Photo by Marcello Newall

For those who have not read:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

THE SABBATH: GODS TIME IN HISTORY

As a tangible lesson of Messianic time and what it entails, in the Hebrew Bible we find the example of the Sabbath:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six  days  the  Lord  made  the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.[19]

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.[20]

One of the reasons God inserted the Sabbath into the life of Israel was in order to teach them that the weekly, and historical, cycle of time is not an endless continuum but only an interlude leading to redemption. We see that both humans and animals were supposed to rest on the Sabbath as an anticipation of the age to come when all creation will be at peace. In the New Testament the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that: ‘There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God’.[21]
Abraham Heschel recounts a fascinating anecdote on the Sabbath:

That the Sabbath and eternity are one – or of the same essence – is an ancient idea. A legend relates that ‘at the time when God was giving the Torah to Israel, He said to them: My children! If you accept the Torah and observe my  mitzvot,  I  will  give  you  for  all eternity a thing most precious that I have in my possession.

And what, asked Israel, is that precious thing which Thou wilt give us if we obey Thy Torah?

The world to come.

Show us in this world an example of the world to come.

The Sabbath is an example of the world to come. ’

An ancient tradition declares: ‘The world to come is characterized by  the  kind  of holiness possessed by the Sabbath in this world … The Sabbath possesses a holiness like that of the world to come’.[22]

An interesting fact is that according to rabbinical tradition it is forbidden to kill any living creature on the Sabbath, this prohibition goes as far as not permitting the swatting of a fly or mosquito. Only the killing of potentially deadly animals, such as wasps and poisonous snakes, which pose a serious threat to human life is permitted when necessary. In the same way, trapping and capturing any living creature is also strictly forbidden, as is skinning or shearing a creature in order to obtain its hide or wool. While these prohibitions are partially linked to the Sabbath’s total ban on work, the main reasoning behind them is that in God’s ideal world the taking of creatures lives will no longer be present or acceptable. Similarly, activities that cause animals pain or suffering are also avoided.[23]
It is my personal opinion that one of the reasons why the Church has such difficulty understanding compassion towards animals, and more generally biblical teachings on peace, is a deficient understanding of the Sabbath. [24] Without a robust theological understanding of the Sabbath and how it manifests God’s time in history, Messianic time, the peace teachings of the New Testament often seem to be spiritualized and are trivialized, having been projected into some indefinite and ethereal eternity. The Sabbath in the Old Testament theologically is a window into Messianic time that allows the believer to comprehend God’s time in history.

CROSSING  OVER

Messianic time is ultimately rooted in history and movement towards God’s Kingdom whereas secular and empty time believes that ‘Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’[25] Hence, empty time seeks to sacralize traditions and the past over truth and righteousness, and views the human condition as fundamentally static. On the contrary, Messianic time is based on a dynamic view of history in which decisive moments hurtle the world towards its fulfillment in Christ. In regard to the animal kingdom this means manifesting God’s time in the concrete history of the world, pointing towards God’s hope for peace within creation.
As Christians we are given the choice to live our lives in Messianic time, in the light and power of the resurrection, or to choose the empty time of the world. We have to understand that in Messianic time there is always a juncture when it is the moment to cross over and take a step closer into God’s future, as Christ himself affirmed: ‘That day, when evening had come, he told them, “Let’s cross to the other side.”’[26]
____________________
[19] Exodus 20:8-­‐11
[20]  Deuteronomy 5:12-­‐14
[21]  Hebrews 4:9
[22]  A. J. Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), p. 73.
[23] http://ou.org.s3.amazonaws.com/publications/kaplan/shabbat/39.htm#slaughtering, accessed 10/08/2017; See also http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shabbats-­‐work-­‐ prohibition/,  accessed  7/05/2107.
[24] In this sense it’s interesting to note that the only Protestant denomination to have consistently promoted vegetarianism, the Seventh-­‐Day Aventists, give great importance to the Sabbath, which is actually part of the name of their denomination. I believe that the correlation may not be  casual.
[25] 2 Peter 3:4
[26]  Mark 4:35
 
The entire article is found here:  Messianic Time and Animals.


Thank you for reading and following our blog!  We welcome you to share widely with others; comments are also welcome.  Blessings in Jesus  ~Marcello

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