Biblical Boundaries: Sabbath Day and the Workweek

Biblical Boundaries: Sabbath Day and the Workweek

Biblical Boundaries: Sabbath Day and the Workweek.

“Just as there is a scientific order to nature, so then there is a moral order, and it consists of keeping separated the things that are separated, and maintaining the boundaries that respect the integrity of the world God created and seven times pronounced good.  The Torah is telling us that nature has its own laws, domains and boundaries, the crossing of which is an offense against the divinely appointed order. An ordered universe is a moral universe, a world at peace with its Creator and itself. Where there is order, there is shalom.” (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, from his commentary on Leviticus).

We are confronted with the biblical concept of separation right way in the first few verses of Scripture. The Creation story itself is a tutorial in the fixing of boundaries. Creator God began the universe by separating light from darkness, day from night, water from above and water from below to create a sky in between, water from the land, one type of seed-bearing plant or animal from another, mankind from the rest of creation and the Seventh Day. In Scripture, we can observe the importance of boundaries as created life continued. He separated male and female, life and death, holy and common, and the Sabbath Day. There are plenty of other separations in the order that God created, and His point is, don’t blur the boundaries that God in His wisdom has fixed. Do not mix together that which God has separated. When people make a hybrid out of something God separated, it only leads to chaos, confusion and disorder. Blurring God’s established boundaries is simply not His will, it is not the way He wants things to go in his creation.

KAIROS: (Greek, kahee-ros); an ancient Greek term for “time” that has been defined and described in many ways. New Testament Kairos means time, the right time, not just any time. The other Greek word for time is chronos, which is simply the linear measurement of time, as in the word chronology. Chronos has to do with quantity of time, while Kairos has to do with quality of time. Chronos refers to the sheer presence of time, but Kairos refers to the presence of timeliness. One can see different aspects of the effects of Kairos time depending on the situation. There are three angles of Kairos as we look at “kairos time” in the New Testament:

  1. Kairos means a timely opportunity; the fitting time for action; the right time to get involved; the proper time to act or decide something; a moment whose time has come; a time to respond because things have come to a head (kairos is related to the Greek word for head, “kara”); a particular time when a crisis has created an opportunity.
  2. Kairos is God-time; the appointed time appointed by God; a sacred time for God to act; the opportune time when the Holy Spirit is moving someone into action; the moment of truth when the Spirit of God is inspiring the right word or action for the occasion; the right, fitting time to accomplish God’s will. One sacred example would be the Judeo-Christian believer honoring the Sabbath as God’s appointed time once a week, which sanctifies the day and enables the believer to experience Kairos time.
  3. Kairos time can be experienced by someone who has lost track of time, who are in a state of mind in which they are not even aware of chronos time but fully enveloped in Kairos time. Examples would be monks during contemplation, artists while sculpting or painting; authors when writing; musicians when composing or performing; children while playing; worshipers while engaged in divine singing; gardeners while working in their gardens. Kairos is when someone loses track of time when in a state of inspiration or concentrated activity. When so inspired, time goes by so fast that they are completely unaware of the passage of time. For those in Kairos time in a peak of creative or inspired activity, chronos time seems irrelevant. (the primary reference: author Madelein L’Engle, from her memoir, Walking on Water).

“Then God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day. So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation so He stopped working. God rested on the seventh day from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from all His work on creation.” (Genesis 1:31-2:3). “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to Lord Yahweh your God. On the seventh day, God rested, and that is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Sabbath In Gospel Song – YouTube

Kairos Time. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God has provided a great gift… a regularly scheduled kairos time to “perceive the presence of eternity in a single moment.” (Heschel). It is a weekly day of rest as appointed by God, a time when we are able to participate in God-time, an opportunity to allow us to get lost in quality time, when the work-time does not preoccupy our lives. The Sabbath is a time established by God to be set apart, a Kairos time that is good for the soul, and as it turns out, healthy for all of us in all ways imaginable.

Sabbath literally means “stop” or “cease.” The original Hebrew word is shabbath or shavat, and has been taken to mean ”he rested” down through the centuries. There are many reasons the sabbath has remained the signature day in Judaism for so long. Sabbath day is the heartbeat of the Jewish week. Back in the day of Moses and the Law, profaning the Sabbath day resulted in the death penalty (Ex. 31:14, 35:2). That’s as serious as it gets. Keeping the Sabbath day each week is commanded by the Lord, so observing it is a matter of obedience. But of course, God has His reasons for highlighting its importance. For one thing, by working during the week we are participating in God’s sustaining of the earth. And so observing the Sabbath is actually God’s way of asking us to participate in His rest.  Keeping the Sabbath is a sacred duty before God, a ”mitzvah,” and there simply is no debating the matter. Observing the Sabbath affirms God as Creator and Sustainer; it is a reflection of our obedience to the Covenant; it is an opportunity for us to prove our trust in Him, our dependence upon God to do the heavy work; it established the seven-day week, the rhythm of daily and weekly life as established at creation; it reminds Judeo-Christians of God’s compassionate deliverance from slavery in Egypt, where there was no day of rest (Deut.5:12-15); it is a sign of holiness that unites all believers, and a religious distinctive that is not shared by nonbelievers; it is a shared experience of the Chosen People around the world and through time; it is the Great Equalizer, and makes it possible for believers to unite in spirit regardless of status, location, or socioeconomic level.

Sabbath Rest – (We Set Our Work Aside) Netherlands – YouTube

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel composed one of the classic books on the Sabbath, entitled simply, The Sabbath. The only way to do the book justice is to quote from it, not merely refer to it. He is a giant among Jewish thinkers, a rabbi embraced by many a Christian. Here are a few of his thoughts regarding Sabbath day:

  1. The Sabbath day was the first holy object in the history of the world;
  2. The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time;
  3. The weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath;
  4. The Sabbath is a palace in time which we build;
  5. The Sabbath is eternity in disguise, a day the likeness of God can be found;
  6. The Sabbath is a window in eternity that opens into time;
  7. The Sabbath glides into our thoughts with a healing sympathy after the strange, frightful powers of time over us during the week;
  8. The Sabbath is not a date, but an atmosphere, a state of mind, an awareness of our being within the Sabbath rather than of the Sabbath being within us.
  9. The Sabbath is no time for any activity that might dampen the spirit of joy. It is a sin to be sad on the Sabbath day;
  10. The Sabbath is like a bride, and we celebrate it like a wedding;
  11. The Sabbath is when all that is divine in the world is brought into union with God.
  12. The Sabbath possesses a holiness like that of the world to come, an opportunity to raise the good to the level of the holy;
  13. Judaism tries to foster the vision of life as a pilgrimage to the Seventh day;
  14. Time is God’s gift to the world of space;
  15. Creation is the language of God, and time is His song;
  16. This is the task of mankind: to conquer space and to sanctify time.

Keeping the Sabbath – A Christian Liturgy for the Family – Christian Refuge

The Havdalah Ceremony –“Havdalah” means “separation.”  Saying good-bye to the Sabbath at sunset, and preparing for the following week.

a.  The selected woman lights the braided candle, signifying the light of God and the unity of Creation and Redemption. The room lights are all turned off;

b.  Prayer said over the lighted candle: “We are reminded, Lord, that darkness still covers the earth. We lift our hands to Your light (everyone lifts hands to the light) because we know that You are the light of the world. We ask and desire that our lives may be filled with Your light; and because we acknowledge that our only hope is in You, we dedicate the work of our hands in Your service.” 

c.  Wine: make sure each person’s cup has a small amount of wine. Keep candle lit, but turn lights back on.

d.  Selected person: “As a symbol of our desire that the blessings of Sabbath will flow into the week ahead, and also in our joy in the Lord that causes our “cup to run over,” we say to the Lord: 

e.  (All pray together) “Surely the Lord will save me; I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and He will be my Savior.” (from Isaiah 12);

f.  The selected person will place a plate under his/her chalice of wine and fill the cup to overflowing. Everyone sips some of wine in their cups.

g.  Blessing the Spice Box (includes clove, cinnamon, cardamom, pieces of orange peel, and rosebuds): A selected person prays, “But thanks be to God, who in Messiah always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

h.  As the spice box is being passed around the table, someone prays, “May our lives carry the fragrance of Jesus, Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath; a royal fragrance that will bless and draw others wherever He may take us.” 

i.  The person who lit the candle extinguishes it in the spilled wine in the plate.

j. The Prayer After Havdalah (Farewell Prayers at sundown of the Sabbath day):

(Father prays): “Praise to you, Adonai God, Sovereign Lord of all: Who distinguishes between the holy and the ordinary, between light and dark, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and the six days of work. Praise to you, Adonai, who distinguishes the holy and the ordinary.” 

(Mother prays): “O God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah and Rachel, guard your people. Your beloved Sabbath is departing. Help us through this evening to consider the darkness that covered the earth when your Son Jesus died on the cross. May your love go with us through the night and wake us in the morning with renewed spirits, to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.”