Rest for Human Restlessness:
A Theological Study of the Good News of the Sabbath for Today
What an exciting and yet paradoxical age in which to live! We can tune our radio and TV receivers to sound and pictures coming from outer space or across the ocean, and yet we often neglect to tune our souls to God and fail to hear His voice. Scientists can explore the complexities of our solar system with sophisticated instruments mounted on rockets, and yet many are skeptical about the existence of the Designer of such a complex and magnificent system. We live and move among large crowds and yet many human beings are afflicted by a deep sense of loneliness and anonymity. Some fly to distant exotic lands to seek for excitement or rest and tranquillity, and yet boredom, restlessness and anxiety remain in their inner souls.
We can feed enormous quantities of information into computers and solve most complex problems and yet most people seem unable to find answers to the fundamental question concerning the meaning and destiny of their life. We can race the sun across the sky with supersonic jets and yet we often fail to reach the needy who may live across the street. We can dial a few numbers and talk instantly with someone living in the farthest continent, and yet we often fail to communicate with our closest kin: our husband, wife, parents and children. We have learned to harness many types of natural resources in order to ensure the comforts of modern living, and yet our very existence is being threatened by resource depletion and biosphere pollution. To sum it all up, one may say that though our society has become increasingly rich in goods, it has remained poor in the good. Wealth in knowledge, possessions and creature comforts, has been matched by spiritual emptiness, economic poverty, physical exhaustion, emotional frustration and social neglect.
What contribution can a recovery of the Biblical Sabbath values make toward a solution to these pressing human problems? Can the proper observance of the Sabbath help a person overcome the sense of Godís absence and experience His presence instead? Can Sabbath worship and fellowship help those afflicted by a sense of loneliness and anonymity to regain a sense of worth and belonging? Does the celebration on the Sabbath of Godís creative and redemptive acts offer adequate motivation to be compassionate toward the needy? Can the admiration of nature and the limitation on its use contemplated by the Fourth Commandment contribute to solving the ecological crisis?
Theseare some of the basic questions dealt with in this chapter. For the sake of clarity, the study will be divided into four parts, each examining one aspect of the service the Sabbath is designed to provide: (1) Service to God; (2) Service to Self; (3) Service to Others; (4) Service to Our Habitat.
The Christian serves God every day of his life. Yet the service he renders God during the weekdays differs from that which he offers on the Sabbath. Why? Because during the week he serves God while serving an employer and meeting the many demands of life. The everyday service may be called the Martha type, in which the Savior is given implicit acknowledgment while pursuing oneís obligations.
The Sabbath service, on the other hand, is of the Mary type, in which explicit and undivided attention is offered to Christ. All secular pursuits are interrupted in order to acknowledge the Savior as the special guest of honor. Desisting from gainful employment in order to be available for Christ represents in itself a meaningful act of worship. It is this act of resting that makes all other Sabbath activities a worship offering to God, because they spring from a soul who has deliberately decided to honor God on His Holy Day. This means that our study of the service offered to God on the Sabbath must begin with a proper understanding of the act of resting itself and then proceed to examine the manifold activities made possible by the Sabbath rest.
1. Rest as Divine Service
A total response. There is a marked tendency today to divorce the "worship" from the "rest" content of the Sabbath day. It is argued that since the shorter working week provides not one but two or more days of rest, the commandment to rest on the seventh day is no longer applicable to the needs of contemporary Christians. Such a view fails to recognize that the Scripture defines the Sabbath rest, as it was pointed out in chapter III, not merely as an ant hropocentric relaxation but primarily as a Theocentric rest. It is given to mankind (Mark 2:27) but it belongs to Yahweh (Ex. 20:10; Mark 2:28).
If the Sabbath were given to mankind only to meet physical, social and economic needs, then it would truly be a human holiday of dubious value today, since two or more weekly days of leisure are presently available to large segments of society. However, the focus of the Sabbath rest is not man but God: "the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord" (Ex. 31:15; 16:23, 25; 35 :2; Lev. 23 :3). In other words, the Sabbath rest is not merely a temporary recovery from simply mental or physical fatigue, but a reflection of the "rest" of God Himself (Ex. 20:11), appointed to aid human beings in regaining the Divine Image.
God does not need the "rest" of human beings. What He desires is that human beings recognize and accept His dominion over their lives and time. "In keeping with this dominion," aptly writes Franz X. Pettirsch, "the first duty of creatures endowed with reason is to acknowledge God by sacrificing possessions and property, time and space, work and business. Thus the day of worship becomes more than a socio-economic regulation; it assumes the character of a divinely inspired, profoundly religious veneration of God."1
The deliberate consecration of the Sabbath time to God is symbolic of a total response to God. It is an act of worship which is not exhausted in an one-hour church service, but lasts twenty-four hours.2 Such a totally conscious response is not possible during the week when the mind is occupied with pressing demands. On the Sabbath, however, by resting specifically for God, the Christian shows his commitment of the week days as well, when it is not possible in practice to offer to God the same undivided and conscious acknowledgment.
A remedy for work-worship. There is a constant risk that work may become an object of veneration. The concern for production and profit on the one hand, and the conviction that all have the right to a job, no matter of what kind, on the other hand, can easily elevate work to a high virtue, the very object of living. The merits of a deceased person are often extolled by such comments, "He was such a hard-working man. His life has been only work!" Such a view leads to the fatal error of deifying work, making it the chief value for which to live.3
The "workoholic" lives only for his work and comes to believe that his work substitutes for Godís care. Mistrusting Godís providence, he constantly worries concerning the security and success of his work (Matt. 6:25-33). The Sabbath rest, by placing a limit on work, is designed to counteract this temptation to deify work. It teaches that God is the Lord of Ďall the work that occupies human existence. It tells a person to do all his work in the best possible way (Ex. 20:10), but without putting his trust in it. Why? Because the ultimate reality is not work in itself but rest in God.
Human beings were not created to produce goods for God or for themselves or for others, but rather to rejoice in the presence and service of God. The Sabbath rest stands as the symbol of this noble human destiny. "Last in creation, first in intention," the Sabbath is "the end of the creation of heaven and earth." 4 It teaches that the work of the six days finds its goal and meaning in the rest of the seventh day. This temporal rest experience is also a prefiguration and foretaste of the eternal rest awaiting Godís people.
Resting on the Sabbath then means to recognize the meaning of work and of life itself. It means to reject a lifestyle in which, to achieve comforts and status, one has to submit himself to the idol called work. It means to recognize that work is not a supreme value. It means to acknowledge that God has a claim on all our doing. To accept His claim, we take time out on the Sabbath to praise not the work of our hands but Godís working in, for and through our lives. It means to take time to present to God as a worship offering the little or great accomplishments of our weekly work.
A remedy for leisure-worship. If some are tempted to deify work, perhaps even more are inclined to make leisure a chief aspiration. The growing availability of free time, the increased personal income coupled with the dehumanizing effects of mechanical, boring jobs, are some of the factors that have changed the attitude of many toward work. For these persons work is not an end in itself but a means to an end, a means necessary to pay for week-end leisure. They quit the hellish work on Friday, eager to take off to some near or distant place, there to fill their empty time with a new round of activities. The sad reality is that usually they return to work on Monday not fresh and blooming but faded and drooping.
Why is it that many fail to achieve the hoped-for relaxation and regeneration of their being during their free time? An important factor is the neglect of their inner spiritual needs and resources. Believing that leisure, entertainment or even physical rest per se are adequate to restore weary bodies, many seek and pay only for the rest provided by the sanctuaries of our materialistic society: the football field, the amusement park, the beach, the dance-hall, the restaurant, the ski-resort, the national park, et cetera. Such leisure or entertainment places and activities by themselves, however, provide at best a form of evasion, a temporary oblivion of oneself, but leave an internal spiritual emptiness which is at the root of much exhaustion and tension.
True regeneration occurs when the mental, physical and spiritual components of our being are brought into harmonious unity. The Sabbath is a vehicle through which Christ restores harmony to our mind, body and soul. As incisively stated by A. Martin, "The spirituality of the Sabbath restores to man the unity of his being, unity that constantly risks being shattered either by the fragmented nature of work or by the fragmented nature of leisure."5 Such a unity is achieved on the Sabbath through the spiritual resources and opportunities the day provides to understand the meaning of our work, leisure and life itself.
For the Sabbathkeeper the leisure of the seventh day is not the supreme good (summum bonum) to be sought after at any cost, but rather a welcome opportunity to experience a greater good, namely, the goodness of Godís creation and redemption in wholesome activities. Some of the basic criteria to determine suitable Sabbath activities will be considered below.
An experience of divine rest. The profound religious nature of the Sabbath rest is indicated also by its symbolic function. Human beings need symbols which are both familiar and frequent, in order to preserve and enrich their faith. We have just seen that resting on the Sabbath symbolizes a total response to God, an acceptance of His claim over our work and leisure and an offering to Him of our total being and doing. But there is more to the symbolic meaning of the Sabbath rest that makes it truly an act of worship. There is also the opportunity the Sabbath rest provides to experience by faith Godísí creation, redemption and final restoration-rest. A symbol is a means of experiencing the reality for which it stands.
Our earlier study has shown that the reality for which the Sabbath rest stands is the creation, redemption and final restoration-rest which God offers to His people through Christ who came to make such "rest" possible (Matt. 11:28; Luke 4:18-21). This means that the Sabbath rest is not merely a means to recover lost energies, but primarily a means to experience in this restless age the divine rest and peace of salvation already available as well as a foretaste of the greater rest and joy awaiting Godís people in the kingdom of glory.
"True rest," writes Alfred Barry, "is rest in the Lord, and such rest is unspoken worship."6 Resting on the Sabbath is an unspoken but yet a most meaningful act of worship, since it enables the Christian to accept Christís rest of salvation and to anticipate the future eternal rest of worship and of communion with God and His saints.
Many Sunday-keeping Christians find it difficult to appreciate the Sabbath rest as an act of worship. Why? Primarily because from a Biblical and historical perspective they see nothing especially sacred about their resting on Sunday. It is generally recognized, as stated by Christopher Kiesling, a leading Catholic liturgist, that "Sunday rest for Christians began only in the fourth century." 7 Since only centuries later "was the rest of Sunday invested with religious significance,"8 producing what Kiesling describes as a somber, severe and excessively otherworldly interpretation of Christianity,"9 the same author proposes "the abandonment of rest on Sunday as a Christian practice."10 Kieslingís plan calls for the development of "new styles of Christian life which would express the joy, optimism and acceptance of creation which are characteristic of the Christian faith, hope and love."11
One must appreciate the problem of trying to develop a theology and practice of Sunday rest, when the rest experience is foreign to the original meaning of Sunday. Yet, if the need is felt "to develop new styles of Christian life which would express the joy, optimism and acceptance of creation," why not develop such new life styles upon the institution of the seventh-day Sabbath, the day specifically established by God to express and experience the joy and optimism of creation and redemption?
This proposal may sound unrealistic to many persons, especially since, to use Kieslingís words, "Sunday rest as a Christian reality is nearly dead, and Sunday worship is rapidly losing its grip on life."12 In other words, to propose a return to the observance of the Biblical Sabbath, when many do not care about the already existing Sunday, seems absurd. But, why are Sunday rest and worship dying? Could a significant factor be the absence of a Biblical and apostolic mandate for its observance?
One can hardly expect a Christian to take Sundaykeeping seriously when he is told that the day is merely a convenient time for worship chosen by the church and that in principle he is free from the observance of any special day. Would not a rediscovery and acceptance of the rich meaning and experience of the Biblical seventh-day Sabbath provide a compelling theological conviction to motivate genuine Christians to consecrate their Sabbath rest, worship and recreation to God?
Obviously not many will respond to a call to return to the observance of Godís holy Sabbath day, especially since most people today want not a holy day to experience Godís presence but holidays to seek personal pleasures. On the other hand, one must not overlook the fact that well over three million Seventh-day Adventists, besides hundreds of thousands of Christians of other denominations, have already responded to this call and do joyfully celebrate the seventh day Sabbath.13
More important than numbers is the question, should the Church abdicate her responsibility to proclaim a God-given precept, because it cuts across the prevailing materialistic concerns of our society? The mission of the Church is not to articulate the aspirations of the majority, but to interpret and proclaim Godís revelation given through the Scriptures. Her function is to call people to repentance, to turn from the world back to God. This demands a change in behavior, a new understanding of oneís destiny, a restored relationship with God, a new experience of worship.
To achieve these objectives the Church must work through institutions of which one of the most important is the Sabbath. On this day the Christian is taught how to live and how to love God, himself and others by actually practicing this life and love for a day. He is motivated to rest, that is, to take time out to present to God as a worship offering ("living sacrifice"óRom. 12:1), his work, his leisure, his total beingóand thus find peace and rest in God. Is not this experience a learning tool that is more effective than abstract sermons? And does not this experience provide a model and a challenge for the weekdays as well?
2. Worship as Divine Service
Worship has been aptly defined by Walter J. Harrelson as an ordered response to the appearance of the Holy in the life of individuals and groups."14 Order and holiness are not only two essential ingredients of genuine worship but constitute also the very basic essence of the Sabbath. The holiness of the Sabbath, as noted in chapter III, consists in the special occasion the day affords for the manifestation and experience of Godís presence. The order of the Sabbath can be seen in the way the day brings order to oneís life.
Human beings find little satisfaction in experiencing a confused or monotonous rhythm of time. A full and enjoyable life requires intelligent division of time: for work, for leisure, for learning, for worshop, for oneself and for others. The Sabbath teaches us to properly divide between the common Ďand the holy in the string of days that make up our weeks, months and years. The purpose of this division is not to enhance the Sabbath day at the expense of the week days, but rather to enrich them with the spiritual values and experience of the Sabbath.
In a special sense the Sabbath teaches us to respond in an orderly manner to God on His Holy Day. Such a regular response requires a deliberate interruption of all secular activities. We have just seen that this act of resting to honor God represents in itself a most meaningful worship response. But how is this Sabbath time to be ordered so that the total worship experience of the whole day will prove to be acceptable to God and enriching to the believer?
Any attempt to formulate specific programs could readily lead into a legalistic observance of the Sabbath which would destroy its very spirit of freedom and joy. It is noteworthy that the Scriptures offer goals and principles rather than programs or regulations. It is wisest, therefore, to identify some of the Biblical principles relevant to our present situation rather than arbitrarily to list specific activities.
Divine service. The Sabbath commandment offers no explicit injunction to observe the seventh day of the week by attending a regular religious assembly, that is, "divine service. This speaks well for divine wisdom, since it shows awareness of the plight of those believers who throughout the centuries would be called to sanctify the Sabbath in isolation or to engage in works of mercy. Moreover, one must not forget that the synagogue, which became the public place of Sabbath worship for most Jews, developed rather late in the history of Judaism (exilic or postexilic time).15
It is presumed that synagogue services originated as an outgrowth of Sabbath gatherings conducted in private homes (Ex. 16:29). Considering that the nucleus of the ancient Israelite home was much larger than ours, including in most cases the "in-laws" and servants (note the number of persons listed in the Fourth CommandmentóDeut. 5 :14), such home Sabbath gatherings could well have consítituted a respectable small congregation.
Whatever may have been the origin of the Sabbath religious assembly, there is no doubt that the "holy convocation" (Lev. 23 :2), became a distinctive feature of the day. This development was presumably favored, if not encouraged, both by the theological direction of the Sabbath, "to the Lord your God" (Ex. 20:10; Deut. 5 :14), and by the release from work granted on the Sabbath to all persons. In other words, the fact that all were to be free to honor the Lord would readily encourage a gathering together to achieve this objective.16
Where these convocations were initially held in OT times is not very clear. Probably, as in NT times, the services were conducted in private homes at first. 2 Kings 4:23 suggests that it was customary for some Israelites in the 9th century B.C. to visit a prophet on the Sabbath. Apparently a religious service was held at the prophetís residence. We noted in the previous chapter that religious services in the Temple were intensified on the Sabbath.
Isaiah describes worshipers assembling on the Sabbath at the temple, though unfortunately with an unrepenting attitude (Is.1:12-15). In postexilic times, as attested by the NT and Jewish sources, great importance was attached to the Sabbath services conducted in the synagogue. The Christian worship service was patterned to a large extent after that of the synagogue.17
The customary attendance at the Sabbath services by Christ and the Apostles only served to endorse the validity and value of this corporate worship experience. The value of Sabbath worship, however, is dependent upon the understanding the participants have of what they are doing. Without such an understanding, the weekly church attendance becomes empty formality. It is imperative, therefore, to consider the function of the formal Sabbath worship service. We call this worship service "formal," to distinguish it from the "informal" worship activities that characterize the remainder of the day.
Celebration. The primary function of the Sabbath, as already pointed out in chapter 2, is to celebrate Godís marvelous accomplishments. This celebration acquires a heightened and formal aspect during the Sabbath worship service, when Godís people gather together to offer God their united praise. What is it that makes communal worship on the Sabbath such a special occasion? The answer is to be found in the magnitude of Godís achievements which are celebrated. To celebrate means to share the joy resulting from unusual accomplishments. Students celebrate their graduation; players and fans ceLebrate the winning of a game. A father celebrates the birth of his newborn child. A country torn by war joyfully celebrates the signing of a peace treaty. When a great feat is successfully achieved, it is a human desire to wish to share the joy of the occasion with others.
The Sabbath worship service is the occasion when Christians assemble to celebrate and rejoice over Godís memorabilia: His wonderful creation, His successful redemption of His people; and His manifold manifestations of constant love and care. Some of these themes appear in Psalm 92, which is "A Song for the Sabbath." Here the believers are invited to celebrate the Sabbath by giving thanks, singing praises and playing the lute, the harp and the lyre (v. 3). The purpose of this joyful celebration is to declare the Good News of Godís steadfast love and faithfulness (v. 2); to praise the great works of His hands (v. 4-5); to acknowledge Godís care and power (v. 12-15).18 The celebration of Godís goodness and mercy constitute the basis of all true worship offered to God on any day of the week.
On the Sabbath, however, such worship reaches its fullest expression and experience. First because the day provides free time to celebrate with heart and mind. Second, because the day stands as the symbol of the past, present and future divine interventions in human history: creation, redemption, preservation and ultimate restoration. Thus, the Sabbath, by proclaiming the glad tidings that the Lord has created us perfectly, redeemed us completely, cares for us constantly and will restore us ultimately, provides not only the time but also the reasons for worshiping God. The Sabbath provides both the time and the reasons to celebrate joyfully and gratefully the goodness of life that God has given us.
Antidote to false worship. In one sense the Bible is the story of the struggle between true and false worship. Godís summons to "put away the foreign gods" (Gen. 35:2), which occurs in the first book of the Bible, is reiterated in different forms in all subsequent books. In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, the summons is renewed through the imagery of three flying angels. These call upon "every nation and tribe and tongue and people" (14:6), on the one hand to renounce the perverted system of worship promoted by "Babylon," and "the beast and its image" (14 :8-11) and on the other hand to "fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come," and to "worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water" (14:7).
This solemn call to abandon false worship and to restore true worship is presented in Revelation 14 as part of the preparation for "the harvest of the earth" (14 :15). Christ Himself alluded to the end-time crisis concerning true worship in His rhetorical question: "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8).
Though the problem of worshiping man-made realities such as money (Matt. 6 :24), power (Rev. 13 :8; Col. 3 :5), pleasure (Rom. 6:19; Titus 3 :3) or even human systems of salvation (Gal. 4 :9), has been present in every age,19 it is particularly acute in our time. The triumph of modern science, technology and rationalistic thinking has led many to worship human figments rather than the Creator Himself.
The mission of the Church at this time, as portrayed effectively by the three apocalytic angels, is to promote the true worship of "him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water" (Rev. 14:6). The Sabbath is a most effective vehicle through which the Church can promote the restoration of true worship. By focusing on Godís creative and redemptive accomplishments, the Sabbath functions as an antidote against false worship. It challenges men and women to worship not their human achievements and ambitions, but their Creator and Redeemer. The Church, by inviting individuals on the Sabbath to take time out to celebrate Godís past, present and future accomplishments, challenges them to renounce their autonomy and egocentricity and accept instead Godís lordship over their life and time.
Revelation. The Sabbath worship service is a time not only of celebration but also of divine revelation. The two are mutually dependent. The celebration through music, prayer and proclamation of Godís goodness accomplished during the worship service contributes in varying degrees to the unfolding of the revelation of Godís plan and will for human life. Such a revelation can only be experienced when all other preoccupations are set aside.20
The Sabbath worship service is in a special sense the time when we silence the multitude of voices that entice us to adopt new moral values (which too often are old immoral values) in order to hear the revelation and proclamation of the values presented in Godís Word. The revelation of God which occurs during the worship service is in a sense, as eloquently expressed by George Elliott, "a Sinai where still the Eternal speaks his awful but needed lessons of human duty; a Hermon where again Jesus in transfigured glory stands before us; an Olivet where our straining eyes catch not indistinct glimpses of the ascended Lord."21 Elliott continues, noting that "on this mount of blessing we tabernacle not now for ever, but ever leave its radiant heights to carry something of its glory through the work-days of the week."22
All worship offered to God on any day has a revelatory quality, inasmuch as it lifts the soul closer to God, awakening the sense of His presence. However, the Sabbath worship provides a heightened revelation of God. Why? First, because, as noted in chapter 3, on and through this day God has promised to manifest in a special sense His sanctifying presence. Second, because the Sabbath rest provides the special occasion to experience Godís revelation both individually and collectively. The latter occurs when Christians move away from familiar surroundings to join in the communal worship experience of a church.
In different places a person interacts and responds differently. In the communal church service, the individual is caught up in what William Hodgkins calls a "circulatory" influence, "moving from the congregation toward God, and through the Holy Spirit from God to the congregation."23 The minister plays a vital role in this "circulatory" and revelatory experience, since it is especially through his preaching that God communicates to the waiting congregation a knowledge of His saving plan and will for their lives.
The value of the teaching and learning function of the communal worship service can hardly be overemphasized. The shocking disregard for divine and human codes of conduct, evidenced by the increasing rate of criminal and immoral acts, demands that the Church assume its responsibility in acting as a moral conscience for the nation. The Sabbath worship provides an unparalleled opportunity for the Church to reveal through its various ministries how the acceptance of the Gospel affects all levels of human behavior.
The conscience that is sensitized at the moment of the worship serviceóthe moment when a person is often most responsive to Godís revelationó will be strengthened to live out Godís revealed principles during the pressures and temptations of every day. Thus, the revelation received during the worship service becomes the guiding-light and inspiration of the working week.
The conclusion that emerges from the first part of this study is that both rest and worship are integral parts of the service rendered to God on the Sabbath. We have found that the act of resting on the Sabbath for God represents in itself an informal but meaningful act of worship, through which the believer expresses his commitment to God while experiencing divine rest in his life. This rest experience makes possible the formal celebration of Godís goodness in the corporate worship service. Such a celebration offers in turn a fresh revelation of Godís will and grace for the Christian.
The worship that a Christian offers to God on the Sabbath ultimately results in service to himself and to others. Why? Basically because through the Sabbath service, the believer instead of adding strength or power to God, enables God to strengthen and empower his own personal life. This is made possible especially through the time and opportunities the Sabbath provides for personal reflection and renewal.
1. The Sabbath: A Time for Reflection
Need for reflection. The lack of reflection is viewed by some analysts of our society as a fundamental cause of our superficial and restless culture. Human beings are born, live and die, lost in the crowd, without understanding their true selves. 24 Many live today an intensely active, restless and noisy life, while ever sensing an inner emptiness and disillusionment.
In an attempt to bring order and serenity to their inner selves, a good number of Westerners today are experimenting with Eastern meditation techniques. These are promoted and marketed as steps easy to follow, such as sitting, concentrating and chanting. It is claimed that such exercises can bring an individual in contact with divine vibrations or spiritual realities, thus producing a sense of inner harmony and serenity. Some practice these meditation exercises as a kind of psychological self-help gimmick, without committing themselves to the world view of Eastern religions from which such meditation techniques derive.
Apparently, for some persons, the practice of modified Eastern, or so-called Transcendental Meditation, does appear for a time to meet the inner spiritual need for stillness, reflection and communion with a higher being or existence. The search for inner stillness and harmony through Eastern forms of meditation points to the fundamental human need for reflection and self-analysis, in order to live a truly human life.
This is especially true of the Christian life, since it presupposes a conscious and intelligent understanding of life as it relates to God, oneself, others and the world at large. But do Christians today in general take time to engage in spiritual exercises designed to increase their self-understanding through meditation upon Godís revelation? According to the Gallup poll released in the December 21, 1979 issue of Christianity Today, only ten percent of Americans read the Bible every week.
Probably in other Christian countries where evangelical movements are less influential, the percentage would be considerably lower. Moreover do those who read a few verses of Scripture, perhaps in conjunction with hurried devotions, have the time or the knowledge of how to meditate upon a text? There is a vast difference between a casual reading, a critical study and a thoughtful meditation upon a text of Scripture.
It is possible that many today are turning to Eastern ("foreign") forms of meditation because their Christian churches have failed to teach them how to meditate according to the Biblical (Eastern) tradition. Could todayís impatience with the Sabbath day of rest have significantly contributed also to the abandonment of the Sabbath as a time for reflection, meditation and worship?
Sabbath and meditation. The Harvard University theologian Harvey Cox, in his book Turning East, recounts a significant episode that occurred while he was researching on Eastern meditation at the Naropa Institute, a Buddhist study center located in Boulder, Colorado. While in Boulder, he accepted the invitation of a rabbi to celebrate with him "a genuine, old-fashioned Shabbat [Sabbath], a whole day of doing very little, enjoying the creation as it is, appreciating the world rather than fixing it up. 25
Cox acknowledges that as he joined in the celebration of the Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, savoring "just being rather than doing," it occurred to him that "meditation is in essence a kind of miniature Sabbath."26 Both, in fact, require cessation of all activity. He noticed, however, significant differences. For example, while Oriental meditation is conceived as a total way of life, detached from the realities of the present world, the Sabbath is only a one-day interlude in the daily struggle for existence; an interlude that enables a person to live in this present world while looking forward to the better world to come.27
A second noteworthy difference between the Sabbath and Oriental meditation is to be found, according to Cox, in the universal nature of the Sabbath. In other words, while in Oriental religions meditation is practiced by a few privileged persons, mostly monks, the Sabbath enjoins not a small elite, but everyone to stop doing on the seventh day in order to experience being with God.28
The Sabbath condemns the social dichotomy between the via activa and the via contemplativa, that is, a class distinction between those who work and those who meditate, whether this distinction is advocated by Eastern religions or by Christian monasticism. The Fourth Commandment contemplates the integration in the life of every person of both work and rest, doing and being, action and reflection. To reject this sabbatical integrated lifestyle in order to accept a foreign Eastern concept of total stillness would mean to destroy a valuable Biblical institution which has influenced Jewish and Christian ethical and religious traditions.
Our hope is that those who seek for rest, stillness, meaning and order in their life through Eastern meditation will happily discover another institution which originated in the East, the Fourth Commandment. This institution, as noted by Cox, "may be tarnished and twisted out of shape, but it still belongs to us; and as creatures who must live amid the contradictions and dislocations of history, the mini-Sabbath of meditation can be the gift of life itself."29
A basis for meditation. The Sabbath provides not only the time but also a theological basis for a meaningful meditation. As the symbol of Godís originally perfect creation, of His complete redemption and of His ultimate restoration, the Sabbath invites the believer to meditate not upon an abstract higher spiritual being or power but upon a gracious God who has worked, who is working, and who will work for the eternal happiness of His children. Moreover, as a symbol of Godís presence and concern, the Sabbath summons the Christian to reflect upon the fact that he is not alone. God created him to enjoy eternal fellowship with Him.
On the Sabbath a special opportunity is offered to experience the sense of Godís presence. The reason for living is not life itself. Such a reason only leads to despair. The Christian lives to enjoy Godís immediate presence and future fellowship. This means that to meditate on the Sabbath upon its Good News is not a way to escape from the tension of the present life, but rather a way to introduce into the present restless life a sense of Godís presence and the hope of a richer future fellowship.
Meditation has to do with consciousness. It could be described as an attitude of receptive awareness rather than of thoughtful investigation. To illustrate the difference between the two, let us use the example of reading a devotional book on the Sabbath. If I read it with the purpose in mind to critically examine the arguments and the texts used by the author to develop his concepts, then I am not meditating but attempting thoughtful analysis which sometimes is the hardest work. On the other hand, if I read the book leisurely and receptively, with the simple desire to let God speak to my soul through its message, then I am meditating.
The spirit of freedom of the Sabbath provides the basis for such an enriching meditation, since we are enjoined to cease from work in order to freely feel, understand and enjoy the manifold manifestations of Godís goodness. This means that on the Sabbath we can gaze on nature, without striving to peer into its scientific mysteries. We can listen to music without concern about the key or the number of its flats and sharps. We can take pleasure in reading poetry, without trying to discern whether all the lines are metrically balanced. We can listen receptively to the preaching of Godís Word, without struggling to unravel the mystery of Godís redeeming love or to harmonize apparent theological contradictions. The climate of stillness and free reception which the Sabbath provides enables us to truly meditate, that is, to discover God and ourselves; to truly experience an awareness of Godís presence; to freely "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8).
2. The Sabbath: A Time for Renewal
Order to life. The time and opportunities which the Sabbath provides for meditation, worship, fellowship, service Ďand recreation, are designed to function like dynamos that recharge run-down batteries. This recharging and renewal is provided by the Sabbath in several ways. Let us consider, first of all, the order and harmony that the Sabbath restores to our fragmented life.
The problem of modern living is well illustrated by a story related by Herbert Saunders about some African workers. For several days these workers were pressed relentlessly by the leader of an expedition who hired them to carry equipment on their backs to a remote post in the interior of Africa. "But one day they refused to pick up their burdens and go any further. They sat by the side of the road and turned a deaf ear to the appeals of the man in charge. Finally, in exasperation, he asked, ĎWhy donít you go on?í ĎBecause,í replied the leader of the workers, Ďwe are waiting for our souls to catch up with our bodies."30
Is this not a fitting description of the problem many people face today? The speed and pressure of modern living tend to destroy the equilibrium between the material and spiritual components of our being. The Scripture teaches, as Achad Haam points out, that "the two elements existing in man, the corporeal and the spiritual, can and must live in perfect unity."31 Paul, for example, prays for the total sanctification and preservation of the "spirit and soul and body" (I Thess. 5 :23).
The Sabbath is designed to restore order and unity to our total being by enabling us to reorder our priorities. During the week as we work to produce, to sell, to buy and to enjoy things, we are tempted to view things as the priority and ultimate reality. We become so materially conscious and concerned that our spiritual needs are often obscured Ďand neglected. This may even lead us to conceive of God Himself as a "nice thing."
By enjoining us to refrain for one day from pursuing after more material things and to seek instead after spiritual values and relationships, the Sabbath helps us to break away from the tyranny of materialism. It helps us to recognize that the things of the spirit must have priority over those of space. This reordering of priorities restores unity and harmony to our lives. It gives our souls a chance to catch up with our bodies.
If we learn on the Sabbath, as Samuel H. Dresner observes, "to mend our tattered souls and join flesh and spirit in joy and rest, in inward feeling and outward act, perhaps we shall be able to bring a portion of the spirit of this day into the other days of the week, so that even ordinary days will take on something of the Sabbath."32
Moral renewal. The reordering of our priorities on the Sabbath contributes to the ordering of our moral consciousness. The leaders of our political, social and religious institutions will often resort to a temporary retreat or withdrawal, in order to examine themselves and their programs more objectively and thus be able to return to their tasks with fresh energies and strategies. The Sabbath offers to every ordinary human being such a retreat in time. On this day we withdraw from the rush of life in order to examine the past, present and future moral direction in our life. We take time to assess our goals, motives and attitudes toward God, people, ourselves and work.
Often we may discover that our past has been a sorry mixture of achievements and failures. The Sabbath, however, as was shown in chapter 5, is designed to liberate us from the failures and pains of the past. The Good News of the Sabbath is that Christ has brought us "release" (Luke 4:18) and thus we can rest and rejoice in His forgiveness. Freed by Christís grace from the fears and guilt of our past failures, we begin to comprehend the possibilities and opportunities that God places before us. Such comprehension is enhanced especially through the experience of worship and meditation. As we take time to reflect on Godís accomplishments commemorated by the Sabbath, we are challenged to achieve new goals through the assurance of His divine power and presence.
In an age of changing and conflicting values, the Sabbath opens the door for moral reflection, for the development of a moral consciousness and responsibility. There is urgent need today to help people build a lifestyle based upon Godís commandments. According to a recent Gallup poll, although "a whopping 84 percentómore than eight of every ten people [Americans]óbelieve that the Ten Commandments are valid today . . . fewer than half (42 percent) can name at least five" of them.33 The Sabbath provides not only the time to better acquaint oneself with the content of the biblical principles of human conduct, but also the opportunity to internalize such principles. The very fact that the Sabbath represents the inherent expression of commitment to God inspires observers to renew their commitment not to one but to all of Godís principles.
Spiritual renewal. The search for a deeper spiritual experience ranks high on the list of contemporary human needs. Experimentation with Eastern forms of meditation and hallucinatory drugs reflects the need felt by many for something beyond materialism. A more telling indication of this need is provided by the Neo-pentecostal charismatic movements which in the last few years have gained millions of adherents across denominational boundaries. A late Gallup poll reports that one American adult out of five (29.4 million persons) considers himself or herself charismatic.35
This phenomenon is not limited to the USA, since charismatic movements have mushroomed in many Western countries. True, some persons may experiment with new movements or drugs in order to escape the sad realities of this world; yet the fact remains they are searching for something spiritual to fill the emptiness of their lives.
The Sabbath is divinely ordained to satisfy the human need for deeper spiritual communion with God. As the symbol of Godís commitment to bless His people with His presence, the Sabbath invites the believer to enter into a special spiritual relationship with Him. The prophets recognized and emphasized this vital role of the Sabbath in helping Godís people experience and maintain a spiritual relationship with God.
When Ezekiel saw the threat of national apostasy, he summoned the Israelites to "hallow" the Sabbath in order to "know," that is, to experience Godís sanctifying presence in their lives ("that they might know that I the Lord sanctify them"óEzek. 20:12; cf. v. 20). Similarly Isaiah urges the Israelites to "call the Sabbath a delight," that is, a day to seek the spiritual pleasure of Godís communion rather than the material pleasures of selfish interests ("your pleasure"óIs. 58 :13). If the people would respond to such a call, "then," the prophet assures them, "you shall take delight in the Lord" (Is. 58 :14). Delighting in the Lord! This is in essence the source of the spiritual renewal offered by God to His people through the Sabbath.
In his address to the Worldís Parliament of Religions, A. H. Lewis eloquently expressed the spiritual function of the Sabbath when he said: "Sacred hours are Godís enfolding presence, lifting the soul and holding it in heavenly converse. All that is holiest and best springs into life and develops into beauty, when men realize that God is constantly near them. The sense of personal obligation, awakened by the consciousness of Godís presence, lies at the foundation of religious life and worship. Godís day is a perfect symbol of His presence, of His enfolding and redeeming love."35
Our study so far has focused on several significant opportunities for spiritual renewal provided by the Sabbath. We have considered among others the opportunity to rest, to worship, to reorder oneís life, to experience Godís forgiveness, to sense divine presence, to sharpen oneís moral consciousness, and to renew oneís commitment to God. Other opportunities for renewal offered by the Sabbath will be considered below.
After helping a believer to find God and himself, the Sabbath helps him to find others. After aiding a person to gain a fresh understanding and assurance of Godís will and grace, the Sabbath sends him forth to reach out to others. The Christian faith is not an egocentric solace but rather a heterocentric service, that is to say, it is not centered on self but on others. The Founder of Christianity came into this world not to enrich His personal life through an exotic vacation on Planet Earth, but to bring "life" to needy human beings and to bring it "abundantly" (John 10:10).
Our previous study has shown that this divine spirit of love and concern is manifested especially through the institution of the Sabbath. God "rested" not to strengthen Himself, but to share Himself with His creatures. By entering on the seventh day of creation into the limitations of human time to bless His creatures with abundant life, God manifested His willingness to enter into human flesh to restore the abundant life to His creatures. The incarnation of Christ provides both a fulfillment and a fresh revelation of divine love. By ministering, especially on the Sabbath, to physical and spiritual human needs, the Savior revealed divine love in action.
1. Time to Share
The celebration on the Sabbath of the blessings of Godís creative and redemptive love provides both the time and the theological motivation to share with others the blessings received. The believer who on the Sabbath celebrates Godís gracious deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and of sin (Deut. 5 :15; Luke 4:18; 13 :16) is motivated and challenged to exemplify divine love by responding to human needs. To help in remembering others, the Sabbath commandment gives quite a lengthy list of persons toward whom concern is to be shown on the Sabbath. These include son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass, cattle, sojourner (Deut. 5 :14. cf. Ex. 20 :10; 23 :12).
This humanitarian function of the Sabbath was eventually largely forgotten. For many the observance of the day became an exercise in self-righteousness rather than an exercise in loving service for others. Throughout His Sabbath ministry, Christ took pains to clarify the true intention of the commandment. To counteract prevailing legal interpretations which restricted humanitarian service on the Sabbath to emergency situations only, Jesus intentionally ministered on this day to persons who were not critically but chronically ill.
A fitting illustration is the healing of the crippled woman which we examined in chapter 5. The ruler of the synagogue objected to Christís healing because in his view such a "work ought to be done" during the "six days . . . and not on the sabbath day" (Luke 13 :14). Christ challenged such a misconception by reminding His audience of the accepted custom of watering animals on the Sabbath. If the daily needs of animals could be met on the Sabbath, how much more the needs of "a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years"! Shouldnít she "be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" (Luke 13 :16). One can hardly fail to note Christís determined effort to press the Sabbath into the service of the Gospel, making it a day to share the blessings of salvation with others (John 9:4).
2. Time to Do Good
The episode of the healing of the man with the withered hand, reported by all the three Synoptics (Mark 3 :1-6; Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11), further illustrates the social function of the Sabbath. A deputation of Scribes and Pharisees, who had brought an invalid before Jesus, posed the testing question: "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?" (Matt. 12:10).
According to both Mark and Luke, Christ replied first by asking a question of principle: ĎIs it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9). Note that Christ substitutes for the verb "to heal" (therapeuein) the verb "to do good" (agathopoiein). What is the reason for such a change? Obviously because Christ wanted to include not one type but all kinds of benevolent activities within the intention of the Sabbath law. So broad an interpretation of the function of the Sabbath finds no parallel in rabbinic concessions.
In fact, some scholars, misunderstanding the intended function of the Sabbath which Christ endeavored to clarify, go as far as viewing such a broad interpretation as an outright abrogation of the Fourth Commandment.35 Such a conclusion fails to recognize that Christ enunciates rhetorically the humanitarian function of the Sabbath in reply to a specific test question concerning its proper observance. How could Christ negate the Sabbath commandment while trying to clarify it?37
To save or to kill? According to Matthew Christ illustrated the principle of Sabbath keeping as a time of benevolent service, by adding a second question containing a concrete example: "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!" (Matt. 12:11-12). Both by the question of principle and by its illustration, Christ reveals the original value of the Sabbath, to be a day to honor God by showing concern and compassion for others.
Unfortunately, with the accumulation of restrictions (Mark 7 :9) the observance of the day had been reduced to a legalistic religiosity rather than an opportunity to offer loving service to the Creator-Redeemer by serving needy fellow beings. The believer who on the Sabbath experiences the blessing of salvation will automatically be moved "to save" and not "to kill" others. Christís accusers, by failing to show concern for the physical and spiritual well-being of others on the Sabbath, revealed their defective understanding and experience of Godís Holy Day. Rather than celebrating Godís goodness on the Sabbath, involved in a saving ministry, they engaged in destructive efforts, looking for faults and thinking out methods to kill Christ (Mark 3 :2-6) 38
Ellen White perceptively asks, "Was it better to slay upon the Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than to heal the afflicted, as He had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the heart upon Godís holy day than love to all men, which finds expression in deeds of mercy?"39
Understanding or misunderstanding? The fundamental humanitarian value which Christ places upon the Sabbath is expressed in Matthew with uncompromising positiveness: "So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matt. 12:12). W. Manson aptly remarks that Christ "invalidates at one stroke the do-nothing attitude, which, under cover of the principle of not working on the Sabbath, his contemporaries mistook for obedience to the will of God."40
Willy Rordorf, unable to accept such a positive interpretation of the Sabbath, accuses Matthew of "beginning the moralistic misunderstanding of Jesusí attitude toward the Sabbath."41 Is it fair for a modern scholar to charge a Gospel Writer with misunderstanding Christís teaching regarding the Sabbath? Even if the trustworthiness of Matthewís report could be discredited, does not his interpretation still represent the view of an Apostle and of his community?
Furthermore, is not Matthewís understanding of the Sabbath as a day "to do good" (Matt. 12:12) and to show "mercy" rather than religiosity (Matt. 12:7) fully shared by the other three Gospels? In both Mark and Luke, Christ is cited as saying the same thing by means of a rhetorical question, precisely that on the Sabbath it is lawful "to do good" and "to save" (Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9). In Luke, Christ is reported as saying that the Sabbath is theday to loose human beings from physical and spiritual bonds (Luke 13 :16, 12). In John, Christ invites His followers to share on the Sabbath in the divine redemptive activity (John 9:4; 5 :17; 7 :22-23). Therefore, the unanimous view of the Gospels is that Christ presented the Sabbath as a time to serve God especially by rendering loving service to human needs.42
To sanction this human value of the Sabbath, Christ affirmed, in a memorable pronouncement, His Lordship over the Sabbath (Mark 2:28; Matt. 12:8; Luke 6:5). Having established the Sabbath for the welfare of human beings (Mark 2:27), Christ claimed also "the authority to determine in what manner the Sabbath is to be kept so that God is honored and man is benefited."43
Note that Christís claim to be "Lord of the Sabbath" is followed in all three Synoptic Gospels by the healing of the man with the withered hand. In this healing Jesus proclaims by words and action with unquestionable positiveness the humanitarian function of the Sabbath. The collocation of this story by all the three Gospels immediately after Christís memorable claim (Mark 2:28 and par.) provides a climactic demonstration of how Jesus exerted His Lordship over the Sabbath, not by annulling the Fourth Commandment but by revealing its true intended functionóa time to celebrate Godís goodness and salvation, by taking time "to do good" and "to save" others (Matt. 12 :12, Mark 3 :4, Luke 6:9). Who are the "others" that require our loving care and concern on the Sabbath? The answer is simple. They include the members of our immediate family as well as the needy members of the larger human family. Let us briefly consider how the celebration of the Sabbath can be shared with others.
3. Time for the Family
Daily work scatters the family members in different directionsóhusband and wife to their respective work and children to school. The pressure of work will often cause us to rob our children of our parental care, and to neglect even our relationship with our spouse. The rest of the Sabbath day brings us together by giving us time for God, for ourselves, for our families and for others. To meet the demands of his work or business, a man may have to leave home early and return late every day, thus becoming in essence a stranger to his family members.
It is not uncommon to hear children say, "We hardly see daddy. He is always away." But when he rests on the Sabbath, free from the concerns of his business, then he has the opportunity to become more fully acquainted with and attuned to his children. A most welcome moment in our home is Friday evening, when after the hustling and bustling of the week, our family of five gathers to welcome the Lord of the Sabbath by singing, reading, praying and leisurely listening to one anotherís concerns and experiences that have been stored up during the week. The arrival of the Sabbath serves to reknit the family bonds of sympathy and affection.
It is noteworthy that the Scriptures link together the Sabbath and the family in several ways. Both are presented as Edenic institutions which received a twin divine blessing (Gen. 1 :28; 2 :3). Both remained after the Fall as a constant reminder of the fellowship, joy and rest of a future Paradise restored. Both the commandment of the Sabbath and that of filial obligations to parents are placed in sequence in the Decalogue (Ex. 20:8-12).
Both commandments are presented as being related to Godís call to a life of holiness: "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my sabbaths" (Lev. 19 :2-3). Why is the ideal of a life of holiness interrelated with respect for parents and with Sabbath observance? Obviously, because both of these precepts foster the spiritual quality of life. Parents who use the Sabbath to promote the religious education of their children will strengthen their moral consciousness and deepen their childrenís commitment both to them as parents and to God.
To achieve this objective parents should make the Sabbath for their children, not an alienating imposition but a delightful celebration. A day characterized not by frustration because of the things that cannot be done on the Sabbath but by exultation over the blessings that can be enjoyed on this day. Ellen White writes in this regard, "parents can make the Sabbath, as it should be, the most joyful day of the week. They can lead their children to regard it as a delight, the day of days, the holy o13 the Lord, honorable."44
The difference between gloom and gladness on the Sabbath depends primarily on the motives for observing the day. Parents who teach their children to observe the Sabbath as a law that must be kept in order to go to heaven, will lead the children to view the day like a bitter medicine that must be swallowed in order to become well. The children will count the hours of the Sabbath as the astronauts count the seconds preceding the firing of their spacecraft: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, SUNSET! And they take off to some exciting activity to burn up the energy repressed during the Sabbath.
On the contrary, parents who teach their children to observe the Sabbath as a day to joyfully celebrate Godís marvelous creation, redemption and care over their lives, will lead them to view the day not as a dreadful medicine but as a delicious cake. The hours of the Sabbath will seem too short to delight in the special food, the pleasant fellowship and the enjoyable activities. Later, we shall consider some of the criteria for Sabbath activities.
4. Time for Oneís Partner
The Sabbath provides time and opportunities to come close to one special person, namely, oneís marital partner. We are helplessly witnessing an ever-increasing rate of broken marriages. 45 The rapid pace of modern life, punctuated by differing professional and social interests, contributes to the estrangement between many husbands and wives.
Can the Sabbath function as a catalyst to solidify and strengthen marital relationships? It surely can, for at least two reasons: one is theological and the other is practical. Theologically, the sanctity of the Sabbath serves to safeguard the sacredness of marriage. Both institutions are ordained to express and experience a mutual belonging relationship: the Sabbath to God (see chapter IV) and marriage to a human partner (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5-6). A Christian couple who take time on the Sabbath to renew their commitment to God will inevitably renew also their commitment to each other.
The Sabbath teaches that relationships, whether at a human or divine-human level, are sacred. The Christian commitment to God expressed especially through the consecration of the Sabbath time to the Lord stands as the basis of all other commitments. It is not difficult to see how a person who wilfully chooses to disregard God on His Holy Day will also, if the occasion arises, violate his or her marital commitment. In other words, if the symbol of oneís covenant with God is intentionally ignored, there is little to stop a person from ignoring also the vows of faithfulness to the marriage partner or to anyone else.
The relationship between the two is suggested in the Scripture by the connection between apostacy and adultery. As the profanation of the Sabbath is equated with apostasy (Ezek. 20:13, 21), so unfaithfulness to the marriage vow is condemned as adultery (Ex. 20:14). The the two are interrelated is indicated by the prophetsí interchangeable use of them to describe Israelís unfaithfulness (Jer. 3 :8, Ezek. 23-37). Therefore, theologically, the Sabbath can strengthen marital relationships by reminding both husbands and wives of the sacred nature of their commitment to God and to each other.46
Practically, the Sabbath contributes to solidify marital relationships by providing a relaxed atmosphere in which to experience a more intimate fellowship and interaction. The quality of a marriage relationship depends to a large extent on the degree of communication and understanding that exists between the two partners. Marriage manuals generally regard the lack of adequate communication as a major cause for the breaking down of marriages. The Sabbath provides husbands and wives with the time and the inspiration to come closer and listen to each other.
The spirit of the celebration of Godís goodness motivates them to give themselves unselfishly to each other. This is expressed in a variety of ways. By sharing thoughts, concerns, joys and necessary duties together. By walking, visiting, playing, laughing and relaxing together. The togetherness and closeness of body and soul that husbands and wives experience on the Sabbath enable them to overcome any estrangement caused by the tension of the week passed and thus to experience a renewed sense of unity and commitment to God and to each other.
5. Time for the Needy
The Sabbath is the day to serve God not only by taking time to show concern for our immediate family members but also for needy "strangers." In the various versions of the Sabbath commandment "the stranger" (ger), sometimes called "alien" or "sojourner," is specifically mentioned (Ex. 20:10; 23:12; Deut. 5 :14) as a beneficiary of the blessings of the Sabbath. The "stranger" initially was a foreigner who lived in the land of Israel, but in the course of time the term was used to describe a worker or laborer or a servant.
When we think of the contempt the ancient world had toward work and workers, it is not surprising to note the concern of the Sabbath for the outcast of the society. Isaiah 58 provides a dramatic illustration of how true Sabbathkeeping finds expression in social concern. The prophet interrelates true fasting, interpreted as letting the oppressed go free and sharing bread with the hungry (vv. 6-7), with true Sabbathkeeping, which consists in finding "delight" not in oneís own pleasures but in the Lord (vv. 13-14).47 In the Gospels this humanitarian function of the Sabbath is clarified and emphasized by Christís own words and actions.
To celebrate the Sabbath means to reach out and share the blessings of the day with others. In the Jewish home, an important aspect of the preparation of the Sabbath meal was the planning for possible visitors.48 Similarly in the Christian home, the Sabbath provides the opportunity to share food and friendship with the visitor, the orphan, the lonely, the elderly, the estranged, and the discouraged who are present in our church or community.
During the week we often learn that a relative, a colleague or a neighbor is physically ill or emotionally distressed. The pressures of the working week may cause us to neglect such needy persons. On the Sabbath, as we experience the presence and the love of God, we are motivated to take time to cheer the sick, to comfort the afflicted, to counsel the distressed, to share our friendship and concern with the needy. The service we render on the Sabbath to needy persons honors God and enriches our lives with a sense of satisfaction and restful achievement.
6. Time for Recreation
The Sabbath provides time for physical and spiritual recreation. The term recreation suggests activities designed to re-create, to restore energies. Earlier in this chapter we considered several significant opportunities offered by the Sabbath to experience spiritual renewal. Attention must also be given to the physical recreation of the Sabbath. Obviously, no standard formula can be offered to ensure physical renewal to each person on the Sabbath, since physical needs vary according to age and profession.
The physical wants of a teen-ager overflowing with energy are likely to be quite different from those of a middle-aged bricklayer. Similarly, a farmer who works outdoors may not seek outdoor physical recreation like an office worker who spends the week shut in by four walls. Moreover, any attempt to classify or specify "legitimate" Sabbath recreational activities tends to engender legalistic attitudes and stifle the spirit of freedom and creativity of the Sabbath. We suggest, therefore, only three general criteria that may provide a handy norm for determining suitable Sabbath recreational activities.
God-centered. Sabbath recreational activities should be first of all God-centered and not self-centered. They should represent a celebration and rejoicing over the goodness of Godís creation and redemption. Sabbath activities should be a means of expressing the words of Maltbie D. Babcock:
This is my Fatherís world,
Isaiah explains that Sabbath activities should not be a means of "doing your pleasure" but rather of taking "delight in the Lord" (58 :13-14). The challenge that religious leaders and parents face today is to educate both young and old to regard their Sabbath recreational activities not as an end in themselves but as a means to express delight in the Lord. We have seen that the Sabbath is the day of the special manifestation and experience of Godís presence. This means that all the activities of this day should contribute to cultivating an awareness of His presence rather than detracting from it.
Freedom and Joy. A second criterion for Sabbath recreational activities is the freedom and joy they should provide. The Sabbath is a day to celebrate the redemptive freedom offered by the Savior. Such a spirit of freedom and joy, delighting in Godís goodness, is to permeate all Sabbath activities. The task of a religious educator is not to name which activities are appropriate but to describe the experience of freedom a Christian should seek in his Sabbath activities.
Sometimes the same activity can be either an experience of freedom or of restraint. A Sabbath picnic, for example, can be a joyful and free celebration of the goodness of Godís creation and recreation in Christ, if adequate preparations for it have been made before the Sabbath and consequently everyone can freely participate in it. On the contrary, if the food has to be obtained, or if some persons have to spend hours preparing it, then the picnic can become an expression of selfishness, since it inhibits the opportunity to celebrate the Sabbath free from the pressure of work. On the basis of this principle any form of recreation which restricts the freedom to celebrate the Sabbath militates against the intended function of the commandment.
Recreative. A third criterion for Sabbath activities is their recreative nature. They should contribute not to the dissipation but to the restoration of mental, emotional and physical energies. The spiritual, mental and bodily renewal experienced on the Sabbath foreshadows in a sense the fuller restoration to be experienced at Christís Second Coming. The Sabbath and the Second Coming share in common not only the restoration the Savior offers to His people but also the preparation for such an event.
The weekly preparation to meet the Savior in time on His Holy Day is a preparation also to meet Him in space at His Coming. It is important, therefore, to remember that Sabbath recreation has a spiritual quality not present to the same degree in the daily recreation. It represents the restoration that God has accomplished and will yet realize in a greater degree in the lives of His people. Thus any type of recreational activity that generates an excited restlessness, or causes a "hangover" that incapacitates a person on the following day, fails to conform to Godís intended use of the Sabbath.
In determining which activity best recreates oneís total being, each person must consider his or her personal needs. A salesman who spends his whole week talking to people may sense the need to spend some of the free Sabbath time alone reading, meditating, listening to music, putting his life together again. On the other hand, a laboratory technician who spends the week pretty much alone examining specimens and recording data may sense a special need to fellowship with people, participating perhaps in outdoor activities. A single criterion per se is inadequate for determining suitable Sabbath recreational activities. The combination of the triple criteria of God-centered activities, freedom and joy, and recreative nature, offers a safer guidance.
The Sabbath as service to others shows that a fundamental function of its celebration is to provide time, motivation and opportunities to come close to loved ones, friends, and needy persons. The ties of fellowship strengthened by the Sabbath often encourage free and joyful recreation especially amid the beauties of nature. This leads us to consider the relationship between the celebration of the Sabbath and the Christian responsibility toward the natural world.
1. The Ecological Crisis
Compulsion or conviction? The prostitution and unbridled exploitation of the natural resources are regarded by analysts of our time as a major threat to the survival of life on Planet Earth. Ecological prophets are predicting that at the very time humanity is discovering the secrets of nature, it is also risking extinction as a result of an environmental disaster. Educational programs, policies and legislation are presently being promoted by those who are concerned over the precarious ecological balance of our environment.
The committed Christian shares this concern because he believes in the goodness of Godís creation and cooperates with Him to restore ecological harmony in the whole created order. Such a theological conviction is indispensable for a meaningful solution to the environmental crisis.
Secular ideologies can only motivate people to respect nature and its resources out of fear: fear of punishment or of annihilation, if environmental laws are disregarded. Fear of consequences, however, can at best restrain some from exploiting, polluting or destroying the environment, but it cannot induce a genuine love and respect for all forms of life. Fear can compel but does not convince.
The fear of lung cancer has led some to quit smoking cigarettes but it has hardly shaken the determination of millions of smokers to continue smoking their health away. This illustrates that the solution to environmental pollution is related to the solution of spiritual pollution. A person who does not respect his or her own life can hardly be expected to esteem that of subhuman species. Laws per se cannot solve this problem because they clash against selfish interests.
Ultimately, the solution to the ecological crisis is to be found in the recovery of those spiritual values that must guide every human act. Religious convictions and ultimate concerns provide strong motivation for human behavior. Henlee H. Barnette rightly notes that "what people do to, for, and with others and their environment depends largely upon what they think of God, nature, themselves and their destiny."49
It is only when a person understands himself and the world as the object ot Godís creation and redemption, that he will be both convinced and compelled to act as Godís steward of his body as well as of the created order.50 The Sabbath can play a vital role to help in recovering these spiritual values needed to solve the ecological crisis, since the day does provide the basis for both theological convictions and practical actions. These we must now consider.
2. The Goodness of Godís Creation
The value of nature. The commission appointed in 1971 by the Archbishop of Canterbury "to investigate the relevance of Christian doctrine to the problems of man and his environment" concludes its findings saying: "In the report it has been argued that the recovery of belief in God the Creator is the key to mankindís future well-being."51
It is noteworthy that leading religious thinkers regard "the recovery of belief in God the Creator" as the "key" to the solution of the environmental crisis. Science and technology, by undermining the belief in God the Creator, have reduced the desire to rejoice over the goodness of Godís creation. By substituting the belief in a personal divine creation with the notion of an impersonal spontaneous generation, scientists have reduced nature and all its constituent forms to be objects that technology can use and control. Nature has been pared from being a mediator of divine revelation (a "thou"), to serving as a means of economic exploitation (an "it"). 52
The Sabbath provides an effective institution to help in recovering the "sacramental" value of nature, that is, its function as mediator or revelator of Godís presence and beauty. In what way? By reminding the believer of the value and role of nature in Godís creation, redemption and ultimate restoration. As the memorial of an originally perfect creation, the Sabbath reassures the Christian that despite the aberrations caused by sin, this world, both in its human and subhuman forms, still has value because God created it "very good" (Gen. 1:31).
By pointing to the original goodness and perfection of this world, the Sabbath challenges the Christian to exercise a world-affirming faith, that is, a faith in Godís plan for the whole natural order. As the symbol of Godís blessing and sanctification of this world (Gen. 2:3), the Sabbath serves as a constant reminder that God is distinct but not separated from His world. Thus in and through nature, the Sabbath invites the Christian to experience the presence of His Creator.
By offering the anticipation and foretaste of the new heaven and new earth (Is. 66:22-23), the Sabbath challenges the Christian to respect and admire this world, since God will restore it to its pristine perfection for the eternal delight of His creatures. These theological values of nature expressed by the Sabbath offer the deepest motivation for the Christianís concern for the natural world. The Christian who views himself and the world as being part and parcel of a single divine creative and redemptive purpose will be kept from exploiting or destroying the very earth with which he shares the same origin and destiny.
A dualistic misconception. The value of nature can best be seen in the light of the Biblical teaching on its redemption. It is regrettable that both Catholicism and Protestantism have emphasized to a large extent the salvation of individual souls at the expense of a cosmic dimension of redemption.53 The saints are often portrayed as pilgrims who live on earth detached from the world, and whose souls at death leave their material bodies to make their pilgrimage to an abstract place called "heaven." This dualism between the material and the spiritual world, between the body and the soul reflects the influence of Platonic thought upon Christianity,54 but it fails to represent the holistic Biblical view of man and of the world. 55
The influence of the Platonic cosmological and anthropological dualism has produced an attitude of contempt toward the natural world. This other-worldly attitude is exemplified in such Christian hymns as "This world is not my home;" "Iím but a stranger here, Heaven is my home; Earth is a desert drear, Heaven is my home;" "Weary of the earth... I look to heaven." Such an attitude of disdain toward the earth is absent in the Psalms, the Hebrew hymnal, where the central theme is the praise of God for His wonderful works. For example, in Psalm 92, which is "A Song for the Sabbath," the psalmist urges to praise the Lord with musical instruments, because, as he says, "Thou. 0 Lord, hast made me glad by thy work; at the works of thy hands I sing for joy. How great are thy works, 0 Lord!" (vv. 4, 5).56
The Psalmistís rejoicing over nature is based upon his conception of the created world as being not a backdrop for the drama of Godís creation and redemption, but rather an integral part of the whole drama. The Scriptures picture God as creating man to live in a garden happily, acting responsibly toward his environment (Gen. 2:15; 1 :29, 30). 57 When the crisis in Eden occurs, the garden gives place to the wilderness (Gen. 3 :17-19), and the harmony between mankind and nature is disrupted. Nature was not involved in Adamís fall, but it does share in its consequences.
The crisis in the natural order is further precipitated by the ensuing human disobedience. Human estrangement from God brings alienation from nature. Cain slays Abel (Gen. 4:8) and mankind as a whole becomes so corrupt that God finds it necessary to restore some order by means of a cataclysmic Flood (Gen. 6-8).
It is noteworthy that when the human race starts anew, God establishes a covenant not only with mankind, but also "with every living creature.., the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth" (Gen. 9:10; cf. vv. 12, 15, 16, 17). By means of this covenant God promises to preserve the regularity of nature. Despite human rebellion God promises that the chaos caused to nature by the Flood will never occur again. This divine covenant with the natural order is later presented by Jeremiah as the assurance of Godís covenant with people (Jer. 33 :25, 26).
Cosmic redemption. After the Flood the relationship between man and nature experiences a marked decline from Godís original intention (Gen. 1:28-30). Trust gives way to fear: "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth" (Gen. 9:2). This does not mean that human beings can no longer be trusted with the stewardship of the world.58 It means that the natural order will now suffer from irresponsible human conduct toward God.
Examples of such occurrences abound in the OT. Isaiah, for instance, writes: "The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have trans gressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. . . . Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left" (24 :5-6). 59 But as nature suffers the consequences of human rebellion, it also shares in mankindís reconciliation and ultimate restoration. Godís redeeming purpose is cosmic, encompassing the whole of creation, both human and subhuman.
The vision of restored harmony between mankind and nature is present in the OT as well as in the NT. In the OT the end-time restoration of the earth is associated with the hope of the Messianic age, hope which, as noted in chapter 5, was nourished by the message and experience of the Sabbath. A most beautiful description of the end-time restoration to the primeval paradise is found in Isaiah 11: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain" (vv. 6, 7, 9). 60
A similar vision is found in the NT, in which not only human beings but the whole creation share in Christís redemption and ultimate restoration. Paul sees that God in and through Christ is bringing all things in heaven and on earth to the point where they will ultimately experience unity, harmony and reconciliation (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1 :20). Thus, the apostle explains, "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now waiting with eager longing for the time when it "will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8 :22, 21) 61 The Seer of Revelation sees a similar vision of the redeemed enjoying the peace and harmony of "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1-4; cf. 2 Peter 3 :ll,13). 62
3. The Sabbath and the Ecological Crisis
The Biblical vision of a cosmic restoration of human, animal and plant life has vital implications now for the Christian responsibility toward nature and the environment in general. To accept God as the Creator and Restorer of the whole created order means to be responsive to Godís goals and intentions, by participating in His cosmic restoration program. To motivate and actualize such a program, the Church needs symbols and institutions that adequately interpret the human role within Godís created order.
The Sabbath provides the Church with such a needed symbol and institution, since the day offers both theological incentives and practical opportunities to develop what may be called "an ecological conscience." Theologically, the Sabbath inspires and encourages respect and appreciation for all of Godís creation, by reminding the believer that he shares with nature in Godís creation, sanctification, redemption and ultimate restoration; nature thus becomes a worthy partner. The role of scientific knowledge and technology is not to destroy but to preserve natureís balance. The Sabbath assists, in a sense, to extend to the natural world the restoration of Christís image which is being accomplished in human life.
Practically, the Sabbath provides valuable opportunities to translate into action these theological values of nature which the seventh day expresses. These practical opportunities will now be considered under the headings of stewardship, limitation and admiration.
Stewardship. Sabbathkeeping is an exercise in responsible stewardship of the whole earth. It means to acknowledge Godís ownership of the "heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them" (Ex. 20 :11; 31:17) by relinquishing for one day the lucrative use of land and people. This involves granting freedom on the Sabbath not only to all dependent workers but also to "your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle" (Deut. 5 :14; cf. Ex. 23 :12; 20:10). As aptly expressed by Samuel Raphael Hirsch, "The bird, the fish, the animal that we refrain from seizing on the Sabbath, the plant that we refrain from tearing up, the material that we refrain from fashioning or chiselling, cutting or mixing, moulding or preparing, all of this inaction is but a demonstration of homage to God, proclaiming Him Creator and Master and Lord of the world."63
The acknowledgement of Godís ownership, expressed on the Sabbath by surrendering the right to use gainfully human and natural resources, affects the Christianís general attitude toward God and the world. It teaches a person to view himself not as a predator but as a curator of Godís creation. This lesson was taught in Or times particularly through the legislation relating to the sabbatical and jubilee years. These two sister institutions of the seventh-day Sabbath were designed to teach every member of the Hebrew society to regard both land and people as Godís possssion ("The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants"óLev. 25:23, NIV; cf. 25:42, 55).
At these annual institutions, to acknowledge Godís ownership the slaves were emancipated, debts were remitted and the land which had been sold on account of financial distress was returned to the original owner (Lev. 25; Deut. 15 :1-18). Moreover, to protect the land from impoverishment caused by excessive use and to enable it to be renewed with nutrients, during the Sabbath years the land was to lie fallow (" in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard"óLev. 25 :4).
These Sabbath norms attribute to the land almost a conscious personality, granting to it a similar right ordained for human beings to rest and to be free from exploitation. Thus in its own unique way the Sabbath provided in OT times concrete instruments to deal with what today is called the "ecological problem."
Obviously, it is not possible nor necessary to apply to our modern social economic situation all of the norms of the sabbatical legislation. Slavery, for example, is no longer a major social problem. Similarly, loans generally are no longer granted by private persons but rather by public financial institutions. Yet a careful observer can hardly fail to recognize the relevance to the present ecological crisis of the principle of stewardship of Godís creation implied in both the weekly and annual Sabbaths.
Suppose we were to ask modern science, What benefits would accrue to human beings and their environment from observing the Sabbath according to traditional biblical guidelines? Such observance would involve shutting down for the duration of the Sabbath factories, shops and places of entertainment. It would mean stopping industrial machines as well as the millions of automobiles on the highways with the exception of those needed for social services.
The result would be a cessation on the Sabbath in the flow of pollution into our atmosphere which in some of our metropolises has become a toxic smog: A scientific report on New York Cityís atmosphere indicates that the average person on the street of that city inhales toxic fumes equivalent to 38 cigarettes per day.64 For the land it would mean a complete rest for the duration of one year every seven years. Obviously rational plans would have to be developed to implement such programs; economic factors could not be ignored.
At a more personal level it would mean spending the day not competing but communing with nature; not stressing the body with exciting entertainments but stretching the body and the spirit within the atmosphere of peace and pleasure of the Sabbath. What would the answer of modern science be to such a sabbatical lifestyle? We believe that it would be definitively positive. Perhaps our medical and ecological scientists might even recommend the implementation of such a program to restore and safeguard the precarious balance of our personal lives and environment.
Limitation. The rest which the Sabbath is designed to provide to both people and land has been called restitutio ad integrum, which means a restoration to wholeness.65 This principle implies that when God "blessed" His creation and declared it "very good," He endowed it with the potential for regenerating its lost energies. Rest is an important factor to ensure this process of energy renewal, and time is an essential ingredient of rest. If the air and water were given time every seven days (one seventh of the year) to recover from the toxic effects of human pollution, and if the land were left fallow for one year every seven years to regain lost nutrients, would not these measures contribute to solving the ecological crisis?
What our society needs today is a "Sabbath consciousness," namely, a consciousness of responsible stewardship of the world,óhuman stewardship which aims not at devouring space and primary sources continuously in order to increase production but rather at limiting human greediness. The Sabbath commandment is designed to teach such a responsible stewardship. By enjoining to rest, it teaches human beings to place a limit on productivity and profit, to silence the insatiable human greediness.
This important function of the Sabbath is recognized even by those who do not view themselves as Sabbath-keepers. For example, A. Martin, a Catholic scholar, affirms: "The Sabbath means to become conscious of duration. It means to become conscious of a limit . . . To reflect upon the Sabbath means to address ourselves to the question of happiness. It means to remember that man must not turn upon himself, viewing himself as the center of the universe to the risk of suffocating himself. It means to denounce the myth of efficiency, profit and productivity. For a Christian to observe the Sabbath means to say no to that stupidity that prevents us from seeing further than the end of an immediate profit. To respect the Sabbath means to know that man has a limit: if he steps over it, he dies."66
Admiration. The limitation which the Sabbath places upon constructive or destructive uses of the physical world makes possible the admiration of nature. It is scarcely possible to appreciate the beauty of a forest while engaged in cutting down its trees or of a garden while laboring to pull up all its plants. True admiration and appreciation of nature requires a measure of detachment. The Sabbath offers this needed detachment. On this day the Christian must leave nature untouched. To change it by building on it or by destroying it would be a violation of "rest." The Sabbath is a day not to alter nature but to admire it as an expression of the beauty and glory of Godís handiwork (Ps. 19:1).
The recovery of an ethic of admiration of nature is indispensable to develop an ecological conscience. "When nature ceases to be an object of contemplation and admiration," notes Albert Camus, "it can then be nothing more than material for an action that aims at transforming it."67 The loss of an ethic of admiration of nature which has been encouraged by a prevailing secular-scientific view of this world, has resulted in an ethic of exploitation of nature, so that human beings have become aliens to their habitat.
The solution to this conflict between mankind and nature will not be found in denouncing or renouncing technological progress, but rather, as wisely stated by Abraham Joshua Heschel, "in attaining some degree of independence of it."68 "On the Sabbath we live, as it were," writes the same author, "independent of technical civilization: we abstain primarily from any activity that aims at remaking or reshaping the things of space."69
This movement away from the exploitation of nature to its admiration represents in one sense a consecration or offering of this creation back to God. The believer ceases from the use of things to offer them to their Creator, and in so doing receives them back from Him blessed and sanctified. The recovery of this consciousness of the holiness of the world, that is, of Godís presence in the world, is essential for the development of a genuine concern for nature.
In Albert Schweitzerís words, "A man is ethical only when life, as such, is holy to him, that is, the lives of plants and animals as well as the lives of men. Moreover, he is ethical also only when he extends help to all life that is in need of it."70 The celebration on the Sabbath of Godís sanctification of this worlcV (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11) promotes this needed consciousness of the holiness of life and thus encourages the development of a much needed ecological conscience.
This study of the Sabbath as service to our habitat has shown how the day offers valuable theological incentives and practical opportunities for the development of a responsible stewardship of Godís creation. The joyful celebration on the Sabbath of Godís creation, sanctification, redemption and restoration of all the natural order teaches the Christian to act not as a predator but as a curator of the world. The distinctive Sabbath lifestyle, characterized not by the exploitation but by the admiration of the earth, not by the devastation of nature but by the exaltation of its Creator, provides a valuable model of responsible stewardship in an otherwise irresponsible society.
We asked at the outset of this chapter, What contribution can the Sabbath make toward solving pressing human problems such as the sense of Godís absence, the feeling of loneliness, the neglect of the needy and the ecological crisis? Our study has shown that a recovery of the Biblical values of the Sabbath contributes significantly to the solution of these problems. The Sabbath and its values offer to the believer an experience of the presence of God, a fresh revelation of His grace, a needed time for reflection and inner renewal, an opportunity to come close to loved ones and needy persons, and an exercise in responsible stewardship of Godís creation. The celebration of the Sabbath represents indeed the Good News of Service to God, to oneself, to others, and to our habitat.
NOTES TO CHAPTER 6
1. Franz X. Pettirsch, "A Theology of Sunday Rest," Theology Digest 6 (1958): 115.
2. Pacifico Massi rightly observes that "for the Jews rest is an act of worship, a kind of liturgy. This enables us to understand how a series of ritualistic prescriptions were imposed on the liturgy of rest" (La Domenica, 1967, p. 366).
3. The Reformersí view of work as "a divine calling" apparently has contributed in subsequent centuries to idealize work as the object of living. Max Weber proposed that Protestant work ethics became responsible for the rise of capitalism (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1958). Weberís thesis is rather unilateral and has been strongly criticized. For a brief discussion, see Niels-Erik Andreasen, The Christian Use of Time, 1978, pp. 32-34.
4. The first statement is by Rabbi Solomo Alkabez and the second is from "The Evening Service for the Sabbath." Both are cited by Abraham Joshua Heschel, in The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, 1952, p. 14.
5. A. Martin, "Notes sur le Sabbath," Foi et Vie 5 (1975): 50. The same author wisely remarks, "We do not need leisure to have a Sabbath: we need the Sabbath to experience leisure" (ibid., p. 48).
6. Alfred Barry, The Christian Sunday, 1905, p. 69.
7. Christopher Kiesling, The Future of the Christian Sunday, 1970, p. 16. This view is ably defended by W. Rordorf who writes: "Right down to the fourth century the idea of rest played absolutely no part in the Christian Sunday. Christians like everyone else worked on that day. It would not have occurred to them to do otherwise. It was only when the Emperor Constantine the Great elevated Sunday to be the statutory day of rest in the Roman Empire that Christians tried to give a theological basis to the rest from work on Sunday which was now demanded by the State: to this end they fell back on the sabbath commandment" (Sunday, 1968, pp. 296-297; cf. pp. 167-168). W. Scott has challenged Rordorfís thesis, but, in my view, Stottís analysis of sources leaves much to be desired (This is the Day. The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sunday, 1978, pp. 50-103).
8. Christopher Kiesling (n. 7), p. 16.
9. Ibid., p. 23.
10. Ibid., p. 23. Kiesling notes that "Some suggest that Canon 1248 of the Code of Canon Law, which obliges Catholics to observe Sunday worship and rest, should be changed so that the obligation of weekly worship could be fulfilled on some other day of the week" (p. 32). Kiesling views this proposal as "individualistic" and suggests a compromise solution, namely the retention of Sunday on one hand ancf the development, on the other hand, of a Christian lifestyle which is "less dependent upon it; consequently if the Christian Sunday is overwhelmed in the culture of the future, there will be something to take its place" (ibid. p. 34). The least that can be said of this proposal is that it ignores the vital function of the Biblical Sabbath for the Christian life and that it conditions the relevance and survival of a divine institution (seventh-day Sabbath) to cultural trends. To this Kiesling might reply that since Sunday is an ecclesiastical and not a Biblical institution, the Church has the right to annul it, if she deems it necessary. Obviously such an explanation is unacceptable to those Christians who maintain the sola Scriptura principle.
l1. Ibid., p. 23.
12. Ibid., p. 32.
13. The Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups published by The Bible Sabbath Association (1974) lists no less than 120 different churches or groups observing the seventh-day Sabbath. The new directory published in 1996 lists over 300 groups.
14. W. J. Harrelson, From Fertility Cult to Worship, 1969, p. 19.
15. On the question of the origin of the synagogue, see H. H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient Israel: Its Form and Meaning, 1967, pp. 87, 224-241; J. Morgensten, "Sabbath," Interpreterís Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, IV, pp. 135-141; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel II: Religious Institutions, 1961, pp. 343f.
16. This is suggested also by the fact that the Sabbath is frequently associated with the annual feasts which are explicitly designated as "solemn assembly" (Lev. 23:7, 8, 21, 23, 27, 35). If the feasts dedicated "to the Lord your God" were celebrated by a "solemn assembly," we would expect the same to be true in the case of the Sabbath. This nexus is clearly established in Leviticus 23 where the Sabbath opens the list of "the appointed feasts of the Lord" and is designated as "a holy convocation": "Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work; it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings" (Lev. 23 :2). Note also that the Sabbath shares the same theological direction ("to the Lord") and prohibition of work of the annual feasts (Num. 28 :18, 25, 26; 29:1, 7, 12, 35; cf. Deut. 16:8). These elements, shared in common by the Sabbath and the annual feasts, were apparently designed to ensure the participation of all in the holy assembly. For a discussion of this question, see Niels-Erik Andreasen, Rest and Redemption, 1978, pp. 64-68.
17. On the influence of the synagogue upon Christian divine service, see note 43 of chapter 5.
18. It is noteworthy that the Jews through the centuries have expressed the joyful celebration of the Sabbath through the ritual of the kindling of lights. As Abraham E. Millgram explains, "The kindling of the Sabbath lights is one of the most impressive home ceremonies, symbolizing the essential characteristic of the Sabbathólight, joy and good cheer" (Sabbath. The Day of Delight, 1944, p. 10).
19. In a terrible indictment, Paul denounces the universal sin of those who serve and worship "the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25).
20. A. Martin eloquently explains that to observe the Sabbath "means to silence our questioning in order to make place for the Word of God which is true silence and true peace. Because it is in the silence of the Sabbath that one can hear the whispering of the Word. To live the Sabbath covenant means not to say that ĎGod is deadí under the pretense that He does not say anything: it is not God who is dead; it is we who must die to our babbling. The Sabbath alliance means to be still and experience the grand silence of the Word of God. Because it is in the silence that God speaks" (n. 5, p. 31).
21. George Elliott, The Abiding Sabbath: An Argument for the Perpetual Obligation of the Lordís Day, 1884, p. 81.
23. William Hodgkins, Sunday: Christian and Social Significance, 1960, p. 219. Hodgkins rightly observes that in the congregational worship "the individual shares in the strength of the spiritual influence produced by a company of people, and when this is carried out under the skilful guidance of a minister achieves a sense of purpose that is impossible to anyone sat in an armchair listening to a service from a radio set or watching it on television, or reading a devotional book or taking a two minute sermon from a newspaper. This is the great advantage of the Church, that for this communal act of devotion there is really no substitute" (ibid.).
24. Gabriel Marcel views the lack of reflection as a major cause of the dehumanizing conditions prevailing in todayís world (The Mystery of Being, vol. I, Reflection and Mystery, 1960, pp. 44-47). On the significance of reflection in Christian worship, see James White, The Worldliness of Worship, 1967, pp. 48-78. John Bosco perceptively wrote: "Modern man is only satisfied with himself when he has not a moment left for himself; the more he does the more he believes he can do. But the speed one takes neutralizes in reality personality and life. The internal reality of man is destroyed by the swirl of external life. Man loses the ability to accomplish his acts, that is, to engage himself totally in a reflective action" ("Juste place dans notre vie personnelle," in Le Semeur,
1947, p. 262).
25. Harvey Gallagher Cox, Turning East. The Promise and Peril of the New Orientalism, 1977, p. 65.
27. Ibid., p. 66.
28. Ibid., p. 68.
29. Ibid., p. 72.
30. Herbert Saunders, "Reaching a Pluralistic Society With the Sabbath Truth," The Sabbath Sentinel 30 (1978): 5.
31. Achad Haam, Il Birio, 1927, p. 54.
32. Samuel H. Dresner, The Sabbath, 1970, p. 63. Earlier Dresner writes: "Man is half-animal, half-angel, and for six days there is a struggle between the two. One day a week, however, we learn to make peace between body and soul, between spirit and flesh" (ibid., p. 52).
33. "The Christianity Today Gallup Poll: An Overview," Christianity Today 23 (Dec. 21, 1979): 14.
35. A. H. Lewis, "The Divine Element in the Weekly Rest Day," in The Worldís Parliament of Religions, John Henry, ed., 1893, p. 740.
36. Cf. R. J. Banks, Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition, 1975, p. 124.
37. David Hill points out that "the argument has the effect of placing Jesus firmly within the Law, rightly understood: he does good on the Sabbath, and so fulfils the will of God, who desires merciful action rather than ritualistic legalism" (The Gospel of Matthew, 1972, p. 213).
38. G. B. Caird rightly asks: "Which is keeping the spirit of the sabbath better he [Christ] with his deed of mercy or they with their malicious designs? The question needs no answer: it is always right to do good, and what better day than the sabbath could there be fdr doing the works of God!" (Saint Luke, 1963, p. 99).
39. Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, 1940, p. 287.
40. W. Manson, The Gospel of Luke, 1930, p. 60.
41. W. Rordorf (n. 7), p. 68. My response to Rordorfís arguments is found in From Sabbath to Sunday, 1977, pp. 3 1-34.
42. It is noteworthy that the Sabbath is related to social concern also in Isaiah 58. A study of the structure of the whole chapter indicates that the Sabbath is viewed "as the means by which Israel should manifest true fasting, i.e. social concern for the oppressed" (Sakae Kubo, God Meets Man, 1978, p. 47). James Muilenburg also argues for the unity of the chapter and thus the connection between the social concern of true fasting and proper Sabbathkeeping ("Isaiah 40-66," Interpreterís Bible, 1956, V, p. 677). Cf. C. Westermann, Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary, 1969, p. 340.
43. Richard S. McConnell, Law and Prophecy in Matthewís Gospel, Dissertation, University of Basel, 1969, p. 72. My extensive treatment of Christís pronouncement is found in From Sabbath to Sunday, 1977, pp. 56-61.
44. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, 1948, VI, p. 359.
45. George Elliott remarks: "In France, during the Revolution, the substitution of the tenth for the seventh day was accompanied by a divorce law, under whose provision within three months there was recorded one divorce for every three marriages in Paris alone" (The Abiding Sabbath: An Argument for the Perpetual Obligation of the Lordís Day, 1884, p. 61).
46. Samuel M. Segal explains that "according to Jewish law, every man should have marital relations at least once a week, preferably on Friday night. Since the Song of Songs speaks of the love between man and woman, the man reads it at the ushering in of the Sabbath in order to create an atmosphere of love and affection. It is for this reason, too, that on Friday night, during the meal, the man recites the last chapter of Proverbs, in which the woman is idealized" (The Sabbath Book, 1942, p. 17).
47. See above n. 41.
48. Cf. Jewish Encyclopedia, 1962, s.v. "Sabbath."
49. Henlee H. Barnette, The Church and the Ecological Crisis, 1972, p. 65.
50. The importance of theological convictions for solving the ecological crisis is stressed in the report issued by the Anglican commission which was appointed to study this problem. "Society as a whole," the report says, "will only adopt a different style of living if it has come under the impulse of a popular and imaginative way of seeing things in their wholeness. Such a vision needs more than a secular ideology. We believe that it can come about only through the agency of a theology, that is to say, through manís understanding of himself as a creature who finds his true being in a relationship of love with God and in cooperation with God in his purpose for the world" (Man and Nature, Hugh Montefiore, ed., 1975, p. 77). Later the report emphasizes again that "theological convictions can change and eventually affect policies" (ibid., p. 80).
51. Ibid., p. 180.
52. "Our scientific atmosphere," ably writes Eric C. Rust, "has nullified the desire to rejoice and celebrate and reduced nature and all its constituent creatures to ĎIts.í We do not see them as ĎThousí but as objects which science and technology can use and control. They have become means to our economic ends rather than ends in themselves. We have forgotten that our God rejoiced in his creation and declared it to be good because it contained potentially the possibilities for the realization of his purpose" (Nature: Garden or Desert, 1971, p. 133).
53. The trend has been, especially in Western Christianity, to view redemption more as an ethical than a physical or natural process. Much has been said about the redemption of the individual from sin and from this sinful world, but little has been said about Godís plan for the ultimate restoration of Planet Earth to its original purpose and beauty. "It is as though the central element of a story has been isolated from its beginning and its end, and so has lost its essential meaning and interest" (Man and Nature [n. 49], p. 39). Eastern theology apparently has maintained a more cosmic view of redemption. For a brief but excellent treatment of this question, see A. M. Allchin, "The Theology of Nature in the Eastern Fathers and among Anglican Theologicans," in Man and Nature (n. 49), pp. 143-154.
54. J. R. Zurcher provides a perceptive analysis of the influence of Platonic anthropology on the development of the Christian dualistic concept of human nature (The Nature and Destiny of Man. Essay on the Problem of the Union of the Soul and the Body in Relation to the Christian Views of Man, 1969, pp. 1-22). Paul Verghese traces back to
Augustine the unbalanced emphasis on human depravity and the consequent disparagement of the material world. He writes: "Regard the flesh, the body, matter as evil, or even inferior, and one has already began the deviation from Christian faith" (Freedom of Man, 1972, p. 55).
55. A Biblical theology of redemption must start not from mankindís Fall but from its perfect creation. It should acknowledge that despite the reality of sin, human beings and this world essentially still are the good creation of God. Thus mankindís creation, redemption and restoration must be viewed as part of Godís cosmologicalónot merely anthropologicalóredemptive activity. Jacob Needleman argues that it is the lack of a Christian cosmology that encourages some people to turn to Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam in order to find a universal and a personal salvation (The New Religions, 1972).
56. Cf. Psalms 104; 8; 19:1-6.
57. Some argue that the Judeo-Christian tradition is largely responsible for the prevailing irresponsible exploitation of nature. The proof-text often cited to defend this view is Genesis 1:28: "God said to them, ĎBe 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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." The emphasis in this passage on manís dominion and subjugation of nature is held responsible for mankindís unrestrained exploitation of nature. This view is defended, for example, by Lynn White, "The Historical Roots of the Ecological Crisis," Science (March 10, 1967): 120Sf.; Ian McHarg, Design with Nature, 1969. Any attempt to explain the ecological crisis on the basis of one cause is shortsighted to say the least. Moreover Genesis 1:28 can hardly be interpreted as a divine charter for unrestricted human exploitation of this world. Manís dominion is patterned after Godís dominion since God created man in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Gerhard von Rad emphasizes that human "dominion" must be understood in the light of manís creation in the image of God (Genesis: A Commentary, 1963, p. 56). This means that human dominion must be informed by love and must be exercised responsibly. It involves tilling and keeping the earth (Gen. 2 :15; Lev. 25 :1-5), caring for animals and wild life (Deut. 25:4; 22:6-7). Henlee H. Barnette rightly comments: "Made in the imago Dei, man possesses both dignity and dominion, by which he shares in the sovereignty of God in relation to the world. But man in his pride and selfish desires to be wholly sovereign, tends to ignore the fact that his dominion is under and limited by the dominion of God" (n. 48, p. 80).
58. Eric C. Rust rightly says: "Despite all that the Bible says about sin and the need for redemption, man is not so radically lost that his Creator does not continue to trust him with the stewardship of his world!" (n. 52, p. 27).
59. Cf. Ps. 107:33, 34; Zeph. 2:9; Jer. 49:20, 33; Job 38:26-29; Jer. 2:7.
60. Similar OT descriptions are found in Is. 35; 65:17; 66:22; 2:4; Hos. 2:18; Ez. 47:1-2; 34:25-27; Zech. 14:4.
61. Rudolf Bultmann notes that creation "has a history which it shares with man" (Theology of the New Testament, 1951, I, p. 30).
62. Henlee H. Barnette cogently remarks: "In one respect, the biblical and scientific views of the eschaton are similar: the planet earth will be consumed with fire. In the scientific view there is no hope for the cosmos; it will be left void and cold. In the biblical perspective there is a future hope for nature and Godís people in a radically transformed world, a new heaven and a new earth" (n. 49. pp. 76-77).
63. Samuel Raphael Hirsch, "The Sabbath," Judaism Eternal, Israel Grunfeld, ed., 1956, p. 37.
64. Robert and Leona Rienow, Moment in the Sun, 1967, pp. 141f.
65. See Martin Noth, Exodus, J. H. Marks, trans., 1962, p. 189.
66. A. Martin (n. 5), p. 41.
67. Albert Camus, The Rebel, 1962, p. 299.
68. Abraham Joshua Heschel (n. 4), p. 28.
69. Ibid., pp. 28, 29.
70. Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought, C. T. Campion, ed.,1953, p. 126.