Posts tagged ‘Gift’

The Sabbath: More Than Just a Day

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One of the interesting features of the creation account comes when God rests from His work on the seventh day:

By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)

This is history’s first Sabbath day, practiced by God Himself. But this seventh day breaks a pattern that is found in days one through six. Each of these days are described as having “evening and morning”:

And there was evening, and there was morning the first day. (Genesis 1:5)

And there was evening, and there was morning the second day. (Genesis 1:8)

And there was evening, and there was morning the third day. (Genesis 1:13)

And there was evening, and there was morning the fourth day. (Genesis 1:19)

And there was evening, and there was morning the fifth day. (Genesis 1:23)

And there was evening, and there was morning the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

On the seventh day, however, there is no “evening and morning.” God simply rests.

Though there is no reason to believe that the seventh day is any different than any of the other six days per se, the break in the pattern seems to indicate that this day is special. There is something more to this day than just a day.

The preacher of Hebrews speaks of this first Sabbath when he says:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

The preacher of Hebrews seems to be picking up on the broken pattern for the first Sabbath day. Though it may have been just a day, there seems to be something about it that lingered, something about it that transcended evening and morning, something about it that, as the preacher of Hebrews puts it, “remained” right up to the present day.

When God set a pattern of work and rest, He was not just setting a pattern, He was making a promise – a promise that rest does not merely need to be confined to one day between one evening and one morning. This is what the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day forgot. They became so obsessed with keeping the Sabbath day, they forgot that the Sabbath was not just meant to be a day, but a gift for anyone whenever they needed it. As Jesus puts it, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

These past fifteen months have been brutal and exhausting for many people. Summer officially began yesterday. My prayer is that you’ll take advantage of God’s gift of a Sabbath during this season of time off and fun. Get some rest with family and friends. The Sabbath is God’s gift to you. And it remains for you.

It’s a gift worth using.

June 21, 2021 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Repeating the Past

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  So said the Spanish philosopher George Santayana in his 1905 opus magnum The Life of Reason.  If only Santayana was right.  If only it was only those who had somehow forgotten the past who, ignorant of the lessons of yesteryear, repeated them in these years.  Unfortunately, even those who do remember the past, as debase as it might be, often repeat it.  The son who knows his father is an alcoholic drinks excessively himself and develops the same addiction.  The daughter who is bitter and vindictive remembers well the grudges her mother held against others.  The father who hits his wife passes his legacy down to a son who raises his hand to his girlfriend in a fit of rage.  We have no problem remembering past calamities.  But in spite of our well-defined memories, we all too often repeat them.

What reason can be given concerning those who remember the past and nevertheless consign themselves to repeat it?  In our text from this weekend, the apostle Peter reminds us that we are all heirs to “the empty way of life handed to us by our forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18).  The Greek word for “empty” is instructive.  It is the word mataios which denotes the appearance of a thing as distinct from its essence.  That is, mataios allows for a thing to look enticing in its appearance while leading to sin, despair, and death in its essence.  One cannot help but think of how Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6).  Satan tempted history’s first couple with the appearance of wisdom.  But what Satan was leading Adam and Eve to, as appealing as its appearance may have seemed, was, in its essence, sin, despair, and death.

What Satan did with Adam and Eve he continues to do with us.  He tempts us with a thing that has an appealing appearance, but, in its essence, leads us to sin, despair, and death.  Satan tempts us with the appearance of joy through drunkenness.  But that ephemeral joy quickly melts into the essence of regret as we suffer through a hangover.  Satan tempts us with the appearance of pleasure through sex outside of marriage.  But that illusory pleasure quickly melts into essence of pain as a marriage is destroyed.  The temptations of Satan look full and marvelous, but, in reality, they are empty and tragic.  They are mataios.

Thus, it is no surprise that we fall for temptations from our past.  For though we may remember their appealing appearances, we all too often minimize or even forget their essential brokenness.

What remedy is there against Satan’s enticements toward all things mataios?  Peter answers, “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13).  Again, the Greek for the word “given” is instructive.  It is the word phero which refers to something that is not only “given,” but “brought.”  That is, God desires not only to give us His grace, He has actually made provision for it to be brought to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  Indeed, this is what we celebrate at Christmas:  How God was not content to leave His grace supinely suspended in heaven and so deigned to bring His grace to earth in the person and work of Jesus.  Our ancestors, beginning with Adam and Eve, may have handed down to us the impoverished ways of mataios, but our God brings down to us His amazing grace in Christ.  So instead of trying to remember the pain of past mataios so that you can learn from it, instead, rejoice in the peace of God’s present grace.  Because, in the light of God’s eternal grace, mataios loses its appealing appearance.  For we now have God’s grace and its incomparable essence of forgiveness.  And that’s good news.

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December 13, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – The Gift of the Gospel

In the book of Esther, the good queen Esther foils a plot by the evil Haman to exterminate the Jews after Haman becomes enraged when one Jew in particular, Mordecai, refuses to bow down and pay him homage.  Being an egomaniac, Mordecai’s insult infuriates Haman so much that “he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes” (Esther 3:6).  When Mordecai learns of Haman’s nefarious intentions, he calls Esther, a relative of his and also a Jewess, and pleads with her to go entreat the king for the lives of the Jews.  But Esther knows that such a request cannot be made without peril:

All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. (Esther 4:11)

To approach the king, Esther’s will have to put her life on the line.  But with great courage, Esther approaches the king uninvited:

Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.” (Esther 5:1-3)

With the king’s words, Esther can take comfort in the fact that her life is no longer in danger.  For the king has spared her life and has even offered to grant her request, whatever it may be.  “It will be given you,” the king says.  The story finds its happy ending when Esther requests a banquet with Haman and the king only to foil Haman’s plot against the Jews.  Providentially, the king was willing to give Esther her banquet which she leveraged to save her people.

“It will be given you.”  These are not only the words of a king.  These are also the words of the gospel.  For the gospel is a gift.  Jesus promises:  “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7).  And the greatest gift that Jesus has given to humanity, of course, is His own death and resurrection.  For this gift brings our salvation.

In our reading from this past weekend from Revelation 19, we catch a breathtaking glimpse of the end of time when Satan is finally conquered the Church is wed to Christ once and for all.  The song of praise at this wedding is beautiful:

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Revelation 19:6-8)

A Church once stained by the sin and depravity of her people is now arrayed in “fine linen, bright and clean.”  How does she obtain such linen?  It is “given her to wear.”  Even at the end of time, God’s gospel goes on.  The church does not earn her linens, nor does she merit them; rather, they are given to her.

Just as the bride of the king was given life by an extended gold scepter, the bride of Christ is given life by His arms, extended on a cross.  And when Jesus extends His arms on a cross, He does so with a promise on His lips:  “It will be given you!  Forgiveness will be given you!  Life will be given you!  Salvation will be given you!  Fine linen of holiness, unsoiled by sin will be given you!  It will be given you!”  This is why, on the Last Day, when the wedding of the Lamb of God to His Church finally arrives, we will be stained no more by sin.  For Christ will have given us all we need – even perfection into eternity.  It will be given you. What a gift!

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September 6, 2010 at 5:15 am 1 comment

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