Friday, February 24, 2017

Worship or Rest

We've wound our way back, much like Israel, to the place where we once stood, faced with the question presented by the Exodus and Deuteronomy versions of the Ten Commandments: what, exactly, is the Sabbath? Is it a holy day on which we rest because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh or is it a sacred day on which we worship because God, our God, delivered us from Egypt?


Just as we saw yesterday, the answer is not either/or but both/and. There is absolutely no tension in wholly and fully accepting both presentations as truth and fulfilling them simultaneously; they confirm one another, and they confirm the character of God. 

When we rest because our God is holy, we take a new view of creation. We stand back and see how the world is set in motion and, like our God, we declare that it is good. We have a moment to see ourselves, not in motion, but at rest - in a state of human being, not in human doing - and we can say that it is very good. In holy rest, we see what the world always knew - Creation itself has been given all that it ever needs, for it has been masterfully crafted by a great Artist and endowed with His very presence. On the Sabbath day of rest, we stop trying to improve it and stand back, letting the Artist speak. 

When we worship because God, our God, brought us out of Egypt, we free ourselves from the curse for just a bit. No longer do we have to toil for everything we've got. No longer do we cry out in labor pains; we're not responsible for life. God has given us everything, and He brings life. For the breath of this sacred day, Creation is restored to its intended design - God is our God. We exist in proper, worshipful relationship with Him. It is not that we have forgotten our fallenness; we have simply forsaken it for the better thing. 

And here, we have two truths that become abundantly clear on the Sabbath, and they live in harmony with one another: God is good, and He is for us. And are these not the two most fundamental truths of our entire faith? God is real, and He is here. God is Love, and He loves us. God created everything, but we are His treasure. This is the essence of the faith!

So it is interesting to see how the story of Scripture changes from one place to another, for example, from the outskirts of Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land, and to look at all of the factors that go into something like that and what such a change might mean. But we need not be troubled by what seem to be such dramatic differences in revelation. Quite often, they complement each other rather than being contradictory. We just have to figure out what's going on, why, and what it says about our God, in order that we might find what is both good and beautiful even in the mess. 

After all, isn't that all we're doing anyway? Looking for what's good and beautiful even in this mess....

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