Essay: The Nature of the Sabbath
Dynamics of the Sabbath
In being the first thing which God called sacred in the human realm, God’s words of blessing upon the seventh day rest is comparable to Adam’s own first words toward woman. Such a comparison means that the proper focus of the human creature’s life is not any code of law, or sacred verbatim, but is, rather, the blessings which the Creator gave to human life as such. The proper focus for a human person is to be and become what a human person was made to be and become. Anything less is to fail to flourish. In short, the proper focus of the living of human life is the living of human life.
This is why even the ‘pessimist of the Old Testament’, who wrote that ‘all is vanity’, concluded that fellowship at mealtime is the standard of general blessedness even for a man who, in knowledge of his own mortality, has lived ‘in vain’.
So, only by the most extended and deep violations of the truths of marriage and the Sabbath is even God Himself finally induced to impose commands and enforcements concerning keeping them. God had a man stoned to death for working, not because that man was working as such, but because of how deeply greedy that man’s work was in his refusal to abide the ‘respiration of the Creation’ which is the Sabbath day. The final phrase of Revelation 11:18 puts the finger on the ultimate natural product of that greed, a product which God would not allow to infect the establishment of His own nation.
So, God was not being a legalist for having given, commanded, and enforced the seventh-day rest upon His own nation. The Sabbath, and the keeping of the Sabbath, is not legalistic. What is legalistic is keeping a law in such a narrow-minded and finger-pointing way that the form of its keeping is alloyed with the error of making it into a burden rather than letting it be the blessing upon all life which it must be.
This is why Christ and John the Baptist called the Pharisees vipers: they were teachers of a righteousness which made themselves out to be the essential spiritual superiors of those who did not so keep the letter of the Law. Judgmental-ism is the friend only of misjudgment, and the spiritual viper, though being blessed in some worldly ways by the keeping the form of all of God's laws, is the greatest enemy of God. A man who brushes his teeth every day is not therefore a good keeper of his teeth, even though his brushing is a good action: he may, in fact, have an infected tooth which is going to get to his brain and kill him.
So, these two truths, marriage and the Sabbath, are in exact contrast to one another in a most important way: together they encompass the whole of human life, in that one is the most obvious of all possible creatures (sexuality), and the other is the most subtle of all creatures (the very respiration of the cosmos which is the day of rest). In other words, one is of a nature which is more demandingly and constantly obvious to us than would be the name of God written permanently across the sky in the form of a roaring fire; and the other is of a nature so subtle and quiet that, for a man in the fallen state to sense it at all, he must be absolutely perfect.
While the need for rest, as such, is obvious, only in keeping the true day of rest can the soul be kept from exchanging that day for any another. A man who thinks to keep his wife, but who sees no difference between her and any other woman, is a man who soon will exchange his wife for any other woman, and then who soon will keep no wife at all. To see no difference between the days is to see nothing wrong with taking and allowing rest only when you, personally, are struck by a whim or a wish to take and allow it. The cohesion of human life depends on abiding the cycles of the Creation itself, and the best time to toil the ground is not when the ground is frozen in winter.
So, do not mistake subtlety for triviality. The subtlety of all the microscopic ecology is that on which depends the health and very continuance of all macroscopic life on Earth. Even more subtle is the being of God, who, though everywhere present, does not crowd anyone out of their chair. In fact, despite that God speaks always, He does not shout out even the roaring greed of the infidel. This is the infidel who, in denying God’s necessity to every one of Creation’s dynamics, goes blindly into the grave while his descendants reap the errors of his greedy ways.
As surely as the sun goes down each day, and as surely as a man’s thirst compels him to water, so the only way to sense the deepest rhythm of Creation is to breath as it breaths. This respiration of the cosmos is the Sabbath day. And, in a fallen world of toiling the ground, this also is the Sabbath year.
Though all days may seem the same to men whose days are all too full of silent greed and roaring vanity, there is nothing indifferent or random about the days. On one day shall Christ return in power, and that day shall not be a trivial one in terms of the present cycles of the Creation. The Earth is exactly where it should be, so that a seven-fold of paper is as virtually the maximum as that of the waves upon a safe shore. Ever since the beginning of the Creation, there has been one right time according to which a man ought never to ignore guiding his canoe over the reef. Mankind is not made to live in a boat.
But, unlike the roaring waves of water on an unstable-but-livable Earth, the most primal waves of the physical Cosmos are as subtle as the life of a comatose man to people who already are too busy fighting over his Will to realize he is not actually dead. The instant they bury him, they condemn him to death by their ignorance of him: the longer they leave him buried, the surer it is that he becomes his survivors’ self-fulfilling prophecy.
But, when that man is none other than the Creator, no one survives His death. So, once greed and ignorance allow that that man may be exchanged for any other, nothing is left to be kept off-limits from the greedy ignorance of a secular liberty. Then, all are increasingly enslaved to an abdominal Prince of Darkness, so that, in their most final triumphant independence from that most lowly thing which they knew not, even the planet itself finally is caused to reel and shudder in grief.
The Sabbath in the Bible: Greed-and-Adversariality vs. Rest
There is no mention in the pre-Israel portion of the Bible of anyone practicing the Sabbath. But, neither therein is there mention of nearly any other thing which it surely was wrong not to practice. Charity. Rest in general. Allowing others the right to rest. Etc..
The first mention of the Sabbath (seventh day) includes no command concerning it. But, if God called it sacred from the beginning of human existence, then what point would such calling be? Was it only that first seventh day that God meant to call sacred? And, if so, then what about it would have made it sacred? Did all the Creation rest on that day?
Did even the fallen Adam and Eve feel no need of rest from their toil every several days? Did they never take a day of rest? If they did take one, then did they never take it regularly? If they took it regularly, then what was its regulation? Every nine days? Why not every three days? Even momentary exhaustion commands momentary reprieve. And, then, there is the regular compulsion to sleep.
To what extent should we pattern our lives after the original pattern which God set for life in our world? God does not sleep, but He did cease his work of Creation. And, He called the seventh day sacred, special. He called it so not for exhaustion of His energies, as if he were in need of rest from his...toil...lest He collapse in a useless heap. He called it special because, even in the unfallen world, human life should not be one endless sequence of days for tending Eden, and for expanding Eden to all the Earth. There ought to be a day set apart simply for living; and for celebrating life; and for communing with God, and with nature, and with all of the human family.
Just as there is a distinction between day and night, so there is a distinction between work and living. Work ought to be a joy, even in the fallen world. But, work is not rest. And, work is not celebration in the fruits of your labor. When you build a beautiful house for yourself, you do not immediately go away and build another, and then another. Rather, you stand and glory in the work of your hands, and then you go inside your house to live in it. The garden of Eden was a house-without walls which God built. A very, very big house. The biggest that there has ever been. And, more luxurious than it is possible for any house---or, indeed, for any place---to be in the fallen world.
So, if that first seventh day was special in terms of the functions of the Creation, then it would have been special the second time around, and the third, etc.. The day when all those who were made in the image of God would naturally have rested from their efforts to make all the Earth a Garden of gardens. And, in the unfallen world, it would have been natural to unfallen humans to sense the gentleness of that one day. The gentleness of that day. No roaring wave was it. No compelling thirst to a parched throat. Gentle.
The gentlest day. No command could have been given concerning it, because any command, however blessedly given, would have detracted from its gentleness. Commands were given regarding other things, such as to exercise dominion over the Earth, and to multiply. But, these commands were concerning the strenuous instincts. The act of providing for rest and celebration is not a strenuous instinct, but a gentle one. The gentlest day of all. Over-work was not to be an element of that unfallen world. But, over-work surely is an element even of life itself in the fallen world: to so much as breath is to work toward a final death.
But, if over-work is a constant element in the fallen world, then how much more need have we of rest who are born to die. And, how much less ought we to be ignorant of the respiration of the Creation, so that we do not ignore the times at which it is only right to guide our boat over the harsh reef of toil.
There is no word in the whole of the story of Abraham concerning God telling anyone to take rest on the seventh of every seven days. But, there is no mention, either, in the whole of the Bible, of how Abraham knew to give a tithe to Melchizedek. Did Abraham give it by pure inspiration from God, such that Abraham, and, indeed, the whole world, had no prior practice of a tithe? The first thing which God called sacred in the human world was the seventh day. So, unless there was no record of that original week, then Abraham had knowledge of that day. But, a tithe, by any name, is begotten by common sense, just as is charity begotten by common sense. This was the central means of appeal which Jesus made to his doubtful listeners: do not even you seek a lost sheep on the Sabbath? The most charitable thing is to grant rest to those who have toiled in mind of obtaining rest. To cease commanding them in their toil for your own greedy glory, and to give them a status which becomes one who is made in the image of God.
So, only the most insanely greedy do not grant even themselves a day of rest, who are ever in mind of the competition of men and of nature. They are in mind even of the infidel who is called righteous by the righteous, and who all are together ignorant of their own ignorant secularism. So, it is seen that the Bible is no Complete Idiot’s Guide, though small portions of it approach such simplicity of purpose. The only truly secular text in existence is a wholly foolproof one, which, in fact, does not exist. Because, if it did exist, then no fool, and no ignorant pansy, would fail to esteem it as the perfectly righteous, duty-bearing (i.e., religious) text.
The day was changed, for ignorant and greedy cause, and nothing has been the same since. And, so, the sacred text all the more has been taught, and read, as if it were a Complete Idiot's Guide. It is from this error that the most determined fools escape to a sanity which nevertheless rejects the text itself. These 'sane fools' are ever in mind of all those who, in so preaching it, preach it in a greedy arrogance which itself is in mind of all the competition---including that of the human intellect itself, such that faith is reduced to blind loyalty, and the test of Abraham taught according to the verbatim of the story itself lest any child get a mind to reject the insane kind of fear by which they are held in subjection to their most foolishly greedy elders. This is what happens when no day is esteemed as inherently special, but merely accepted as such by the command of a God who is mistaken for a Creator Devil/lawgiver.
For such “believers”, the God who walked beside Adam, and beside Eve, is too vague a character, such that the wise necessities required for the present, fallen world is supposed as the standard by which humans were originally made. So, the marriage vow in place of marriage, and work-toil in place of life. So, a more direct sense of things is considered not to be a prerequisite to wisdom, but, rather, to be a rebelliousness against God per the verbatim of God, and against the verbatim-and-leadership of men-who-follow-the-verbatim-of-God-in-place-of-both-God-and-common-sense.
"This is spiritual warfare", they said, "and no one has a right to truly rest, lest they become slothful." So said even the evil Pharaoh, who could not rest knowing that the Hebrews were more sound-of-body than were his own pagan subjects. It is leadership from the top, despite the extent to which all are alike in wisdom and foolishness; with church services having become dependably convenient for a spectation whose duty does not carry to the whole day, and thus if the other pharaoh commands toil, or if the spectator has opted for toil, then there is no real violation. All the better for the bottom line, and for the glory which will not stoop to those made ragged of soul and body by others’ “responsible” greed.
So, there is a story of three men: One man was stoned to death for toiling. A second man allowed himself to be crucified to save that first man from such greed of toil. A third man lived as a 'believer' in the second man, but died as mocker-and-infidel of that man “because”, he said, “you, that second man, on whom I had hoped against my enemies, have turned out not to be so mighty in terms of the greedy adversariality which my enemies invoke as the means by which to competete against them.” Ironically, this third man, in so mocking the second man, himself died in a state of competition against that second man.
That third man did not believe in Rest, which is why, despite himself being fallen and full of sin, and therefore being the very substance of a lack of rest, refused to recognize Jesus as Rest Personified.