Going Deeper

How is the Sabbath Related to Holiness?

“Sabbath is the antidote to idolatry.” by Reverend Diane Ury
Vesnaandjic via getty images

Keeping the Sabbath holy is one of the Ten Commandments. I’ve always been curious why that is so important to God’s heart for our well-being, that He made it an unchanging moral law. 

In the Bible, mention of the Sabbath refers to the seventh day of creation. In Genesis 2:1–3 we read that’s when creation was completed. The number seven in Hebrew — sheva — means “complete, whole, sufficient, enough.” God rested from His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because in it, He rested. 

We know that in Scripture the only way anything or any person is ever “holy” is because the actual Presence of God is “touching” them. The first entity in the whole Bible that is made holy is time. God, on this day, entered from the transcendent realm outside creation into created time and created space. Four verses later we see that God entered into created matter when He breathed His breath of life into the dust and thereby made the human, Adam, into a living person (Genesis 2:7). 

God is not a part of creation. He is utterly distinct from any created thing. He is qualitatively different, other, transcendent. This is not a geographical concept; it’s an essence concept. God is not far away. We read in Genesis 3:8 that it was God’s custom to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. From the very beginning, God has always desired to be “God with us — Emmanuel.” 

The main idea of Sabbath, the seventh day, is that God loves to be with us. God will take care of us, provide for us, defend us, love us, be faithful to us, and so forth. The Creator, Reigning Lord of the Universe, King of the World is present in every part of our lives.

God made keeping the Sabbath a command for our good. He desires for us to always remember that He is present and He will provide. We physically live out the reminder that He is God, and we are not. It’s exhausting to play god. We’re not very good at it. When we don’t cease from working and consuming, we move into the idolatry of self. We actually begin to think life will not work without us. “God can’t really handle all these bills, and tasks. He’s not really God of my life — I am! I’m the provider. I’m the most important factor in my family. My company can’t survive without my working. If my child doesn’t play on elite travel teams every Sunday morning, they won’t get an athletic scholarship.” 

Jesus is “God with us.” It’s no accident that He repeatedly made people whole on the Sabbath day. He is God who joined human nature with His divine nature. Jesus is the healing of our separation from God. Every Sunday we celebrate His restoring resurrected life present to us. He recreates anyone who yields themselves to His reign. 

We are commanded to cease from exhausting ourselves through delusion. To cease from playing god. To cease from consuming our own lives into oblivion.

Sabbath is the antidote to idolatry. God completes us. Jesus, our Resurrection, is enough. Rest in Him.