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Creation is memorialized in the Bible in numerous ways, the Sabbath being one of the major ones. We examine here the connections in the Bible between creation and the Sabbath and how the Sabbath also signifies extended dimensions of creation like redemption and re-creation of personal and communal spiritual life and behavior.

To begin, a couple definitions:

shabbat (=Sabbath) means to stop or cease from doing something
naphash (to catch one’s breath or throat) is used of David after being chased by Absalom (2 Sam 16:14); slave children on the Sabbath (Exod 23:12); and God on the Sabbath (Exod 31:117)

Relevant Biblical Passages:

Gen 2:1-3 — seventh-day Sabbath at the end of creation week
Exod 20:8-11 — fourth commandment in Exodus – Sabbath as memorial of creation
Deut 5:12-15 — fourth commandment in Deuteronomy – Sabbath as reminder of redemption
Exod 31:12-17 — Sabbath as sign of sanctification
Ezek 20:12, 20 — Sabbath as sign of sanctification
Isa 58:13-14 — Sabbath as day of delight, but not for one’s own business
Heb 4 — a wider kind of Sabbath rest for God’s people

Issues for Discussion:

In what ways are the Sabbath and creation related? And what are the implications of these ties for the worshiping community and for personal behavior?

  1. What are the biblical and theological connections?
  2. What does it mean for humans to discover through the Sabbath that we did not create ourselves?
  3. What does it mean for human beings to discover through the Sabbath that we do not rescue or redeem ourselves?
  4. What does it mean for us to discover through the Sabbath that we do not change ourselves for the better, but that God does?
  5. In what ways is the Sabbath at root a metaphor for the plan of salvation? How might Heb 4 be a part of this question?
  6. Name and discuss ways in which the Sabbath and Sabbath keeping can be a truly delightful experience for everyone in the community or family.
  7. Reflect on activities in nature which would best bring about delight and praise.

Must reading about the Sabbath is the book The Sabbath by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He speaks of the delight of the day and what it signifies in terms of creation and worship. Also helpful in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn.

What Difference Does it Make?

Are there ways by which we can enhance our appreciation for and experience of the Sabbath which will bring to our attention and lives more of what the Sabbath was intended to accomplish?

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