Tag Archives: Sabbath

Repentance

Meditations on the Psalms

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. (Psalm 2:10 ESV)

God calls those who rebel against Him to repentance. All who mutiny against God and incite mutinous behavior in others face His unavoidable wrath and ultimately, annihilation. God commands them to turn away from their sin and rebellion because only the foolish continue to fight against the God who created them. Wisdom is a godly characteristic.

God uses two words to encourage these disobedient and obstinate leaders back to a relationship with Him. He tells the kings to be wise and the rulers to be warned. Wise means to be prudent, circumspect, have insight, understand the signs of the times and the thinking of the heart of themselves and others. Kings are to consider carefully their words, actions and judgments, looking for the perfect combination of prudence and application to bring the most honor to both themselves and their kingdom. Warned means to be chastened, admonished and instructed, corrected and disciplined. Rulers are to apply the rulings of the king to the people in a way which fulfills the intent of their sovereign.

Since both kings and rulers are under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the thinking of their hearts should reflect the intent of God, not themselves. This statement is an admonishment to return to serving God. God tells them to stop sinning.

On a Sabbath, early in His ministry, while in Jerusalem during a feast, Jesus spoke to an invalid at a pool called Bethsaida. Many invalids congregated there because of a superstitious belief an angel of God would come down occasionally, stir the waters of the pool, and the first person into the pool would be healed of their infirmity. Jesus approached only one of the invalids and healed him. He did not heal any of the others.

The man’s focus, his eyes, the thinking of his heart, was solely on the pool and its magical properties given occasionally by a supernatural being. Jesus asked the man, only this one man, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6 ESV). Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole and complete. The man’s response showed his complete defeat and hopelessness in every becoming healthy. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV). He had been taught about the wrath of God against those who sinned. In the thinking of his heart, God made him this way because of some sin and under no circumstance would God undo what He had done. Nor did the invalid know who Jesus was. He clung to his superstitious, idolatrous belief and whined that no one cared to help him. Jesus healed the man instantly, telling him to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV).

When confronted by the religious leaders, the man who was healed still did not know Jesus by name. He had been healed on the Sabbath. He did not follow Jesus or cling to Him or devote himself to his benefactor. When Jesus withdrew Himself, the healed man did nothing to show his gratitude. Nor did he desperately search for Jesus. Instead, he went his way and was confronted by the Jews, probably the Jewish religious leaders, about carrying his bed, which was working and something verboten for any to do on the Sabbath. He admitted ignorance, pointing away from himself to the One who performed the miracle. His thinking in his heart was “don’t blame me. I’m only doing what I was told” not “he healed me, an invalid for 38 years.”

Jesus found the man again and spoke startling words to him. “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 ESV). The implication of Jesus’ words is “look at what happened to you. You are healed by My authority. Stop sinning or you will find yourself exiled from the presence of God.” We know the man immediately went to those who accused him of working on the Sabbath and told them it was Jesus who healed him. From this testimony, the Jews decided to persecute Jesus for breaking their rules.

Here is the crux of the rebuke of Psalm 2:10. Use the thinking of your heart to come to a reasonable conclusion about your rebellion against God and stop sinning. Jesus began His ministry preaching repentance. However, God has been commanding people to repent since the fall of Man. No one is excluded from this call.

Advertisements

Godly Institutions

Studies in Genesis 2

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:25

The man and the woman, created by God for relationship with Him and with each other, wore no clothing other than the skin in which they were created. They had no need for clothing. Yet, this verse adds a negative. They were not ashamed. They were doing nothing to cause guilt but were wholly within the design and purpose of God. Why the negative? This negative echoes the declaration of God that “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18 ESV). It would also appear that a negative is normal in the creation of the heavens and the earth. There was darkness in the beginning (see Genesis 1:1) then God created light. For our benefit God, who is perfect in Himself and all He does, declares the negative along with the positive and make all perfect.

There many things this chapter tells us, but two stand out. God establishes two institutions designed to point us toward Him individually and corporately. First, God tells us to rest on the seventh day because He rested. This weekly rest points us toward God and toward our place with Him in eternity.

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. (Genesis 2:1-3 ESV)

Secondly, God establishes and sanctifies marriage. He set apart the man, Adam, from all the other creatures and gave him responsibility to name them. Naming a thing means control and authority. We do not name God. He names Himself. God then took a piece of Adam and created Eve. From then on a piece of a man and a piece of a woman is used, according to the natural laws emplaced by God, to make more people. This is done according to the moral and natural laws instituted by God. Neither of these sets of laws are dependent upon circumstance or culture. From Adam and Eve throughout the generations of all people, God embedded all with His image just as all have the same likeness.

God wants all to rest in Him. God wants all to know Him intimately. Where there is a negative He provides a positive. Yet, relationship is a two-way street. Having the image of God each person now has the duty and responsibility to respond to God and each other according to God’s design. And, since God, who is unconstrained by time, knows all, knows what will happen in time with those He created in His image. His creation is ordered in such a way to sanction the sacrifice of His Son for those He loves.

 

God Blesses and Makes Holy

Studies in Genesis 2

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. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

This is now the third time God uses the word “blessed.” On the fifth day, when God created the sea creatures and the birds of the air He blessed them, saying they were to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22 ESV) and fill the earth. Then, on the sixth day God “blessed” Adam, Man, to not only fill the earth but to have dominion over all earthly living creatures. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). I think it of no consequence that God refrained from blessing the wild and domesticated animals and those creatures that creep. His blessing is to all earthly living things, that they are fruitful and multiply, according to their kind, and fill the earth.

“Blessing” means to kneel before and give that which cannot be had otherwise. Where God blessed living creatures during creation, here He blesses, not a period of time but the totality of the end result of His work of creation. If we read the first six days as periods of time with definitive beginnings and endings, then God’s seventh “day” has a beginning but no end. Or, the seventh day is the end of creation where all is accomplished according to God’s eternal purpose and He will do nothing else. God is eternal, unconstrained by time. For us to view Him in time helps us understand Him in a limited, space-time manner, but ultimately our understanding of Him will never define Him.

God uses His eternal character to define His blessing of the seventh day. He declares it “holy.” He set apart the seventh day from all the rest. He sanctified it and dedicated it to Himself. Holiness carries all of the eternal attributes of God for His use and according to His design and for His direction ad purpose. Nothing holy is defiled or corrupted, bent or broken, unable to fulfill its purpose and design because of a flaw. Nothing God creates is flawed or broken or unable to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. Holiness is integral to God. It does not surround Him, or direct Him or force Him to conform to its purpose. Holiness is God. All which God does is holy.

God’s Sabbath is holy and all created by God are designed to recognize Him as such. Holiness cannot be ignored. Man, created in the image of God for intimate relationship with Him was given an immediate and eternal disposition to love God and enjoy Him in peace and rest. Now, God tells Man to view and treat Him as holy and to keep, as a reminder and promise, the Sabbath set apart for intimate relationship with Him.

God Rests

Studies in Genesis 2

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. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

God finished His work and then He rested. Do not think God is exhausted from His work or that He needs to sleep so He can get up after the weekend and do it all again.

We need to have an understanding of God’s work for us to understand God’s rest. God worked in creation. His work is everything He does which is natural to His being. He does not work for someone else but acts according to His eternal nature. What He begins He finishes, perfectly completing all He determined to accomplish. He then ceases working on creation. He finishes creation, because there is nothing left to do. His finishing creation and ceasing to work He calls “rest.” God “rested.”

“Rested” is a verb and means to cease or desist from labor. It is the word shabat from which is derived the noun shabbath translated Sabbath. So, on the seventh day of creation, the sabbath, God rested, shabat.

One of the questions which arises is whether after God rested He again began to work. We are told God finished His work. If He were to begin working again it would be to do something different, unrelated to that which He created. A new project. We don’t know about God’s “projects” other than the space-time universe in which we live. Yet, Jesus tells us He and His Father are still working. “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:15 ESV). John uses a word for “work” which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “work” used in Genesis 2.

Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and the Jewish leaders are incensed. One of the rules the Jewish leaders extrapolated from Scripture was no one was to “work” on the Sabbath. Apparently healing a person on the Sabbath was considered “work.” That, and Jesus told the man healed to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV), which is also considered work by the Jewish leaders. Not only was Jesus working but encouraging others to work on the Sabbath. How scandalous.

Jesus’ response to the superstitious tradition of not doing physical labor on the Sabbath was that God works and is still working, regardless of the day of the week. These Jewish leaders misunderstood what it means to work and rest. They also have a skewed understanding of God. They do not know Him either intellectually or intimately.

Jesus is God. It was He who created the heavens and the earth, every atom in the universe, accomplishing exactly what He intended. It was He who wrote the Scripture, inspiring the writers to record, in their own voices, that which He wanted. It is He who declares Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” “for the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8 ESV). It is He who created the beginning of the space-time universe and it is He who will bring it to an end.

God’s rest is in our future. He is not constrained by the space-time universe He created but exists outside of it. Those laws which hold the universe together are sustained by Him until He decides to bring the universe to an end. The laws of the universe, like the moral laws, are a reflection of Him but do not control Him. Scripture tells us He rested after He finished His work. Those who are His know how to rest in Him because they are looking forward to His rest in eternity.

God’s Fourth Statement

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. [Exodus 20:8-11 ESV]

Persecution is designed to cause terror, to distract and upset the normal life of work and rest and relationship. Yet, God states we are to work and rest and know Him and this the world hates.

In this fourth statement, God moves back to the purpose of why He created man. We were created in His image to do His work as He would want it done. When He finished His work of creation He rested. God does not exist in space-time creation. He exists in eternity. We do not have the right to lower Him into our history, or constrain Him by the same laws He created to sustain the universe. I am not interested in debating young versus old-earth theology. We are speaking about God, who holds the universe in His hand, sees the beginning of history from the end, and every moment and molecule contained therein. Before we see man as the crown of His creation we hear Him speak about what He had accomplished.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.  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. [Genesis 1:31-2:3 ESV]

God explains one of the reasons why He created man in His image. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” [Genesis 2:15 ESV]. Just as God works and keeps the universe man works and keeps the garden. As God is to the universe so man is to the garden. Man was His authority and is His mouthpiece over the garden. He made man higher than all other creation but He did not make man god. There can be no other god, and man does not have the right to make creation a god, nor to attribute to anything other than God what He has done and does. Keeping the Sabbath is a recognition of who we are before Him, that we are His not He ours.

When Jesus and His disciples walked through a grain-field on the Sabbath and harvested the grain with their hands because they were hungry they were attacked by the Pharisees for “working on the Sabbath” which is “unlawful.” Jesus’ response is quick and sure. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” [Mark 2:27-28 ESV]. God did not rest because He had to. He is not constrained by law. Nor does man keep the Sabbath because he has to. God tells us to keep that which is a natural part of the image of God in man. If we do not keep His Sabbath it is because of our rebellion against Him.

The writer of Hebrews drives home this point (see Hebrews 4:9-12). We are counseled to not rebel, to not harden our hearts as Israel did during the exodus, and refused to believe and trust God. It is the Sabbath which teaches us to rest in Him. We work, for that is one of the given purposes of God. But we work for Him. We rest, because that is one of the given purposes of God. But we rest in Him. Those who rebel, who refuse to work for Him, will never rest in Him.

God’s rest is eternal, just as He is eternal. His Sabbath’s rest is eternal rest. Our temporal rest of every seventh day is a looking forward to His eternal rest, with Him. As is true with each of these ten statements this one points to our rebellion against the God who created us, who sustains us, who governs us, and who gives us purpose. A Sabbath rest is a matter of the heart, the being of each person, and reveals the intimacy, or lack of intimacy, of the relationship we have with the only One who created us.

Those who would bring suffering on the righteous would steal away the peace and rest we have in God, breaking our relationship. Since our relationship is founded on God and His work and promise none can sever it, though they bring upon us the harshest treatment. Their lack of rest and peace is evident by the treatment they show toward those who are God’s. Our trust in God’s promise, His eternal being, is a witness to the world of God’s presence and power.

Jesus Mercy Toward …

One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” [John 5:5-7 ESV]

“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked a simple question. He did this often. His question strikes at the truth of the man’s hopelessness. God does ask us questions. His questions are designed to reveal our hearts, our motivations and objectives. He rarely offers us options. He never asks us to do something. He always commands we do what He tells us to do.

It is no surprise many carrying their handicaps as well as their sinful, immoral habits comfortably on their shoulders. If they were honest with themselves they would say “no” to Jesus’ question. They don’t want to be healed. For being healed sends them into an unknown, having to deal with parts of life they never had to confront. For most of us the answer to His question is “are you kidding? Of course I want to be healed.” Yet, being healed, being changed into something healthy carries great cost. We don’t want to confront our sin and live any differently than the comfort of our current situations.

Notice the one Jesus healed and those He did not heal. Near him lay a “multitude of invalids” all gathered under the same place all clinging to a superstitious belief an angel would stir water and the first one in is healed. He had been an invalid for 38 years. We can only speculate if his condition was all his life. He had been an invalid for so long he had grown comfortable with his lot. His focus was on the water and the impossibility of ever being changed. His faith was fixed on one thing and it wasn’t God. Besides, God made him this way. Why should God want to heal him?

His place was hopeless. He would die an invalid.

I wonder if Jesus, in order to not attract attention to Himself, whispered to the man as he lay in his usual place? I imagine the question was for him only. I wonder what Jesus saw in this man? Why did Jesus speak to him and not the others ? Why did Jesus show tangible mercy to this man and not to the others? I have an idea.

Jesus healed him to test the hearts of the religious leaders of Jerusalem. I say this for two reasons. First, He healed the man on the Sabbath and then told him to work. Jesus’ instruction Get up, take up your bed, and walk” [John 5:8 ESV] was a command and the man immediately obeyed. And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath” [John 5:9 ESV]. This is neither the first nor the last time Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. But the Jewish tradition, building an impenetrable wall around the fourth commandment determined carrying anything was a violation of the intent of the Law. Jesus continually challenged the Religious leaders interpretation and application of Scripture. Jesus healed this man because He knew the Jewish leaders would challenge, not the reality of the healing but the violation of their traditional understanding of God’s Law.

Keep God’s law and He will reward you. Violate God’s Law and His wrath will fall on you. Their understanding of God’s Law was as superstitious as the invalid’s belief that stepping into a pool after the water was stirred by an angel would bring healing.

When we focus on the invalid and not the Lord we may draw many conclusions about what might have happened. How ecstatic he may have been. How worshipful and thankful to God he may have been. We do not know his emotional state beyond the hopelessness of his response to Jesus question. We do see the reaction of the Jews to one working on the Sabbath. Had not God decreed death to those who worked on the Sabbath? Working on the Sabbath was strictly forbidden. But then, so was every other sin. Jesus regularly challenged the thinking and heart motivations of the strict Jews whose faith was in the Law and not the God upon whom the Law is founded.

Our work of faith is the evidence of faith at work. Obedience to God is expected and carries no merit. We cannot say to Him, I obeyed now You owe me. It is our responsibility to obey God as His creation and servants. When we take His words, especially His Scripture, and add to them our own laws and expectations we supplant His authority. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath He had the authority to do so. When He commanded a man “work” He had the authority to do so. When he challenged the legalistic machinations of the Jewish authorities it was because they were challenging His authority.

Man’s interpretation of God’s Law is not merciful. Law trumps mercy when applied by sinful man and is manipulated and reconfigured to leave control with man and not God. Man’s understanding of justice demands the Law be applied strictly. It is the Law which becomes the object of faith, just as the pool was the invalids object of faith. However, when God is the object of faith then the Law only points out the sinfulness of man .

The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. [Romans 7:10-14 ESV]

But God is merciful as part of His eternal character. He offers mercy but still demands obedience. The second reason is this: Jesus commanded the invalid to do two things, not one, separated by a short period. First, He told him to pick up his mat and walk, and the man did. But, later He told the man to stop sinning. “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you’” [John 5:14 ESV]. What could be worse than being an invalid for 38 years? What could be worse than having the Jews angry with you for violating the Law? Being separated from God because of sin is worse.

God’s mercy trumps man’s interpretation of the Law. After all, it’s His Law and it conforms to His eternal character. When controlled by sin the Law is used to fight to keep power over those under it and is used to frustrate and even stop God’s mercy. God’s mercy and justice are not opposed to each other but are fully compatible. Jesus had mercy on this man, actively loving him by healing his body and giving him direction toward God. He no more deserved God’s mercy than anyone else in the world.

It was the Jews, whose object of faith was the Law and not God, who turned the Law into an idol, who wanted to kill Jesus because he challenged their dishonesty and superstitious use of God’s Law.

This was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, He healed on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” [John 5:16-18 ESV].

It is Jesus’ equality with God, and His passionate substitution for us on the cross, which fulfills the law and energizes God’s mercy. Don’t allow any interpretation of Scripture to point away from Jesus and His active love for those who are His.

Joseph’s Tomb

Accompanied by Nichodemus they wrapped the body with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” [John 19:39-40 ESV] Jesus was accorded by these two members of the council a burial of an innocent man. Jesus’ entire body was covered in the spices and then wrapped tightly, the spices acting like an aromatic glue to reduce the odor of death and keep the body from falling apart. Rigor mortis had not yet begun so Jesus’ body was easily placed in a shape which would be fit in the place designed for a body in the tomb. After several years it was also the custom to open the tomb and collect the bones into a sarcophagus, or box large enough to hold the bones.

Here is a possible, even likely, image of the corpse. People were smaller 2,000 years ago than they are today. Jesus probably was not tall and may have weighed around 120 pounds. No one knows for sure. This is conjecture. Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped Jesus body after applying half his weight in spices and then bound it tightly with cloth. His body was imprisoned in a shroud. Next it would be imprisoned in a tomb. He was dead and not going anywhere.

Tombs in this area were cut into the sides of the mountains and hills, done so for those who were especially wealthy. Jewish culture demanded a body be buried immediately, or a soon as possible after death. Those crucified with Jesus, the executed criminals who deserved death, were taken down and thrown on the trash heap and eaten by scavenger animals. Jesus was buried according to current (for that time) Jewish custom. They put Jesus “in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock” [Matthew 27:60 ESV]. This tomb belonged to Joseph and where “no one had ever yet been laid” [Luke 23:53 ESV]. Then, they rolled a huge stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. This stone was cut in a circle, weighed probably several thousand pounds, and set in a groove so it could be rolled into place and not easily moved once in place. “And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away” [Matthew 27:60 ESV].

There is no doubt about Jesus’ death. They buried a dead body. He may have been able to raise others from death but now he was dead there was no expectation he could any longer do anything. It was fast approaching evening, which is the beginning of the Passover Sabbath, and they needed to be done with their morbid task. Joseph’s tomb was nearby and convenient. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there” [John 19:41-42 ESV]. Those women who loved Jesus watched as Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body and placed it in the tomb. They saw where the tomb was and how Jesus body was placed in the tomb. “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid” [Luke 23:55 ESV]. As the Sabbath began they went to where they were staying and continued gathering spices with which they could further anoint Jesus body. They would not do this the next day but the day after. “Then they returned (to where they were staying during the Passover) and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” [Luke 23:56 ESV]. How they intended to open the tomb and accomplish their intended desire is not addressed in the documents. Perhaps they were relying on some of the disciples to roll the stone away so they could continue to lavish on his body more of the expensive spices they gathered.