Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sabbath - Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

“The Sabbath is a Rehearsal for Revolution”
-Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan-
Shabbat-”To Rest” or a “Cessation”
I don’t think I venture too far in saying that like fasting, the Sabbath that I know is loathed by most of those with whom I worship. I can’t say that I have entirely excluded myself from this list. However, in living it, understanding comes. It must be misunderstood, since it is said that no man who understands it would break it. Why the Sabbath? Why is this ritual prescribed? What does it do for us and for God?
The first recorded reference to Sabbath is mentioned in the creation of the World. Here the Lord sets apart an eternal principle for us all to follow, one which was destined to bless all creation in the future. And since he is the author of all Creation(s), this principle has always and will always bless His creations. It is an eternal principle. Why? If day seven is part of the Creation periods, what is being created on that day?
In Genesis 2.2 God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. Why?
Can we really argue that the Lord God, of all the universe was TIRED upon creating the universe? Were the six creative periods that long and gruesome so as to cause even our omnipotent ruler to become worn out? Isaiah answers this in his 40th chapter, “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.” So then, there must be a different reason for his rest, if not weariness. What is it that he is resting from?
Back to Genesis 2 we see that He rests from the Work of Creation. He steps away. He creates the sabbath by letting go of the reigns, removing the training wheels. On that day he stepped back from the physical act of creation and let the world be at peace, let nature take its course, let men have their agency. He no longer had complete control, he allowed the world to act on its own. Reading from the Genesis account we see that men were placed in the Garden, the garden was allowed to grow, and men were tunred loose on this day. In fact, the end of the Seventh Day is never given. We are merely turned loose into the reading of the bible, the story of men. We begin to exercise agency, to be the creators of the world for a time. And what do we do with it?
Immediately, men do their thing and become Idolatrous. We find Cain introducing the economy to the world by trading his brothers life for personal gain. Much later we find a world so full of evil that it must be entirely cleansed by water, because of our agency. Soon after that Two entire cultures are burned to the Ground as they exercise agency. Eventually we find the people of God in complete and utter bondage in Egypt. The Lord again see the need to deliver his people, to recreate their covenant status. He does so with an exodus from Bondage, and subsequently they reject the higher laws of God. So, because they used their agency to Reject his higher laws, he gives them Lower laws that are meant to point them, lift them, to a higher plane of thought and agency. They are literally written in Stone, and to this day are still relevant. The first four Commandments take up the bulk of the reading, emphasizing their importance. They all relate to Idolatry. The first stating who is god, the second saying not to make your own god, the third stating that men should not call themselves God and the fourth is the one we are now dealing with.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
The verse begins with the Command to REMEMBER the sabbath day. and in what context? “Six days shalt thou…but the Seventh…” We are to remember the sabbath day in relation to the other six days. Then, the reference is brought back to the creative period. There we found that the work that the Lord rested from was the Physical acts of controlling the universe. This commandment then, in drawing our minds to the work of the creation and the creation of the Sabbath is asking us to do the same one day out of every seven. Stop controlling, stop working, stop worrying, stop fretting. Indeed, we find in DC 59 the admonition, “And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full. Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.” This is a time of rejoicing, a time of Joy. It is a time to be looked forward to, to be savored, to be understood.
In recalling this commandment we would be remiss if we did not mention that it is the only one of the ten that is a ritual act, rather then a physical one. This commandment is set up as an observance, as something to remember. The keeping of this commandment is different then the others because it is a Sign to God and men that YOU are set apart from the World. That you are seeking his purpose and not the needs of Babylon.Ezekiel 20.12-20 contains a chiasm centered by the separation, bondage and deliverance of Gods people and bookmarked by this sabbath sign between God and man.
“Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them(vs12)…And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.(vs 20)”
In drawing our minds back to the creation the Lord sets this sign, the sabbath day, to remind us that he is our God and for us to show him the HE is our God. This is how he will know his people. They are willing to let go of creation, of work, of Babylon, of the world and cares of it, for a whole day. They are willing to celebrate the way things are, their relationship with him. They are willing to celebrate that indeed he sanctifies us, not we or anyone else through our labor. We are willing to consider the lilies of the field knowing that we cannot add a single cubit to our stature. By remembering the commandment in relation to the creation we see that it is our job on this day to let go of creation and be at peace with the world, seeking no dominion.
In the other account of the giving of the ten commandments, Deuteronomy, the Lord gives us this instruction,
“Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
This version is essentially the same, until the end where the Lord gives us a new thing to remember the Sabbath in relation to, the Exodus. The exodus represents two things to the children of Israel First, the Bondage to the world that they were/are in. Second, that the Lord removed that bondage “by a stretched out arm (servant)”. What is the point of this? How is this point of reference related to the exodus account, wherein Creation was given as the context?
Recall that the point of Creation context was to get us to let go of the world, to stop our dominion, our creation, our oppression on the natural courses. Here we find the parallel to those labors, the sweat of our brow. Here we see that when men were created they became servants to their own needs. We had to work for our daily bread. We are in Bondage to the cares of the world and we set up those cares as the God which we serve. The sabbath removes that burden from us. The sabbath asks us to remember it in relation to the other days. To prepare for it, to set it apart. On that day we are to do no labor, to relieve ourselves from that worldly bondage which the lilies are not engaged in.
At this moment we are engaged in a war against Babylonian chains that hold us down. All around us the work of the labor of our hands and an economy set up to that end dominate our lives. Indeed we are sorely in bondage to all of that whores enticing tentacles. We worship at her feet. We have set up a system which is remarkably difficult to be removed from, nearly to the threat of legal action for doing so. The saints in kirtland found this out. Men today who try removing themselves from babylonian reliance on men for religion, from the monetary system, from the mark of the SSN, from the ties of a power grid, from codes of building in every state, county and city, from laws which require physical “insurance”, from doctors and education boards with self interest in mind and from the moral mores which make a man ridiculed for these acts, find themselves on the wrong end of hatred persecution and desolation. Yet, the Lord begs of us to “come ye out from the wicked, touch not their unclean things”. The Deuteronomy context of the commandment reminds us for one day a week that the Lord is in charge. We are reminded that know man who relies on him will be left in bondage. For one day a week, we are free of all those things which bind us, if we prepare properly for it. For one day a week we are reminded that he will deliver us by an outstretched arm from the suffocating chains all around us. In this we will find Joy and Rejoicing, a reason to celebrate.
During the exodus account, the Lord prepared a vivid tool to teach the Children of Israel of the importance of celebrating him by getting out and letting go of the world for a day. He provided food from them every day but one, the sabbath. In order to eat on the sabbath, they had to prepare for it by collecting a double portion the day before (ex 16.26). By following the command and looking forward to the sabbath through gathering twice as much manna the day before the people realized that they could not survive by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God (deut 8.3). There protection and survival relied on that Arm that had brought them from Egypt. IF they want to survive they have to rely on his Word and prepare for the future by looking forward to a day without bondage. The Jewish maxim states,
“He who prepares on Friday will eat on the sabbath”
This statement has ramifications in the immediate time frame, with the preparation of food allowing a person to eat literally on a day when no work should be performed. It also has millennial context, as driven home by the Deut account by referring to the exodus and the stretched out arm. In Isaiah the promise is given that by keeping the sign of the Sabbath, all people will be given the blessings of Covenant keeping.
Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people; neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. (the Stranger and Eunuch are the lowest wrung of society. they think they have suffered two curses of breaking covenant, separation and a lack of seed) For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. (Abraham’s new name was everlasting, he had seed forever. The sign of your covenant keeping will be the sabbath day). Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, everyone that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;(the stranger, Gentiles, is here given the promise of an inheritance, with sabbath keeping being the sign) Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. (Isaiah 56.2-7)
If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day (trampling my courts? see IS 1); and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58.13-15)
The point is made that our own desires, our own ways, the ways of the world, are not what we should find delight in. We will not find joy and rejoicing in the bondage that Babylon sells. However, if we live to remember the sabbath, prepare for it, remember it, and call it a delight unto us he will deliver us from the bondage of Egypt and give us Joy and rejoicing(DC 59). In fact, according to those versus in Isaiah He will prepare us for the higher law. He will prepare us to ride in the high places, to be protected by him and provided for by him. He will prepare us to be ready for the millennial sabbath period when all the world will rest from its sins, its bondage.
With all this in mind I ask, has the Lord commanded us to only live his law on One day out of seven? As his children looking to build Zion, is one day out of 7 the Goal? Or, in looking forward to the millennial sabbath, is the Lord asking us to prepare to live the sabbath daily? Isn’t this the point of the law of consecration, the command to get out of the world, the command to gather, etc… Isn’t that the point of all those who are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd getting out of the world, touching not their unclean things, being separate?
What were the Ten commandments? A lower law given to the people to prepare them for a higher. In the case of commandment 4, we remember the creative Gods ability to remove us from the Bondage of the world by doing so one day out of seven personally. But what is that preparatory law preparing us for? A life free of bondage, a world without sin. It is setting up a sign which will show Him that we are prepared to leave the cares of the world, seeking only him. By doing so he will bless us through giving us the power and protection needed to seek Zion in our daily lives. TO become consecrated EVERY day, to offer up our Sabbaths always in remembrance of the promise.
The higher commandment is to get out of the world entirely and rest from it all your days, as Christ did. Remember the lilies of the field, they toil not neither do they spin. Like those ‘lazy’ flowers the Savior of the world relied wholly on the His God for protection and sustenance day to day. HE asked the same of his disciples and all those who would follow him. He commands the rich to give their substance to the poor and follow him. He commands the poor to not be idle, but to seek his face. He promises that if we just keep his commandments he will provide for us the manna for life. HE asks us to make our lives a Sabbath unto him, an offering on the altar. He promises that we will find peace and rest, joy and rejoicing only by doing this thing. The higher law demands a lifetime of submission.
So we have a sign given for us to show God we are ready for the higher law. We must prepare for it. As the Jews do, take the time to notice on the sabbath when the sun rises and sets. Watch a candle and reflect on the Lords hand in the Lives of his children. Look forward to your time of deliverance from bondage. Make covenant with him weekly that you are his Son, and you want him to be your God. Prepare your food for that day with singleness of mind, in rejoicing. Celebrate the day with others who are looking forward to deliverance from bondage. Offer up your prayers that that deliverance may soon come. In so doing, as a people, we are preparing the groundwork for the most marvelous work and a wonder, a remarkable revolution. That revolution will be made reality by a group of Gods children who had set up a sign to him, prepared themselves, to be separate from the work and worry of Babylon. They will find Joy and Rejoicing in the act of separation from Babylonian ties BECAUSE they kept the Sabbath day holy, and consecrated their entire lives through its proper observance. They have recognized the idolatry of men, the needless sweat off their brow, and relied on the word of the mouth of God for their sustenance.

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