Making Time for G-d
In Vayikra (Lev) 21:8 we are told that it is G-d alone who makes us holy. He then wants us to BE holy in our walk with Him and before the world. G-d moves us from the camp of the unholy to the camp of the holy, and only He can do that. But once you’ve come into that camp you have to live out what this new status means.
So what can we learn from this portion about this? Something very profound which takes us right back to the Creation and fall.
In the beginning G-d created and rested on the Shabbat, rested not because He was tired or needed recreation, but because He had completed all the work that needed doing. Israel was told to copy G-d in this and rest from creative work on the Shabbat. All people who follow the G-d of Israel, whether born Jewish or convert are also enjoined to follow His example in this. Indeed when it comes to Vayikra (Lev) 23 we read that the Shabbat is the pinnacle festival of all of them. Without the correct understanding of Shabbat the rest of the festivals won’t make any sense. That’s why Shabbat is listed first, and we are told that it is G-d’s feast in Vayikra (Lev) 23:2, as are all the rest. It is interesting to see that G-d does not yield ‘ownership’ of Shabbat and festival times to us as Jews. They belong to Him, and we are the recipients of them.
There are 2 aspects of this I want to focus on: the future aspects and the now aspects. In the letter to the Hebrews (4:1-10) entering into the rest of Mashiach is often seen or understood as replacing the Shabbat. However, we enter the fullness of that rest in Him exactly by keeping Shabbat, understanding that it is by faith we enter and it points to the completed work of G-d (as in Creation) but here in redemption and atonement. We keep Shabbat precisely because G-d has redeemed us in Yeshua and it therefore has so much more meaning for us. To rest on Shabbat is to express our trust and faith in G-d to provide while we don’t work.
Yet there is a future element to this too: verse 9 seems to hint at it: there remains a rest for the people of G-d. Our Haftorah portion talks about the Millennial Temple and what will be happening there. The Millennium is the final Shabbat of time, the thousand years after 6000 of creation, the ultimate rest for the people of G-d. However in some ways this is a ‘recreation’ of a lost rest from the Garden of Eden. It goes full circle. What has been lost through the fall is restored again. If the nations go up to Jerusalem it will rain for them and they can eat. Obedience equals supplying people’s needs.
But what about the now aspects? What lies behind our Shabbat keeping? There are two aspects to this:
- 6 days you work and 1 of rest from it. In Torah terms a portion of something given to G-d sanctifies the whole and makes it holy to use. A tithe of your income means the whole income becomes holy to use for His glory. It ceases to be profane. It can be used. Likewise with time, if the portion is given to G-d, then the rest becomes holy too, the week days are sanctified and brought into holiness because the Shabbat is offered. If the Shabbat is not offered then the rest of the week remains profane. The Kingdom of G-d spreads by ‘reclaiming’ the profane, corrupted by sin and the world, back into the sphere of influence of G-d, making it holy. But what about the fact that it had to be the first portion; surely Shabbat is the last day of the week? True, but consider this: After Creation, the first day Adam and Chava experienced before they could enter the week was… Shabbat. It was the very first time offering, even though they hadn’t worked and had none to rest from. They had to offer it, and then entered the week. Our weekly Shabbat rest remembers this original offering of time.
- The fall robbed mankind of its ample supply from G-d. One of the curses was that you will toil to work to feed yourself. Hard work became the norm whereas before G-d supplied every need. No longer would mankind be dependent on G-d, but would have to supply its own needs, and it would be hard graft. Man has always sought to reverse this hard labour: technology is one of the most recent as was the invention of a weekend off. We instinctively know that life is hard, to survive is a challenge, and only the fittest seem to do well. Is this why the theory of evolution seems so apt? It reflects our deep conviction that struggle is an intrinsic part of what it means to be human? However, the days off, Shabbats and other Moedim, reflect a reversal of the fall. On these days we have to trust G-d for our needs and supply. It flies in the face of what we know to be true, to live we have to work. Yet G-d says stop working! To keep these days and festivals is to recognise that it is a return to the edenic condition, to trust G-d, walk in faith, and know that He is the real source of our life not work.
So, to keep Shabbat now recognises that we have entered that rest through Yeshua in faith, and that we look forward to the long Shabbat in the future as well as the recognition that in these days off work we return to a pre-fall condition of trusting G-d.
However there is one more point. The portion is called ‘Emor’ (say). We actually need to be told this. If G-d didn’t tell us to stop, we would get so caught up in our own survival and struggles that we would fully overlook G-d in our day to day existence. Make some space for G-d in your life, give Him some of your ‘precious’ time!