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What is the Sabbath, and what does it mean for us today?

Does God observe the Sabbath?

Postby Newbie » Thu Oct 03, 2013 6:09 pm

I was just wondering this today and was curious what some of your interpretations of this were.
As I understand it (from a simplified outsider perspective), the Sabbath is observed originally because God observed it himself during Genesis. God created the heavens and the earth, then rested.

Does this mean that God rests on the Sabbath? That he observes it?

If so, what does that mean for God? Does he not hear prayers on the day of rest? Not answer them? If not, why is it necessary to observe it?

I appreciate the input, thanks in advance for the discussion and civility.
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Re: Does God observe the Sabbath?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 03, 2013 6:24 pm

The term and concept of "rest" in Gn. 2.3 is widely misunderstood. "Rest" in this context is not relaxation, but God taking up residence in his "temple"—the cosmos. Ps. 132.8, 13-14. The face value of the creation account is that God was setting up a cosmos that is intended to function not only as an environment for the people he is creating, but even more as a sanctuary for himself. He furbishes it, puts people in it as priest and priestess, then takes up his residence in it ("rest"), and then he sets up Eden along the lines of the Holy of Holies.

So on the 7th day, God isn't kicking back with, "Well, that's done!" Instead, he is coming to dwell in his creation, to engage it, and reveal himself in it. It's the equivalent to taking his place on the throne, so to speak—taking his place as sovereign ruler over the cosmos. Ps. 104.2-4 show symbolically and poetically what is going on. You see, "rest" in the ancient world was the principle function of the temple, meaning that is where the deity took up residence in the midst of his people to be their god. Ex. 40.34 shows the same thing. So that's what "rest" means. It's engaging with the system and exercising sovereignty over it. It isn't disengagement, but the rule of it. His rest is his rule. He has taken the cosmos and made it his home. God has made the earth to function for his guests, but he lives there too (sort of like a "Bed and Breakfast" in our culture).

Walton (NIV Application Commentary on Genesis) says, "God’s Sabbath is not a withdrawal from the world and its operations (e.g., “My work is done, it’s all yours now; good luck!”); instead it represents his taking his place at the helm. This is what Israel’s observance of the Sabbath gives recognition to. Certainly one part of this, and maybe even a major part of it concerns recognition that time belongs to God. But time and space cannot be so easily separated. Levenson offers the comparison, “The Temple is to space what the Sabbath is to time, a recollection of the protological dimension bounded by mundane reality.” By this he means that each of them cut out a section of their domain as belonging in a special way to God, specifically as a reminder that the entire domain belongs to God."

And so, in more specific answer to your questions, yes, he still hears prayers on the Sabbath, and answers them. He is engaging, not disengaging.
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