After God created the world and even humankind, He rested. He stopped. He took a pause. And in that pause, He made the time holy.
Time is the language of the Bible. The Bible was not concerned with geography or things so much as time and events. The first thing to be called “holy” was a Day. “The mythical mind would expect that after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place—a holy mountain or a holy spring—whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is a holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first.”1 The Sabbath is a holy time, not a holy place. The hours come every week, enveloping us in God’s blessing. Instead of a magnificent physical building, the Sabbath is a “palace in time.”2
In our modern world, material things have the utmost priority. We accumulate things endlessly. It is our skill at accumulation that tells others about our value and worth. The Bible, however, focuses on time. Moments matter. Events matter—from the first event, the creation of our world, to the last event, the coming of Jesus. Even Jesus’ first coming was foretold using a time prophecy—the seventy-week prophecy of Daniel. With things, we clumsily try to show our value to each other. It is with time that God shows us our value to Him. Jesus put it this way: “ ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’ ” (Mark 2:27, NKJV). Sabbath was a gift from God to humanity, to show us our immense value to Him.
Often we associate the Sabbath with all the things we cannot do. We cannot work. We cannot toil. We cannot call the office. We cannot watch TV. Sometimes we say, “It’s a rest. We don’t work on Sabbath so that we can rest and then work harder and do better later.” Heschel reminds us, however, that “man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work.”3 The Sabbath does provide rest, but it is not about making people that much better at accumulating wealth. That goes against the spirit of the day. No, the Sabbath is about something much deeper and richer than simply resting up for another week of paper-pushing and e-mailing at the office. “The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays, the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude, but the climax of living.”4
The Sabbath was the climax of the Creation week. After God created the world and even humankind, He rested. He stopped. He took a pause. And in that pause, He made the time holy. The Sabbath is the celebration of the week of creation! It is the deep sigh of satisfaction coming from the lips of God Himself. We don’t just “keep” the Sabbath. We celebrate it! We join God as He looks over creation and says, “It is good.” In that celebration, God comes close to us. Though churches can be demolished and sacred sites desecrated, time marches on. No one can take away the Sabbath.
It comes again and again, “independent of the month and unrelated to the moon.”5It comes because God breathed it. It comes, holy hours, different hours, sacred hours, to bless us regardless of where we are, what we have, or what our circumstances are.
But what makes the Sabbath a blessing? Besides the holiness that God breathes into the Sabbath, what about it makes it special to us? Like a palace, it must be built. We do not just stand there and let it descend on us, expecting some sort of magical tingling.
When the Sabbath comes in, we are ready for it. We’ve prepared. We’ve made everything special for the celebration! We build the Sabbath experience from the ground up, like a palace in time. We have the food prepared, the house cleaned, the traditions ready to begin. We enjoy the hours of the Sabbath. We don’t just call it a delight; we make it a delight! We eat the best food of the week, wear the best clothes for the occasion, and enjoy the happy hum of a home in celebration. We allow God to bless us, and we honor God by striving to celebrate with Him. It is not our rituals or observances that make that palace special. It is God’s blessing on us for taking part in His pleasure on that holy day.6