Posted by: mikenicholsblog | February 21, 2013

for our good

In any endeavor to read through the Bible, it is universally accepted that the book of Leviticus presents one of the most significant potential roadblocks to success. I am certain that many of the strongest resolves were broken before the reader reached the final verse of its final chapter. Leviticus is a book where the epic tension of the two R’s (rules vs. relationship) seems reduced to an open and shut case of, “the rules have it!”

As I began reading a bit ahead this week in preparation for writing, I got only a single verse into Leviticus chapter 26 before I skidded to a stop. My soul locked in on the first few words of verse 2 …

Observe my Sabbaths …”

As I sat and allowed those few words to echo in meditation, I “saw” the wide chasm between the two R’s all but completely disappear. Now, there is no arguing that “Remember the Sabbath” is a rule. It is number 4 on the “Top Ten” list. But inherent in this command from the great I AM, is a priority on relationship. God first modeled this “rule” for us, in choosing on the seventh day of creation to rest. The Creator of the universe, the source of all energy, the possessor of omnipotent power, rested. Did He need to? The obvious answer to that question is, “No”. Well then, there must have been a reason why He rested. And then at a pivotal moment in the history of his people, why He commanded that His day of rest be remembered in their individual lives.

Sabbath, or “shabat” in Hebrew, is literally translated as “rest” or the “cessation of work”. On the seventh day of creation, God stopped working and rested. Not from a place of fatigue, but rather of “finished”. Creation was complete, and God stopped. I also believe that during this cessation, He rested and communed with his creation. From these literal translations, it is not difficult to conclude why He commanded the remembrance of this in the lives of His people. It was a delineation between the work they did in, and of, themselves and the true source of all the fruits of their labor. And created a proper silence in which to worship their God, and commune with Him. It was a rest that produced peace, and nurtured and grew relationship. I love the early picture of God’s provision for His people in the desert. Each day God would provide manna. And each day there would be just enough for that day. Except on the sixth day, when God provided enough for two days. He was true in supplying their need so they could live in obedience to His command. How purposed and amazing is that!

It is so easy, isn’t it, to fill our lives with the “stuff” of work, and family and service. Things that in their proper context can be very good. But also things which can rather quickly crowd our lives and attentions, and create a barrier between us and the Creator in who’s image we were created. Take the time to “cease work” and “rest”.

Being busy and absorbed in work are obviously not just modern problems. God’s desire for His people has always been, and will forever be that they intentionally set aside time to cease work, rest and be in relationship with Him on a rhythm of one day a week.  By the way we live our lives, it seems pretty obvious that we think He was just kidding about that, or meant it allegorically.  Our Creator desires a deep relationship with us.  He established the Sabbath for our good.  A Sabbath that is not defined by the practice and particulars of a ritual, but rather time and presence given in love, offered in obedience and motivated by what He has done for us.

yeam2012


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