Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sabbath Rest: Bringing God's Presence to Earth

Originally posted 2.22.12
Sabbath rest; I don’t think God will let me leave this for some time—probably because I need it the most. My days are full of lists, and busyness, and chores, and studying, and taking care of people. I constantly feel the need to rest.  The pulling and the stress have me feeling like Bilbo Baggins; I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can't be right. I need a change, or something.[1]

I would like to go somewhere alone and sleep for a week. While more sleep is desirable, that is not the rest that God is whispering into my spirit.

In Luke 13 we find Jesus healing on the Sabbath, for which the religious leaders persecuted Him. Jesus was fulfilling the purpose of the Sabbath by ministering to the sick. Jesus, our blessed Savior, healed a woman—dried up a fountain of blood that crippled her for eighteen years. He was astonished that the religious leaders could justify leading their donkey to drink on the Sabbath, yet are outraged that a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen years, deserved less attention than their donkey, and should stay sick because of the Sabbath. (see Luke 13:16).

The compassion of Christ is demonstrated in vivid colors: When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.  He called her. Why? Because Jesus knew she would not come to Him on the Sabbath, and He wanted to dispel permanently, the pharisaical attitude of the day that withheld the presence of God from His people.

What is the point of having a Sabbath law explicitly for human need, if it turned into a reason for neglecting or postponing human need?[2]

What does Jesus healing on the Sabbath have to do with finding rest? When we are going through a hard season, which I am, and I know I am not alone, it is so easy to be immersed in our troubles and trials, and turn a blind eye to the needs of others. The religious leaders who chastised Jesus were guilty of the same. They were only concerned with appearing holy to the people—the needs of the people simply were dust in the wind.

Life can get tumultuous and trying, and though many of our circumstances are self-inflicted, we can experience circumstances that are out of our control. We wake up one day asking, how did I get here? How did this happen?The lyrics to Wild Horses by Natasha Bedingfield speak so poetically to how I feel:

I feel these 4 walls closing in
My face up against the glass
I'm looking out... hmm
Is this my life I'm wondering
It happened so fast
How do I turn this thing around
Is this the bed I chose to make
Its greener pastures I'm thinking about hmm

It’s so easy to be caught up in self-pity and discontent with life—but we must not allow that to take root in our hearts, or we will be lonely, bitter people; oblivious to the hurting people around us.  

Naomi Zacharias is an inspiring woman; she penned a wonderful book, The Scent of Water: Grace for Every King of Broken. She describes a time in her life that was very dark. The words she composed tore at my heart, as I had to admit I often feel as she described; her life was not the life she wanted.  The struggle she was going through—she did not sign-up for.

I heard an interview with her concerning the book. She explains that she launched Wellspring International, a branch of her father’s apologetics ministry, to reach out and help the hurting. Naomi found herself in many countries of the world helping organizations that were reaching out to women and children at risk. She found herself in remote parts of the earth as well as familiar ones.  She found so much joy and beauty in the midst of horrific circumstances. The women she met she describes as beautiful and hopeful in the midst of their tragic sufferings. She inspired me when she explained that going into the world to help others didn’t make her ugly situation disappear, however, helping others caused her to forget about her own pain.

Is that not a part of what Sabbath is about—isn’t that what Jesus did by seeking out those He knew would not have come to Him? Should we not be doing the same?

For six days God filled this planet with good things and living beings, but on the seventh He filled it with His presence. God’s presence is the source of the very blessings of life and happiness promised through the Sabbath. Separated from God’s presence, human life is but a fleeting shadow.[3]

God consecrated the Sabbath so that we would consecrate ourselves to Him, and spend time in His presence. Jesus wanted to bring back the presence of God by healing the sick in the temple on the Sabbath. We need to stretch out and help others, reach out to others and forget about ourselves, our pain, and take the healing touch of Jesus to a lost and hurting world. Let’s be people of His Presence.

Only those who stretch out their hands and offer water to the thirsty discover, disguised among them, Jesus. Only those who trudge up the mountain, willing to grow blistered and weary on the narrow trail, witness his transfiguration. Only those who invite the stranger in to share bread realize they’ve entertained angels unawares, sometimes even Christ himself.[4] 

How can I help someone? I don’t have the opportunity or the resources to travel to the ends of the earth like Naomi (though I wish I did). It is not about me. Jesus needs us to reach the world for Him. I can pray for the sick and for the hurting, and take the Good News of the Gospel to this fallen world, and make room for God’s Presence in the Earth.

I can’t tell you how to help someone, but I challenge each of us to partake of the rest that Sabbath offers, by asking God to open our eyes, to watch and pray, to show us who He needs us to touch today for His kingdom—to bring His presence back on the earth.









[1]J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), 34.
[2]J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through The Old Testament, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 207.
[3]Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness, (Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University Press., 1990), 86.
[4]Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006), 49.

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