I just read an article that made me think of the Sabbath in a way that I have not thought of before. Jürgen Moltmann (“The Sabbath: The Feast Of Creation.” Journal Of Family Ministry 14.4 : 38-43) talks about the nature of the Sabbath in some pretty profound ways. I’ll just share a few thoughts worth pausing over. First, he notes that in the Genesis account God’s blessing of the Sabbath is unique because previously God had blessed only things. For example, God blesses the sea creatures and birds of the air (1:22) and he also blesses the man and woman (1:28). But when he blesses the Sabbath (2:3) he is not blessing a thing but rather a day, that is, a time. “God does not bless this day through activity, but rather through his rest; not by creating, but rather by being there. In this day God is wholly present” (40). Commenting on Augustine’s famous dictum, ‘our heart is restless in us until it finds rest in thee’, Moltmann points out that restlessness is universal among mortal creatures. So where is the refuge? the place of rest? “It is in time–here and now–on the seventh day, God’s Sabbath. On this day God simply is. All creatures therefore find there place…in the calm of God’s presence” (40). So, because on the Sabbath God blessed a time and not a thing this means that in a sense his blessing is universally available to all creatures who exist in this time, that is, the Sabbath.
And yet, as a spacio-temporal blessing the Sabbath points forward and backward, according to Moltmann. It points backward because it beckons us to remember creation (the day of blessing from the Creator). It points forward because on the Sabbath (in a uniquely blessed way) we may experience life in the presence of the Living God. I’ll close with a quote in which Moltmann makes an interesting analogy between the Sabbath day and the function of temples in the ancient world:
In the limited temples of the peoples, heaven and earth touch, but in the Jewish Sabbath, time and eternity touch. That way the Sabbath is both a day of remembrance of the original creation and a day of hope in our final salvation. Beginning and End are present on this day, interrupting time and indeed rescinding it. On this day death is abolished, for life is experienced so deeply that it is eternal. On this day the law of time is put away, for God himself lives in this day: eternal presence in an instant of time.