Monday, February 11, 2013


Deep breath....

I'm writing a blog post.


It has been way too long. Are you even still there?

I feel like I owe you an explanation - like when your phone battery dies in the middle of a conversation, and you have to find a different phone and call the person back to explain, so they won't think you are the rudest thing born since Henry IIX. Yes, I'd definitely like to offer both an apology and explanation. The only problem is that I'm still figure out what all I would say.

I could say that my schedule has changed and blogging time has fallen way down on the priority list. That sounds good. It even sounds mature, as if I'm finally learning to manage my time better. (The only problem is, how do you reconcile the image of a reformed time-manager with that of a blogger saying "I don't have time"?)

I could say that I haven't had post ideas.

That would be a lie. Scratch that explanation.

I could say that I didn't feel like writing. That would only sorta-kinda be true.

I could say that I began to ask myself "why bother sharing your thoughts? Everybody out there is tons more brilliant than you anyway." That would be a lot closer to the truth.

I could also say that I have a stalker.

Creepy, I know. Not dangerous - not this particular stalker (thank the Lord!). But creepy enough to make me highly un-inclined to post anything where they can read it. I'm sure you can imagine. I just don't feel like sharing my thoughts with someone like that.

But I've decided to ignore this passive, tame, but slightly creepy situation and post anyway - when I can (that first explanation up there wasn't that far off from the truth!). That being said, let me dive right into a post without wasting any more precious blogging time.

I have so much to say! Where to begin? I have post ideas about hospitality, new recipes, a entrepreneur-related announcement, recent projects, stories about my puppy...

Um....let's see....

I'd like to tackle a subject that God has been laying on my heart for awhile now. It can be a highly divisive topic, though, so I am a bit nervous about bringing it up. I just feel like I can't not say something. I want to share the blessing God has been showing me.

Let's talk about the sabbath.

Just that word alone strikes the ear as old-fashioned, doesn't it? It conjures up associations with various things. Some people have had very legalistic experiences with the word, and it makes them cringe. Others automatically think "that's Old Testament" or "That's Jewish." Others ask "huh? Sa-what?"

For those of you in that last category, let me explain. The word "sabbath" literally means "rest." It is used in the Bible to describe various holidays/holy days (same thing, right?) that God ordained for His people. Sometimes it is used in the singular form (sabbath) and sometimes in the plural form (sabbaths). In each case, it refers to a day or days that God commanded His people to use as days of rest from specific things.

For those of you just approaching this subject for the first time, it is important to have a clear understanding of the distinction between "the sabbath" and "sabbaths."

"Sabbaths", in the plural form, can mean any number of feasts and holy days that God set in place for the nation of Israel. They had - and many still have - multiple days throughout the year that they celebrate by resting from ordinary labor and pursuits.

"The Sabbath," distinguished from the rest both by the article "the" and the singular form, is a specific holiday. It comes once a week - and this is the sabbath referred to in the famous Ten Commandments. This is the day that God said to "remember" and to "keep holy." This is the day of which He also said "in it, thou shalt do no work."

For the Jews, the Sabbath was a memorial of two things; Creation and Redemption. That is reflected in the Ten Commandments; God says one of the reasons for the command for sabbath rest was "for in six days the Lord made Heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that in them is. But He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it." At the beginning of the Ten Commandments, God mentions that the reason He is giving them these laws is because He "brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." So we see creation and redemption out of Egypt both given as reasons for the Jews to keep one day out of seven set apart for worship and rest.

Let's take a little history tour:

Throughout the Old Testament, we see the Israelites breaking God's sabbaths over and over again. The books of the prophets are full of references to this particular sin. In fact, God gives their neglect of the sabbaths as one of His primary reasons for destroying the land of Israel in the days of Babylon, around 600 BC. He declared that, one way or another, His land would get its sabbath rest (referring to the "sabbath year" of rest for the farmland that was supposed to be carried out every seven years. That was one of those "plural sabbaths").

When the people finally got to come back to their land, 70 years later, we see Nehemiah involved in helping rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Do you remember how the men of Tyre peddled their wares and sold fish and other things in Jerusalem on The Sabbath in chapter 13 of Nehemiah? Whoosh, did Nehemiah get mad! He shut them out of the city, and they camped outside once or twice, hoping folks would come out to them, since they couldn't get into the city to sell stuff there. Nehemiah said, "If you do that again, I'm going to lay hands on you!" And he didn't mean hands of blessing, either. :) He talked to the elders and nobles of Judah and basically said "What?! How could you allow this to go on? Isn't this what we got sent out of the land for in the first place - polluting the sabbath by carrying on normal business days instead of worshiping and resting?"

Then we have a break of 400 years between the old and new testaments, and Jesus comes on the scene. At this point, and new role of spiritual leadership has risen in Israel; the class of "Pharisees." Yes, those same bad guys that handed Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified. We think of them as the worst kind of hypocrites and sinners, (do we not?), but in their day they were THE highest of all spiritual ideals. The populace had been convinced that the Pharisees were the spiritual experts, and whatever they said was right....was right.

Enjoying this power, the Pharisees did what all humans do when they are trying to "be spiritual" on their own, without the spirit of God or the grace of God. They created lists; rules and regulations about HOW to keep the law. Before long, their lists WERE law in the sight of all the people.

Gradually, Sabbath activity became more and more restricted. You could only walk a certain amount of steps on the seventh day of the week. You could not help the sick. You could not lift anything heavy. Specific, nit-picky rules that the Pharisees created were put side-by-side with the Ten Commandments, and upheld as revelation from God Himself.

No wonder it made Jesus angry. The Pharisees had taken His holy day, a day of fellowship with God, a day of worship and rest, a day designed to celebrate two wonderful acts of God - Creation and Redemption from Egypt - and turned it into a day all the common people dreaded.

I think we can all understand why Jesus harped on them so much for adding to the law, and making it a burden instead of a delight. In the book of Isaiah, God had promised "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth..."

...That verse shows His heart! But the Pharisees had become lost in a list. So Jesus told them that the Son of Man (Himself) was Lord also of the sabbath, and that man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for man. It is for man's benefit!

The next big event on the time line of history was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection - that grand and glorious event - happened on the first day of the week; Sunday, the day after the Jewish sabbath. That very same day - the first day of the week - Jesus appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). He appeared later that day, in the evening, to the gathering of disciples in a closed room (John 20:19). But Thomas wasn't there. ...That turned out okay, though, because they were assembled again, exactly a week later, on the first day of the week - and Thomas was there. Again, the doors were shut tight, and again Jesus came into the room. ...On the first day of the week (John 20:26).

After being with His disciples for 40 days, Jesus ascended up into Heaven. 10 days later, "the comforter," the Holy Spirit, was sent to the disciples in fulfillment to Jesus' promise to send Him. How do we know it was 10 days later? It's very simple: this event happened on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost happens 50 days after Passover. Jesus was resurrected during the Passover celebration. 50 days between dates - 40 days spent with disciples = 10 days the disciples waited alone.

Brief explanation of Pentecost:
This was the end of "the feast of weeks." Barely harvest lasted 7 weeks in Palestine, and there were ceremonies of worship and offerings at the beginning and end of the harvest time. The first day of harvest started on the first sabbath (Saturday) after Passover and ended exactly 50 days later. ....on a Sunday.

Are you seeing a pattern here? It becomes more and more clear that the early church had a habit of meeting together on the first day of the week.

They had good reason to; they were celebrating two things; new life in Christ, and redemption from sin!

...Does that sound familiar?

Yes, it seems that Christ's resurrection moved the date of the sabbath, for the church, from the seventh day of the week to the first. But it still celebrates Creation of life, and Redemption.

Whoa - hold on. ...Is Amber saying that the sabbath is still binding today? That we are still obligated to obey that command about "keeping the sabbath holy"? But that's so "Old Testament!"

May I gently remind you that ALL scripture is given by God?

"But the law was set aside when Christ came!"

Jesus Himself said, "think not that I have come to destroy the law. I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it." He also said that not one jot or tittle (the smallest letter, and smallest part of a letter in the Hebrew alphabet) of the law would pass away.

Now, all that being said, we must remember that we HAVE been set free from the law. Isn't that what Galatians is all about? We are no longer bound by the law!  But what law is Paul talking about?

The Old Testament contains three different categories of law: #1) Ceremonial Laws for the worship in the temple, and connected activities, #2) Judicial Laws for the nation of Israel, and #3) The Moral Laws of God, showing His character and setting His standards of what is right and wrong.

The second category does not apply to any other nation, and the first category was set aside when Jesus made the final sacrifice on our behalf (as it obviously explained in Galatians). What then should we do with the third category of law?

These moral laws are contained in the Ten Commandments, but were not invented on Mt. Sinai. Murder was wrong way back when Cain murdered Able. Adultery was wrong way back when Abimelech stole Sarah from Abraham. Having other gods besides the LORD was wrong way back before the great flood. And the sabbath was mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis. These moral standards have existed since before time. The Ten Commandments merely collected them all in one place and set them down in stone.

No one argues that murder and adultery are still wrong today. God's law is written on our conscience. Why then is the fourth commandment so attacked?

Is it really such a burden, to set aside one day a week for worshiping our Lord?
Do we have so little faith in His ability to provide for us that we feel we must work 7 days a week?
Do we care so much for our own pleasure and entertainment that "not thinking our own thoughts, or seeking our own pleasure" for one day is too much to ask?

Perhaps the answers to these questions are too sad to even speak. But they are questions I have been asking myself.

I have become more and more convinced, the older I've become, in the blessing of the Lord's Day. I strive to keep Sunday holy with the same effort I give to not lying, not killing, or not dishonoring my parents. I believe it is that important. It's not about "lists," or a fear that God will curse me if I don't honor His day. ....No, indeed. It's simply that I believe Him when He promises a blessing for those who call the sabbath a delight. And I want that blessing. I want it with my whole heart.

That is why I am choosing to share this with you. That is why I've written this lengthly chatter about the history behind the sabbath. I love to talk about His day. I love to look at verses that show how highly He esteems this holy day - this holiday. I love to read about the blessings promised to those who keep it holy.

Are you willing to think about it with me? Have we really embraced all there is to know about the Lord's Day? Are we really reaping all the benefits from it that God has for us there? He said the day was made for us - for our benefit. What is still there that we haven't yet learned?

The next time I post, I hope to talk about ways to keep the Sabbath - and I don't mean a list of rules. I mean talking about ways to celebrate. Yes, celebrate! We are celebrating His resurrection every Sunday. We are celebrating His redemption and creation of new life.

...Or are we? Are we really celebrating? Or are we just following a routine, and fighting traffic, and hanging out with friends, watching TV, and sleeping in? Do we really celebrate Sunday? Where is the joy?

That's what I want to talk about next; ways to CELEBRATE Sunday. :) :) :)

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