Leviticus 23 expands upon seven holy days. The first mentioned is the Sabbath. We could go beck to Genesis 2 and find the first Sabbath, that God rested from His work, and therefore sanctified the seventh day. I would rather go forward in our Bibles to the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 3, the discussion is taken up between Moses and the greater than Moses, Jesus. We find that the author then starts expanding upon how the House of Israel was in disobedience when they wandered the desert, and that God even swore in his anger, “They shall never enter my rest” (Hebrews 4:3). The author is making a point that there is a Sabbath that they kept, as prescribed here in Leviticus and elsewhere, but that Sabbath rest was not the fulfillment of the Sabbath, for if it was, then Israel would have entered into God’s rest.
So, we see in Hebrews 4 the argument being posed, “It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God rested from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…”
Do you understand what the author of Hebrews is getting at?
This word “Today” is the nub of the argument. It isn’t simply that there remains a later time at which the Sabbath can be attained, where we cease from our own work. This isn’t about heaven, where we will have resurrected bodies and no longer be striving. No, this Sabbath that is being expressed is fully available “today” – an eternal “today”. Whether it is 1000 B.C. or 2015 A.D. it is still “today”. This “today” is always available – an eternal now – where we are beckoned to come in and sup with God, to cease from our work and rest with Him in resurrection.
The Sabbath is not about resting from our work, and therefore we sit around all lazy-like on Saturday or Sunday. It is about ceasing from our work in all that we do, and finding the rest of God in all of our daily actions and interactions. We come unto a place where we are no longer striving for anything, but allowing God to be the one to push us forward. And, if we are hindered, we pray that the Lord might give revelation as to whether it is the Holy Spirit or demons that are stopping us. In all things, we accept them as from the hand of God, and we believe that if it is not, He is big enough to move heaven and earth out of the way for us to pass through unharmed.
We can look at the life of Jesus. Time and time again Jesus is healing on the Sabbath. Jesus is doing that which is unlawful on the Sabbath. Over and over again this is something that is brought up in the Synoptic Gospels. It is even mentioned at least once that Jesus asks the questions, “Is it better to do good or evil on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” There wasn’t a response. Why? Well, we can see that it is obviously better to save life and do good, but the context betrays us. Jesus is about to heal on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees know it. If they say it is better to save life and do good, then Jesus will ask why they desire to kill him, and why they desire to preserve the Sabbath instead of heal the man. The point isn’t about resting… or is it?
Is healing someone ‘work’? Is it ‘work’ to take the grain off of the head and nibble on it? Is it ‘work’ to walk a certain distance? What exactly defines ‘work’?
Over and over again, when you look at the responses of Jesus and the questions that He will ask in return, it seems as though He is claiming, “I’m not working. My Father is the one working. I just lay hands on people and speak a word. That doesn’t take any effort. God is the one who does the healing.” In this, we see a bit of sarcasm, but we also see a profound statement. Jesus is claiming that all of His teachings, healings, miracles, and everything else that He does on the Sabbath is not done by His own strength.
Now, it is interesting when we go back to Genesis 2. God rested upon the seventh day. Yet, when we read in Genesis 1:2 that the Spirit “hovered” over the waters, that verb is a piel participle. The piel conjugation is an intensifying conjugation, and the verb means “to relax”. The piel form of “to relax” would be “to rest”. Where we get the idea of hovering would be from the participle only being used on other time in Scripture: in relation to an eagle that hovers over the nest and stirs up her young.
But, wait a minute! How can God create from a state of rest, and then we find that the Sabbath is when God rests?
The difference is found in the verbs. One verb means “to relax”, while the other is the word “Sabbath”. Our English word is actually a transliteration of the Hebrew. The difference is that the Sabbath rest brings about restoration and regeneration. It brings about sanctification. This isn’t about renewing our strength or sleep or not doing. This is about edifying your spirit. This isn’t about getting enough strength restored that you can now go back to work tomorrow. This word is about doing that which renews your soul and spirit. The Sabbath is about doing that which brings you pleasure – true pleasure. It is about doing that which brings your soul peace and joy.
The question of work enters here: Whatever you’re doing, does it cause you stress or strain? Does playing video games cause you tension? Then it is unlawful to do on the Sabbath, for it destroys your rest. Does study cause for your mind to not be at ease? Then it destroys your rest; don’t do it. Does gardening or taking care of the animals lead to your joy, or does it just sound like a chore to you?
What the Sabbath is not is sitting in front of the television and “relaxing”. If sports work you up, then you are destroying rest and sinning against God. It is not about filling your mind and soul with things that are damaging to the Spirit of God. It is not spending the day on the Internet, watching videos that use language, have violence, or any other form of corruption. It is not reading blog posts about who is wrong for what reason.
Things that rile up emotions like anger, bitterness, wrath, hatred, strife, lewdness, selfishness, outbursts, jealousy, envy, contentions, and division are unacceptable for the Sabbath. This can come about simply by reflecting on past experiences. The reason is because the Sabbath isn’t about relaxing. We have misinterpreted this entirely. We think that relaxing is resting. But there is a huge difference.
The Sabbath is about refreshing your sprit, and therefore it isn’t something that is wrapped up in time. There is an eternal “today”. Whatever day it might be, the day that is available to you to enter into that rest, to cease from your work, and not just cease from your work, but to cease from all the things that cause tension and strife and worry and anxiety, is “today”. This is an eternal moment, because it is an eternal state of being. It stretches beyond time and is something that should transform us deeply.
For myself, I can’t say that I’ve come unto this. This is something that I know of, but have only tasted. I can say of certain days, or even certain moments, that I’ve experienced this kind of Sabbath rest, but I haven’t fully entered. I have not seen a lasting rest produced in my life. The reason for this is found in Hebrews 12:6, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” This goes back to verse 1-2, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Just as Jesus overcame by bearing His cross, so too do we need to overcome by bearing ours. If it means going through Gethsemane, shedding blood through our sleepless night wrestling against our carnality, then so be it. Why is it that we’re still trapped by the sins and mindsets that hinder us? Why are we still so entangled? It can only be because we have not fully believed that it is possible to be free, and in that belief, hated our sin and sought God until freedom and rest came.
To find the rest of God is to find freedom from all that is corrupt in me.
Notice where we are in Leviticus. God set up the sacrifices as a means to draw near to Him, then explained to us what it means to be clean before Him. After we’ve examined ourselves and seen what it means to be clean or unclean, we then shifted to the Day of Atonement, where our sin was forgiven by the sacrifice, and our sin was taken away by the scapegoat. Then we had a long dialogue about what it means to live in freedom from the demonic forces that had entangled us, and caused us to be in bondage to sin in the first place. Now we’re coming unto the holy days, and God is showing us an eternal pattern. He is revealing to us that there is still yet more.
We might be forgiven, and our sin might be taken away, and we even might be free from demons, but are we truly free? Have we entered into that rest? Have we struggled against sin to the point of overcoming, so that we live and move and have our being hidden away with Christ in God? We see that God is now expanding to us the paradigm for freedom – true freedom. We have the option to observe the Sabbath, not just on one day a week, but every moment of every day to cease from our work and eternally live from the rest of God. Next, we’ll begin to see the Passover and how it also relates to this concept of finding absolute freedom. Indeed, all of these holy days help to reveal to us the bankruptcy in ourselves, but the riches in Christ.