Tag Archives: Rest

Sabbath Rest – Part 3

Having looked at the institution of the Sabbath Command, in both it’s first and second iterations of law from Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20) and then on the plains of Moab by way of Moses’ review (Deuteronomy 5), we turn now to several supporting passages.  These passages provide additional revelation on the details of the Sabbath, both how it should be observed and the consequences for its violation.  Additionally, we will see a renewed emphasis on what might best be called the Sabbath principle, i.e. that which concerns itself with a sabbath rest, but not necessarily one day in seven, or the Seventh Day.  Below, we will look at three supporting passages from Exodus 23, 31, and 34/35, and then in the next post, we’ll look at supporting passages from Leviticus 23, 24, and Numbers 28.

Exodus 23:10-19

In this passage, we find ourselves still at Sinai with Moses’ reception of the law and covenant from God.  The mention of the Sabbath comes not by means of observing the seventh day, as we might expect, but by means of sowing the land for six years and then giving it a Sabbath year in order to allow it to rest and lie fallow.  Practically, particularly in an agrarian society, this is wise and prudent counsel as it allows the land to recuperate.  However,  we now see a larger Sabbath principle of rest than simply 1 day in 7. Additionally, we find much more involved than individual rest, rather now it’s the land that is commanded to rest (though the obligation is on man to obey).  Further, this resting of the land allows the poor and then the beasts to eat of the land.  This passage is followed up by a restatement of the Sabbath Commandment, showing a clear relationship between both Sabbath concepts, or what I’m distinguishing as a Sabbath Principle and a Sabbath Command.  With this restatement, we have an added benefit of refreshment for ox, donkey, son of your female servant, and aliens.

Towards the end of this passage we see the introduction of the Three Feasts which God had commanded Israel to observe: Unleavened Bread, Feast of Harvest (Feast of Weeks), and Feast of Ingathering (Feast of Tabernacles or Booths).  According to this rule, all of the men of Israel were to come before the Lord these 3 times a year.  This becomes an important point when noting those times and feasts when God had actually commanded worship on  a particular day/days.

See also: Leviticus 25; 26

Exodus 31:12-18

This next passage summarizes the occasion at Sinai as the Lord finishes up His covenant instructions to Moses. Here we see three key reasons for observing or keeping the Sabbath followed by a restriction and subsequent punishment.  First, it is a sign between God and Israel throughout their generations.  Second, it’s purpose is to recognize that it is the Lord Who sanctifies them.  Finally, they were to keep the Sabbath because it was holy to them.

Additionally, in this passage we have the first mention of consequences for failing to observe the Sabbath, Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. “  Ex. 31:14-15

In these verses, consequences for violating the Sabbath are mentioned three times, put to death, cut off from among his people, put to death.   These punishments are buttressed with the assertion that the Sabbath is a perpetual covenant followed by a reiteration of the Sabbath as a sign…forever.  In other words, the punishment of death is given to Sabbath breakers because it is a violation of the covenant.  Just as the rainbow in the cloud was a sign of the Noahic Covenant and just as circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, so too in this instance is the Sabbath a sign of the Mosaic Covenant.  This important passage is further summarized by again stating the foundation for the Sabbath, “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed” Ex. 31:17 Finally, verse 18 of this passage concluded God’s revelation and giving of commandments at Sinai…for now.

See also: Ezekiel 20

Ex. 34:18-28

Our third passage from the book of Exodus comes after the idolatrous golden calf incident, which was followed by Moses’ rage against the people and his breaking of the 2 tablets at the foot of Sinai.  In Exodus 34, we have God’s renewal of the covenant.  After an exhortation and warning against idolatry in the land, the next point of renewal is the feasts and the Sabbath.  Verse 18 outlines again the Feast of Unleavened Bread, tied to the Exodus from Egypt, while verses 19-20 describes the Feast of Weeks or first fruits.  In the midst of the discussion of feasts, we have the following verse, Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”  Plowing and harvest would have been the two most important seasons for Israel as they were directly related to their supply of food.  Resting at all during this time would run the risk of ruining a perfectly good day of making progress on either planting or harvesting food.  As such, it would recall the days prior to Sinai, Exodus 16, when they had previously been taught to rely on God’s provision for their food on the Sabbath. 

Just downstream of this passage is our final mention of the Sabbath in the book of Exodus.  Found in Exodus 35:2-3, the last statement on the Sabbath is perhaps the briefest, Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do. Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.”  While we have another consequence for violating the Sabbath, the only piece of new information that we have is an itemized restriction for the Sabbath, namely, “you shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places.”  This, in combination with our mentions of punishment above, is significant when we consider Numbers 15:32-36, where we have the case study of the man who went out and gathered sticks on the Sabbath.  It is not so much the gathering of sticks which costs him his life at the hands of the stones thrown at him.  Rather it is that he intentionally violates the Sabbath by planning to build a fire.  This is a measure of direct rebellion against what God had instructed Moses to deliver to the people in the Exodus 35 passage above.

With our brief overview of these three supporting passages on the Sabbath from the book of Exodus, let’s summarize what we’ve seen so far.  First, the expansion of the Sabbath principle to include allowing the land to rest 1 year in 7.  This expands the concept of the Sabbath in which the people relied on the providence and sustenance of God for 1 day, now to include one whole year.  Additionally, this rest allowed for the land was an opportunity afforded for the poor and the beasts to eat of the land as well as providing refreshment for beasts, servants, and aliens.  Next, we saw three key purposes for observing the Sabbath including it as a sign between God and Israel, recognition of God as Sanctifier, and a covenant.  Finally, we saw the consequences, punishment by death, attached to the violation of the commandment, which was upheld in the case study from Numbers 15:32-36.  In our next post, we’ll examine three additional support passages for the Sabbath.

In this series:

Noah’s Rest

 

The following is a modification of the post “The Gospel Hope of Lamech” in order to draw upon the recent theme of rest that we’ve looked at in the posts: God’s Rest, Adam’s Rest, and Broken Rest.

 

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 5:28-32

 

The period between Adam and Noah is summarized in Scripture by 10 toledots, or generations, i.e. the “begots” in chapter 5 of Genesis.  Throughout this time man became increasingly wicked (Genesis 6:5) creating greater distance between God and man, and man and creation, specifically the continued fracture between man and the ground, initiated in the curse God levied against Adam.

In the passage above from Genesis 5, there is a noted expectation of relief, or rest, that comes by way of the prophetic words of Lamech, the father of Noah.  Recall that in the Old Testament there is usually significance given to the naming of children and this is especially true with Lamech naming his son Noah, which is similar in sound to the Hebrew word for “rest”.  Lamech’s expectation for his son is that he will bring a reversal to the curse levied against Adam, subsequently all mankind, and bring a fulfillment of the promised seed that would crush the head of the serpent, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”

The word translated “relief” by the ESV is literally the word rest, which corresponds to Noah’s name and shed’s greater light on the expectation that he would be the one to deliver the people from the “painful toil of our hands.”  Again, we must feel the weight of the curse, specifically with the background that Adam was originally created for worship and placed in the garden that brought forth food effortlessly, at the command of God.  Let’s look again at the curse that was directly given to Adam

“cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19

Notice here that the curse given to Adam is intimately related to the toil of the ground or land through the labor of his hands.  God would no longer provide ease and abundance of fruit from the land, but now it would require painful effort on the part of man to overcome the obstacles of thorns and thistles, and through sweat, i.e. hard work, the land would yield harvest.

When combining the progressive depravity of man at this time and the multiplying effects of sin upon the ground, we can begin to see the great expectation of Lamech was for deliverance from this curse, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”  Clearly the words, and hope, expressed by Lamech are closely related to the words of the curse that God had levied against mankind.  A curse that was causing painful toil, hard work and labor, to bring forth food from a now cursed ground.

Lamech’s expectation is that out of the very ground that had been cursed one would come who would bring relief.  Like Eve before him, Lamech’s hope was in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent, though he specifically has an expectation of relief, literally rest, from the curse of the ground.  Further, he expects that this one from the ground will be his own child, Noah, who would bring about this rest.  Again, like Eve, we know that it was not through their immediate offspring that the fulfillment of God’s plan would come, but through the Promised One, Jesus Christ.

It’s certainly understandable in both the case of Eve and Noah that their hope in the promise of God would be fulfilled in their lifetime, but that was not God’s plan.  His plan for a Redeemer would unfold through the covenant promise given to Abraham, a kind of reminder of Genesis 3:15, and then through the people of Israel, culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ.

The expectation of Lamech highlights an additional point worthy of a brief discussion, namely that the ultimate Sabbath rest comes in Christ alone as detailed in Hebrews 3 & 4.  The Sabbath principle is far more than the 4th Commandment that has been a point of discussion and debate among theologians.  It’s a principle rooted and grounded in the character of God, revealed in the days of creation, longed for in the expectation of Noah, further developed in the Mosaic Law with Sabbaths and Jubilee, and ultimately finding its destination in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage from Hebrews is worthy of a separate study, but we may conclude a few things in relation to the expectation of Lamech.  From Lamech and the passage from Hebrews, we may observe the connection between the promised rest of God and the promised land of God.  We may conclude that it is only in Christ that believers may find their rest from not only the physical labors of their hands, but the spiritual labor against sin and attempts to earn salvation.  Through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, to all believers, by way of Christ’s obedient fulfillment of God’s law, we may rest from all efforts to earn our justification.  Thereby we may now experience God’s Sabbath rest in Christ, even though, as in the days of Noah, we also look forward with eager expectation to the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring about our eternal, satisfying rest from all the toil of our hands in a cursed land, to a place of relief in the new heavens and new earth, that God Himself will prepare.

With regard to Noah and his father’s expectation, he did bring rest and relief from the land, but not in an ultimate, final sense as Christ will.  Upon the recedence of the flood waters of judgment, God makes a covenant with Noah,

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Noah’s first action upon reaching dry land was to offering a sacrafice to God, with the clean animals that God had directed him to include on the ark.  Serving as priest in this “new creation” or even “new garden” if you will, Noah makes an atoning sacrifice to God, which is accepted and pleasing to God.  This term for pleasing, as the ESV Study Bible notes, “conveys the idea of tranquility and rest” and is “related to the Noah” which certainly ties back to the prophecy and expectation of his father Lamech, mentioned earlier in Genesis 5.

Additionally, in the midst of these covenant promises, we see God highlighting the progressive nature of sin in man, “evil from his youth” but also a restraint that God places upon the progressive curse on the ground, “I will never again curse the ground.”  In doing so, God promises stability.  Yes the original curse still remained on the ground, yes man still had to labor for food, as did Noah (Genesis 9:20).  However, God promised stability and consistency of seasons, a divine grace, to allow man the conditions necessary to bring forth food from the ground, “seedtime and harvest”.

Noah was afforded a fresh opportunity in a new garden, much like his great-grandfather Adam.  He was also given the same divine commands to assert dominion over creation and to be fruitful and multiply.  However, because of the indwelling presence of sin that the flood could not wash away, and despite these opportunities and commands, Noah also fell into sin after just a short time.  This in turn lead to the sin of his son and the pronouncement of a curse upon him and the people that would play a significant role in yet another opportunity for rest, the Canaanites.

Broken Rest

 

In chapter 1 of Genesis we are introduced to God the Creator.  In chapter 2, we are introduced to the God who rested and then the details of how God created man in His image.  In chapter 3, we veer from the concepts of rest to the undoing of creation by sin on the day when rest was broken.

The Fall

Recall that in a previous post we looked at how God rested Adam in the garden to serve Him as priest and to guard the garden.  As chapter 3 begins, we have an encroachment upon the garden, a usurper to the authority and priesthood of Adam, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”

Two things should immediatly come to mind with this verse, the first is that God is the Creator of this serpent and second that Adam was given dominion over all the beasts of the field, despite this particular level of craftiness in the serpent.  It is with this simple introduction of the serpent that the fall of mankind begins.

Next we find this serpent’s deception as he presents doubt to the truthfulness of the words of God, twisting them in his deception to Eve.  Meanwhile, we are not yet informed of Adam’s presence, his role as king-priest upon the arrival of this new threat, nor his efforts to guard his wife or the garden.

As the deception progresses from words to deeds, Eve falls for the temptation of the serpent and partakes of the fruit, thus disobeying God.  Adam, as we are now informed, is beside her, “and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

The Curse

The familiar passage unfolds as Adam and Eve are confronted by God who questions them and then levies upon them a curse before expelling them from the garden.  The first words of the curse are directed towards the serpent who is informed that there will be enmity between he and the woman and more significantly between he and the offspring of the woman.  This statement culminates in the protoevangelion or first gospel in Genesis 3:15, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Ultimately we know that this was a promise of the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who would crush the head of the serpent at the cross.

The next words of the curse are addressed to Eve, who is informed that she will bear children, though in pain, and will have a desire to rule over her husband, thus creating a tension between her desire for authority and the God-given authority given to Adam.  Finally, we arrive at the words of the curse directed toward Adam in Genesis 3:17-19, which is critical to the concept of rest that was developed in the earlier posts cited above.

In order to feel the proper weight of this curse and to realize its full implications, it is important to revisit the context out of which this curse arises.  First, Genesis 2:5-9

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist[c] was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Then Genesis 2:15-17

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Glancing back over these verses, we find that the field, or literally “open country”, was desolate because God had not caused it to rain, nor was there a man to work the ground.  Then we see the creation of man, the planting of a garden, and God “resting” man in that Garden, as we’ve already seen.  In that Garden, God made every tree spring up for food, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (and the tree of life), which we find mentioned again in the second citation, carrying with it a prohibition against eating from it and the consequences of death for disobeying that command.

It’s out of this context that the curse directed towards Adam is brought forth.

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”

 

First we see the reason why the punishment is coming.  Like a father with his children, God is communicating the offense to ensure that his child understands the reason for the punishment, lest there be any notion or cry of injustice.  Next comes the punishment, “cursed is the ground”.  The serpent’s curse is physical, emotional (strife with the woman and her seed) and ultimately results in (eschatological) destruction, with the coming promised skull-crushing seed.  Eve’s curse is physical and we might say emotional as well, while Adam’s is purely physical, but also impacts creation.

God expounds upon this with the following:

  • In pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life
  • Thorns and thistles it (the ground) shall  bring forth
  • You shall eat of the plants of the field
  • By the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread
  • Til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken.
The Consequences

If, as so many have supposed, there is in Adam, pre-fall, the doctrine of vocation, that is that Adam was created to work as some sort of Edenic gardener,  then we must conclude that this curse isn’t all that provocative. Perhaps we could just conclude that he gardened pre-fall without breaking a sweat or that maybe the land cooperated more prior to the fall, or maybe the real curse is thorns and thistles, but even these would seem to neuter the effects of the fall and subsequently the curse that God has levied.

However, if, as we concluded in the post Adam’s rest, that Adam was made for worship and that this included serving God in His garden-temple as a type of king-priest and also that Adam had a symbiotic relationship with the ground, that brought forth food effortlessly at the command of God, then we may begin to feel the weight of this curse.  Now, as it is levied against Adam, all of those pre-fall benefits are lost.  Adam is stripped of his royal-liturgical role and His intimate relationship with God is forever changed and he is expelled from his place of rest in God’s garden.  His original functions, tend and keep, when held together implied priestly service.  Now, they are separated with guardianship of the garden given to a cherubim (Genesis 3:24) and tending or tilling of the land, outside the garden, now a necessity of Adam’s in order to live and provide for his family.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24

Here, on the outside, Adam will now be forced to labor for his bread.  The land, out of which he was created – symbolizing their symbiotic relationship-was now cursed causing him not only physical work, but bringing obstacles, thorns and thistles, against his efforts to bring forth fruit from the land.  This battle with the land would continue until Adam returned to the land, coming full circle with ground out of which he was created.

Sin resulted in a disruption of the rest that God had entered Adam into.  It resulted in the disruption of the relationship between Creator and His prize creation, that was in His image, man.  This broken rest also resulted in a disruption of the harmony between man and creation, which he once held dominion over.  It is this curse that all mankind have inherited, in Adam (though we might well mention the painful childbirthing that was passed to all womankind as well).   It is because of this curse that all creation even to this day groans, including humans (Romans 8:22-24).  This groaning comes from a longing to restore these once broken relationships, to make right was sin has made wrong.  All which will be reconciled and restored in Christ, who has even now begun His new creation, beginning with man and culminating with a New Heavens and Earth.