Tag Archives: Creation

Sabbath Rest – Part 4

In this our fourth and final post in the series on Sabbath Rest, which is part of a larger look at the Theology of Rest in Scripture, we will round out our discussion with an overview of three additional supporting passages for the development of the Sabbath Command along with what we’ve been referring to as the Sabbath Principle, all under the Old Covenant.  Briefly, the Sabbath Command is that which was codified in the 10 Commandments with the instruction to work six days, but rest on the seventh.  We’ve seen how this command was rooted and grounded in the creation sabbath from Genesis 2 and also in the Israelite redemption from Egypt.  Along side this, perhaps as an expansion, is the Sabbath Principle, which we’ve seen expands the concept of Sabbath rest from one day in seven to one year in seven, in order to allow the land to rest and provide food to both the poor and the beasts.  With that in mind, let’s turn now to our three passages, two from Leviticus and one from Numbers.

Leviticus 23

Our first support passage in this post for completing our understanding and introduction to the institution of the Sabbath command comes in Leviticus 23.  The Book of Leviticus is chronologically parallel to Exodus, meaning that it is an expanded commentary on the commandments handed down from God to Moses at Sinai.  At the conclusion of the book we read, “These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.”  Here in chapter 23 it is a new section where Israel is receiving instructions on their appointed feasts.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.” Lev. 23:1-2

After this introduction, the chapter opens with a brief mention of the Sabbath

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.

Here, we have essentially a restatement of the Fourth Commandment, with an additional note that the Sabbath was to be a solemn rest, a holy convocation.  This is our first, and only mention, so far, of a particular gathering requirement on the Sabbath.  We should note that this falls under the umbrella for holy convocations, which opened the chapter and has in mind the appointed feasts, which are also called to be holy convocations.  Furthermore, it was to be a Sabbath in all of their dwelling places, which we’ve already seen.   Here, however we need to ask what is meant by holy convocation and what is meant by dwelling places.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, defines this holy convocation as a designation for weekly Sabbaths and the new moons, though its usually, “reserved for the seven special convocation sabbaths” which were arranged around five feasts two of which spanned from a Sabbath to a Sabbath (Passover and the Feast of Booths).  The TWOT goes on to say that these convocations included, “a formal summoning of people to worship by the blast of trumpets…physical presence was mandatory, however, only for the three festal pilgrimage feasts and only for males.”  These were the three feasts which we looked at last time in Exodus and which are also described in this chapter of Leviticus.

The dwellings mentioned in our passage the TWOT defines as, “the dwelling place of a city, tribe, or people” as well as, “even houses could be called dwellings.”  Basically what we have with this added note on the Sabbath is that it should be a gathering of some kind in the place where they dwelled, be it a house, city, tribe, or people.  It was not a mandatory pilgrimage for males, contrary to the three primary feasts.

The remainder of the chapter is devoted to descriptions of the various feasts, which we also discussed in the previous post, which are also called holy convocations.  Included in these descriptions of the feasts are instructions that no work should be performed, essentially extending the principle of the Sabbath from a weekly observance, to multiple times a year at the celebration of the God-ordained feasts.  This is likely where the plural reference to “sabbaths” finds its basis, in all of the God-ordained periods of rest which He sometimes refers to collectively.

(We should note also the addition of the Day of Atonement as a Sabbath; see also Leviticus 16).

Leviticus 24:8-9

Our next passage, again from Leviticus, takes a bit of a turn from the previous passages on the Sabbath and provides some instructions for what the priest, namely Aaron, is supposed to do.  After describing how the bread for the tabernacle is supposed to be made (24:5-7), we read that, Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the Lord regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the Lord‘s food offerings, a perpetual due.”  This arrangement of the bread in the tabernacle by the High priest was part of the covenant, as was the Sabbath.  Furthermore, we see that Aaron and his sons (High Priests), were to eat the bread in the holy place as his holy portion.

Numbers 28:9

Our final support passage for the Sabbath is from the Book of Numbers, though remember our previous mention of Numbers 15 and the case study for violating the Sabbath.  In this passage, we read of additional instructions for the priests on the Sabbath, On the Sabbath day, two male lambs a year old without blemish, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and its drink offering:10 this is the burnt offering of every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.”

On the Sabbath Day, according to the regulations that we’ve seen for 6 days of work and 1 day of rest, we’ve seen instructions for ‘priestly work’ in these last two passages, including making bread and offering sacrifices, a burnt offering, grain offering, and drink offering.  We also have found some additional information about convocations in dwellings, but have little prescription beyond that.

In our survey of rest thus far, we have now seen that the commandment of a Sabbath Rest, as well as the further development of the Sabbath Principle, are significant contributions to the overall theology of rest.  While the Sabbath is certainly mentioned throughout the Old Testament in other important passages such as Nehemiah 13, Isaiah 1:13ff; Isaiah 56:1-8; Isaiah 58:13-14; Ezekiel 20, et.al., the passages we’ve looked at in this series without question form the backbone and foundation for understanding how God had commanded the Sabbath to be observed as well as providing a Sabbath principle that extended above and beyond a 1 day in 7 observation.  Additionally, we have seen that this Sabbath principle effects not only the rest and refreshment of  the men, women, and children of Israel, but also the sojourner among them, as well as animals and the land.  In this sense, the concept of Sabbath is far reaching, we might even say universal as it relates to the community of Israel, touching every aspect of creation.  Similarly, we again find the Sabbath rooted in the creation Sabbath, as well as consequences prescribed for those who violate the Sabbath.

In our overall theme of rest, it would appear as though the Sabbath Command and Sabbath Principle reflect, at least in part, the rest established by God for Adam in the Garden.  Furthermore, we see the anticipation of rest for Israel in the Promised Land as both the Sabbath Command and Sabbath Principle are tied to entrance and establishment in Canaan.  Finally, these weekly, annual, and regular periods of rest would seem to anticipate a more permanent rest to come, a point which we will have to flesh out another time.

This overview of the Sabbath rest brings up some additional points worth considering, including the concept of Jubilee and another point of Broken Rest, but those topics for another day.

 

In this series:

God’s Rest

 

The Creation account in the opening chapters of Genesis is probably familiar to most people who have at any point come into contact with the Scriptures.  Genesis, or origins, is foundational for understanding how and why we were created and gives purpose to life these thousands of years later.  While Adam and Eve often garner the majority of the focus in these opening chapters, it’s clear that Scripture places the primary attention upon God from the very opening words, “In the beginning God”.  From there, it’s not man who is the main actor, but God.  We are introduced to the God who sovereignly creates, orders, and sustains, not merely an accumulation of particles that randomly formed the universe, but a purposeful creation by a detail oriented God intent on creating man in His image for His own glory.

After the introduction of creation in chapter 1, and before providing a more detailed focus upon the creation of man in chapter 2, we are given the following description of this all-powerful, creating God

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

At the outset, this might generate a few questions concerning the nature of the God who was just introduced to us in chapter 1 of Genesis, namely, if He is all-powerful and certainly the Creator, why is it that He needs to rest?  Did the 6-day creative process tire Him out?  Or perhaps is He a father-time figure that wound creation up and now must minimize energy by simply observing His work from a high or distant perch?

These questions, while they may seem simplistic and perhaps even juvenile, are nonetheless legitimate given the sentence, And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

In answering these, we must first start with God as Creator and more specifically how God created, namely by divine fiat or decree.  God literally spoke creation into existence, from nothing, i.e. ex nihilo.  In Genesis 1, we encounter the statement, “God said”  ten times.  Seven of these were declarations bringing various creations into existence while the 8th was an intra-Trinitarian statement and the last two uses were commands to man.  Would God need to rest on the seventh day after “simply” speaking creation into existence?

Hardly.

We may conclude that God did not need to rest, as though He were exhausted from His creative work.  As God has progressively revealed Himself throughout the Scriptures, we are informed elsewhere that rest is not a necessity for God.  For example, Isaiah 40:28

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.

And Psalm 121:4

“Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.”

The Second observation is that while man was created on Day 6 and rest occurred on Day 7, we are informed that it was God’s rest.  Similarly, we have no indication of which calendar day this rest may have occurred, because, well, calendars had not yet been developed.  We simply know at this point that it was the Seventh Day of creation.  This is a crucial point because frequently this passage concerning God’s rest in Genesis has been used as a proof text to argue for the existence of 1. A perpetual day of Sabbath rest (Saturday) or 2. The transference of the Sabbath day to the Lord’s Day (Sunday).  Despite these interpretive efforts, there is simply no indication nor command for man to observe a particular Sabbath day in this passage.  All we have thus far in God’s revelation is that He rested from His work on the seventh day.  While this occurrence in Genesis 2 certainly informs and provides a framework for the later institution of a Sabbath Day commandment given at Sinai, there is not one single passage that prescribes or describes any person from Adam to Exodus 16 commanded to set aside a particular day for rest.

Third, this rest came at the conclusion of creation.  In other words, God’s rest was the consummation of creation.  It’s at this point that the action of God as Creator becomes the action of God as Sustainer.  The preparation for this role is particularly evident in the creation accounts and in the passages that immediately follow Genesis 2:2.  For further biblical evidence, we may draw upon Colossians 1:16-17, John 1:3, and Hebrews 1:3.

Fourth, God blesses or sanctifies this Sabbath Day to make it holy, literally He sets it apart from the other days.  This function of sanctifying a particular day speaks to God’s authority and also towards a priestly role. Related, some have concluded that this rest of God speaks less of actual rest or ceasing from effort, as we concluded earlier, and more of a Sabbath-Enthronement.¹  Several passages throughout Scripture speak to God’s enthronement over His creation and the earth as His footstool, Isaiah 66:1; 2 Chronicles 6:18, 41; Acts 7:49.

Similarly, there is compelling evidence that the creation of the earth in general and the garden in particular as God’s place of habitation or dwelling, i.e. His temple.  In Genesis 3:8 we read, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day….”  Some commentators have pointed out that this same Hebrew verbal root stem occurs elsewhere in relation to God’s presence in the tabernacle, see Lev. 26:12, Deut. 23:14, 2 Samuel 7:6-7.² Further we may consider the geographic layout of this early scene from Genesis with the earth, Eden, and the garden as a parallel to the tabernacle layout of the Outer Court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies.  This theme will be further drawn out when we consider Adam’s rest in a future post.

Fifth, while the other six days have the concluding statement, “and the evening and the morning were the ______ day”, the seventh day deviates from this pattern suggesting that it is open ended.  In other words, that it was, or perhaps even still is, on going.

The pinnacle of the creation narrative is not the creation of Adam and Eve, rather it is the rest of God.  Simply observing the structure of Genesis 1 and 2 and this becomes evident.  As we’ve seen, God did not require rest, rather it was pointing towards greater significance.  From our passage in Genesis 2, we may summarize the 3 specific actions words that serve as links in a chain.  God finished.  God rested.  God blessed.  As we will see in future posts, God’s rest is both anticipatory and archetypal of future fulfillment.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Kline, Meredith G. Kingdom Prologue.
  2. Alexander, Desmond T., From Paradise to the Promised Land. G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission.

Bucket Drops 8/26/11

I don’t know if it’s coincidental to the start of school or if it’s a calculated effort, but it seems that the blogosphere and news links over the past week or so have been filled with stories concerning evolution.  I’ve shared a few of them below.

Students Encouraged to challenge Evolution – I can’t fully endorse the website so if you search do so with discernment, but this link has a good story about encouraging students to challenge evolutionary teachings.  Included is a list of 15 questions for students to ask, which evolutionary biologists have no answer to. 

Free offer, this week only!! 6 Days & The Eisegesis Problem. –  This video is free to download from Answers in Genesis, this week only though.  I’ve yet to watch it all the way through, but it’s sure to be helpful.  It’s normally $7.99.

Adam and Eve Controversy Heats Up – Dr. Albert Mohler discusses the importance and urgency of defending a historical Adam and Eve.  He asks, “How are we to understand the Bible’s story, if we can have no confidence that we know how it even begins?” and “If we do not know how the story of the Gospel begins, then we do not know what that story means. Make no mistake: a false start to the story produces a false grasp of the Gospel.”

Below is the report from NPR that he references and argues against.  I’ve said publically before, when you open the door and allow the evil of evolution in, be it through divine origin or big bang or whatever, other pieces of the Bible can then be picked off.

NPR: Evangelicals Questions Existence of Adam and Eve 

What Should we teach about Creation?This article is a transcript from a John Piper interview given a year or so ago and I think it highlights a disturbing trend among evangelicals, namely their open acceptance of an “old-earth”.  Here we can read of Piper’s belief that God created the earth and a literal Adam and Eve, but likewise his acceptance of an earth that is billions of years old.  His position, which he attributes to John Sailhamer, can be refuted here: http://creation.com/unbinding-the-rules

Beyond Adam and Eve – Just another example of the mainstream media attacking the historicity of the Bible and its plain truths of a literal Adam and Eve.  For a refutation of this non-sense published by David Lose of the Huffington Post, see the Albert Mohler article above.  Lose simply lacks any understanding of biblical theology, let alone the redemptive narrative that runs from Genesis to Revelation.  On second thought, don’t read the article, just chalk it up as another attack on the Word of God.

Finally, with all of these debates and attacks on the Bible, a refreshing video of a 10-year old Brazilian singer who shines on Michael W. Smith’s Agnus Dei. Holy is the Lord God Almighty!

Isaiah 40:15a “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales.”