The Sabbath Rest
by Josiah Audette
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within they gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11.
The Sabbath is a pattern of one day in seven as a holy rest oriented to God. The Sabbath provides us with meaningful work and meaningful rest. David Palison stated, “To get hard work and sweet pleasure right is to image forth the One who made you. To get hard work and sweet pleasure right is to image for the One who saved you.”
The Sabbath is the principle of freedom under God and of liberty under law, in that it summons us to obedience to the ordinance of rest. Rest, which delivers us from ourselves and from our work.
History has record of the men who have sought this same rest, but sought it outside God, such as Stalin. According to Stalin, “If God exists, He must have ordained slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. He must want humanity to suffer, as the monks were always telling me. Then there would be no hope for the toiling masses to free themselves from their oppressors. But when I learned that there is no God, I knew that humanity could fight its way to freedom.” Consequentially, in the course of Stalin’s quest for the true sabbath, man’s true rest, he enslaved more men than any other tyrant in all history and had more men killed than any other man in all history. Stalin, like all men who attempt to enter heaven on their own terms, placed himself instead in hell.
While the New Testament clearly practices and urges the pattern of weekly worship, the sabbath is fundamentally a day of rest, (Not exclusively a day of worship.) This rest is a soteriological reality and symbol. Sabbath rest is a salvific reality of our redemption, liberation, and wholeness of life in God’s work. Sabbath rest is also a salvific symbol of our total confidence in God as our redeemer as we cease from our own labors. Calvin gave it beautifully when he wrote in his “Catechism of the Churches of Geneva”, “We keep holiday from our own works, that God may perform his own work in us.” Summarily, the essence of the sabbath is our rest in Christ, and our growth in the knowledge of that salvation by His grace.
The Sabbath and Work
“The sabbath presupposes work, work fulfilling God’s creation mandate and performed under God’s law, and the sabbath is the joyful rest from the exercise of this godly dominion. On the sabbath, a man rejoices that the earth is the Lords, and all the fulness thereof (Ps. 24:1). In that confidence man rests, and in that joy he surveys the work of his hands, knowing that his labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)” R.J. Rushdoony. As Meredith Kline wrote in his work, “Treaty of the Great King”, “The sabbatic cycle of covenant life symbolizes the consummation principle characteristic of divine action. God works, accomplishes his purpose and, rejoicing, rests.” The human life is a copy of the Divine life, to work and to rest. Life finds purpose in the sabbath, in that the sabbath makes labor meaningful and purposive. It does so by annexing to work, joyful consummation. Our six days of labor finds its fulfillment in the day of rest, and similarly, our day of rest finds its meaning in the preceding six days of labor. The relationship between the sabbath and work is one which brings all things into harmonious relationship to God and in universal dedication to Him.
“The pattern of the sabbath is in the past, from the sabbath of creation. The entrance into the sabbath is also in the past; for Israel, it was the redemption from Egypt; for the church, it is in the resurrection. The fulfillment of the sabbath is in the new creation. The sabbath is a present rest, based on past events, with a future reference and fulfillment.” R. J. Rushdoony.
Amusing Ourselves to Death
I cam across “Amusing Ourselves to Death” at a creative arts conference and read it on the plane home. At the time I hated reading, but it was this book which radically changed such an aversion. Part of this transformation was the fear which Postman struck in my mind about the rapid decline of the “Age of Typography” and the domination of the “Age of Television.” On the other hand, I found his repeated summons to “think” as imperative and enjoyable when practiced. You will read in the forward to Postman’s book, “Orwell feared those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would be come a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy… In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”
Much of today’s innocent pleasures have degenerated into obsessive, impulsive, compulsive, cancerous, and mutant diversions such as Huxley predicted. Our culture is permeated with these deformed objects of Huxley’s dystopia and our society has adopted them as its pleasures. The new “Age of Entertainment” promises opportunities of true rest, but like Stalin, rest which is devoid of God. Orwell feared Stalin’s promise of rest, Huxley fears modern-culture’s promise of rest. Both of which will only conclude in hell on earth and in our lives. For the Christian there is hope. Hope in the example of our God, and in the salvation of our God. By the work of the Holy Spirit, God brings about liberation and rest from our slavery to sin, regenerates the desires of our heart, and restores the innocent pleasures in our lives. The principles we learn in the fourth commandment are not only prohibitors of the defiled bipolar lifestyle, but induce the enjoyment the competent portion of good things in this life which God has given us.