,” free to enjoy God and his creation?
Lord, teach me to maintain the balance between living under grace and observing the spirit of the Sabbath.