Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Rest (01/17/13)
TITLE: A Gift of Great Grace
By Myrna Noyes
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As the workday slips into memory and dusk quietly descends, I kindle evening lights against the encroaching darkness and rise to welcome a sweet and special guest. According to Jewish tradition, she is the Sabbath Queen, fair of face and form, coming like a finely-arrayed Bride to reign over the next 24 hours. An aura of calm envelops this serene Symbol and blesses me, too. My mind and heart are suddenly stilled and waiting. In a quiet corner of my soul, I imagine I hear her voice chiming the anticipated greeting of "Sabbath Peace," and I echo her words in a soft whisper.
Though a Christian saved solely by Christ's righteousness alone, not bound by any legalistic duty or denominational demand to observe this ancient Day of Delight, I receive it gratefully as a precious Present from a loving Father Who wants to spend some quality time with His child. These hours are time set apart, work set aside.
The Hebrew for our word "Sabbath" is "Shabbat" or "Shavat" and means a stopping, a ceasing. Like a rest in music, it's a rhythmic pause between sound and action on either side of it. It is time to reflect and remember, an oasis of refreshing and renewal. It's a sacred spiritual space that denotes freedom and liberation. It resounds with Christ's ringing Cross-declaration, in that powerful and pregnant moment before He died to loose us from the greedy grasp of sin, death, and the evil one: "IT IS FINISHED." His work on earth was done, the victory was won, and Jesus would now rest Himself for a brief period before His triumphant Resurrection.
Scripture gives us some specific reasons for the Divine call to celebrate the Sabbath. Probably the best-known one--to stand as a memorial of Creation's completion--is found Exodus 20's recital of the Ten Commandments: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy...for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day." This passage itself is an echo of Genesis 2:2,3: "By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done."
A second purpose for the day was as a reminder to God's people of their deliverance from bondage. In the lesser-known recounting of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, we read these words: "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy...Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord Your God. On it you shall not do any work...Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord Your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord Your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." At the Cross we were also brought out of bondage and slavery to sin by Christ's selfless sacrifice.
Hebrews 4 speaks of our spiritual Sabbath-rest, referencing the symbolism of the seventh day. This chapter is not a restatement of the commandment, though, when it assures us, "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us make every effort to enter that rest..." This rest is that of faith in Jesus' finished work on our behalf.
So I choose to celebrate the day as a heaven-sent gift of great grace, centered on Christ, Who proclaimed Himself as Sabbath's Lord. He also made it clear that our Father didn't make us for it, but rather it for us--a day free from our ordinary tasks in which to do good as He did.
Therefore, as daylight fades, I joyfully light my candles, put on some beautiful music, recite a special prayer, savor some festive foods, and revel in the arrival of the lovely Sabbath Queen.
All Scripture quoted is from the NIV. The references, in order, are as follows: John 19:30; Exodus 20:8-11; Genesis 2:2,3; Deuteronomy 5:13-15; Hebrew 4:9-11; Mark 2:27,28
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