What day is it? It’s so easy to get the days of the week mixed up. Everyday seems the same, at least it was until I thought about today. Something struck me forcefully. Like most of us, I grew up calling this Saturday, but Biblically and historically for the Jewish people this is Sabbath, the day of rest. I’m not going to engage in some debate about whether or not Christians should observe Saturday as Sabbath but I am going to invite you take a closer look at the hugely rich significance of the concept of ‘rest’ in the Bible, particularly in light of the ‘enforced’ rest that many of us are experiencing both individually and nationally.
All too often the opening chapters of the Bible are overlooked by well meaning enthusiasts who think that the story begins with the fall of humanity. However it actually begins with the good designs of the Creator, who even in a pre-fallen world had given a day of rest. A Jewish scholar called Abraham Heschel has called this day ‘a transcendental oasis in time’. In fact he wrote a wonderful little book called THE SABBATH, which is worth looking into as it is a powerful corrective to the cold legalism of some fundamentalist interpretations of how the day should be observed. It’s worth taking a minute or two to let the truth sink in that from the very outset the Creator had scheduled a weekly rest for humanity. Even the structure of the week was for the good. God’s design not only was for his glory but also for the ultimate good of humanity. Ignoring his design can only be to our detriment.
This was a point that the Book of Chronicles demonstrates powerfully. Perhaps it’s not the most popular of books but it’s rather fascinating and timely when you take the time to read it. It is one two accounts of the history of Israel’s monarchy, the other being 1st and 2nd Kings. The latter was probably written just before the Jewish exile while the former was written looking back on the exile.
You may well be thinking that this is of absolutely no relevance or value to me today. Please bear with me just a moment. Indulge me by reading these words from the very end of Chronicles. “The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation, until the seventy years were completed in fulfilment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.” (II Chronicles36:21)
Exile had come as judgement upon a nation in which the people had become too busy to rest. If they were too occupied or pre-occupied to stop even one day in the week then God would enforce that rest upon them to allow his land to rest. I’m sure we can all draw our own parallels and conclusions from this. All I would ask is that, in doing so, we recall the words of a learned man who said ‘these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.’ (I Corinthians 10:6).