Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el! May the undeserved loving-kindness of our Master, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) - His unmerited favour - bless you this morning as we assembly to worship and to hear His Shabbat Word.
"Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day Elohim (God) ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then Elohim (God) blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which Elohim (God) had created and made" (Gen.2:1-3, NKJV).
A couple of days ago I came across an interesting discussion initiated by a young girl with her father and grandmother in the 1950's in which the question asked was: "What was Yahweh's greatest creative act?" Now obviously this is a highly subjective question and most people will have different ideas as to what His greatest creative act was. One of the most common answers is 'man'. And I would not dispute that. The answer given by the little girl (who by the way was not a Seventh-Day Adventist) was The Seventh Day. When asked why she came to that conclusion, she replied: "Because He made Rest!"
That unexpected answer started setting off all linds of lights in my head. When asked why she believed Rest was Yahweh's most creative act, she replied with a question: "What was it like before the First Day and Act of Creation?" Her Dad was stumped. After a brief pause, the little girl excitedly jumped up and down and answered her own question: "Confusion! Can you rest when there is Confusion? Of course not!"
'Out of the mouths of babes'! "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep" (Gen.1:2, NKJV). The earth was a sphere totally covered in water, just as it had been during Noah's Flood. Worse, it was pitch black. There was no order of any kind other than gravity stopping the water flying into space. Whatever had been there before was gone, just as it had been when Noah was drifting on the Ark. And that aimless drifting is not exactly the most exciting kind of life. Indeed, on this primordial earth - whatever it had replaced, whether an angel planet or something else (or a de novo creation) - was stoney dead. Such a world is not one where you can find rest because when we, as human beings, think of rest, what do we think about? What makes you restful?
Well, we all know the sequence of creation events that followed this state of confusion. One day at a time, Yahweh injected order into the system, eventually making it a biosphere which He proclaimed very good. As Yahweh created more, so order came into being, and confusion diminished. By the end of the sixth day, there was no more confusion. The earth was perfectly fitted. Every nook and cranny had been occupied with something. The system was in every way perfect and not liable to improvement. And when the confusion caused by imperfection or incompleteness had gone, Yahweh rested. The same is true of us. Only when confusion has gone, can we rest too. And that is why I believe what this little girl said was true - Rest is the greatest miracle of all.
We are all seeking rest, aren't we? Don't we long for the time when our struggles are over and we don't have to be constantly looking over our shoulder for threatening situations to us or to our children? When we think of rest we normally think of peace or shalom. However, when Yahweh "rested" it does not say that He 'shalomed' - it says that he 'sabbathed'. He reposed, He entered into a state of quiet restfulness, peace and tranquility. And as far as our own English language is concerned, 'repose' also means to put your trust in a person or thing. We can safetly trust the One who rested after doing a perfect job.
When the confusion goes, a soul rests or 'sabbaths'. And this seventh day of physical rest is given to us for many reasons, one of which is spiritual - it is to remind us that the moment we embrace emet (truth), confusion vanishes and we enter into a sabbath rest inside. Do we not desire that with all our beings? Having inner rest - inner shalom (peace), an inner shabbat (sabbath) - is something we all want, no matter what word we use to label it with.
I want to suggest to you all today that before we can properly understand what Rest is that we must first understand its opposite, Confusion.
We all agree, I hope, that the world is confused. You only have to see the chaos and anarchy to know that that is true. But external confusion is only one kind of confusion - it isn't even the primary form. Where is the principle origin of confusion? In the mind. Confusion starts in the head and muddles up our thinking. Then it passes into our psyche and muddles up our feeling. And once confusion is in the head and lev (heart), it muddles up our actions or behaviour. People say and do confusing things only because they are confused inside. Things don't add up. Equations don't balance. Mental houses lack foundations, roofs, walls, windows and doors. Confusion results when essential things are missing or things are assembled in the wrong order.
That is why Emet (Truth) has elements and tavnith (pattern). It's like building a Lego house. The elements are the bricks and the tavnith (pattern) is the design. A year or two ago, much to my delight (and the children's), I found a huge Lego collection in the Red Cross at a bargain price. Most of it was just a mass of multi-coloured and multi-shaped bricks and other basic units of construction. Quite clearly this has been some child's Lego collection and that it had orginally consisted of many different construction kits. Looking at that mass of lego bricks and you could not possibly have know what the original owner had either bought or owned. However, we were very blessed because the previous owner had been organised. He or she had kept all the original instruction sheets and put them in a ring file. Under the leadership of my eldest son at home, nearly the entire original collection was re-assembled by the children! And because the orginal tavnith (pattern) sheets are still here, the children can dismantle the Lego constructions, build whatever they want, and reassamble the original kits whenever they want too.
Having those instructions made a huge difference. My children have, in addition, also bought their own Lego kits over the years and I have told them to keep the instructions. Some are so complicated that re-making them without the instructions would be nigh on impossible.
Assembling a human life so that it works and has true inner rest is not at all unlike having a huge box of building blocks and a set of instructions. To ensure that we find rest, Yahweh has providentially supplied us with the Bible. It is our primary instruction manual. If we try to assemble our life using any other set of instructions, we will not find rest! This manual is valid for every single human being. Our second instruction manual builds upon the first and is tailor-made for us individually. It is the revelation that comes to us through the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). So we have two instruction manuals:
One is written and the other results from an invisible pen that writes on the lev (only). Both require skills to read - both require reading skills, which means both require work since we are not born with the ability to read. There are those, of course, who are able to memorise the Bible and who learn it by hearing it spoken to them. However to get to know the Holy Scriptures requires work. Which is an interesting paradox; REST REQUIRES WORK - six days of work, to be exact, representsed also by the first six Festivals of Messianic Israel.
- 1. The General (the Bible); and
- 2. The Specific (personal Revelation).
There are many who fall into the dangerous trap of believing that they do not need to study the Bible and who rely, as they suppose, exclusively on 'revelation'. I call the latter a form of existentialists. In my considerable experience of such people, they are usually the most muddled and confused souls of all. If Yahweh had intended us to obtain the Emet (Truth) that leads to Rest and Peace exclusively through personal revelation, He would not have bothered leaving us a Bible at all, or any written record. And the emet (truth) is that whilst we can obtain some of the moral and ethical teachings by revelation alone (such as how to treat other people), in my experience Yahweh has never raised a people walking in All Emet (Truth) without Scripture. And no matter how much people boast that they have this beautiful, pure, perfect relationship with Yahweh through Yah'shua (Jesus), the reality is that they cannot - and do not - without Scriptural guidance.
Now there are other problems that believers have to face, one of which is: what is the correct Bible? And I am not talking about which translation to use, but about the canon. The canon is not a 'gun' (since I see some children smiling here) but a collection of books that make up the Bible. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Copts, Protestants, Mormons and Messianics (to name but a few) have their own collections or 'canon'. I don't want to get into a discussion on this subject today other than to point out the problems that result if uninspired books find their way in the Scripture and then claim to be from Yahweh. Such tend to result in confusion and not untypically, multiple and mutually-contradicting gospels. In this ministry, we follow the Protetsant Canon as having been providentially preserved by Yahweh. The reasons for this are long and complex and best left to another time. Sadly, many Messianics delete New Testament books they don't like, and typically the writings of Paul. I have always found such people to be impoverished of the Ruach (Spirit) and very confused about many fundamental truths.
I mentioned earlier that there is an apparent paradox in 'rest' because rest also requires work. But there is a second apparent paradox that I want to mention and that concerns the Festival of Taberbacles or Sukkot. Sukkot, as you know, is a vibrant feast. Everyone who fulfils it in their lives is at rest - since it is the Sabbath Feast ruled by the Shegal haShabbat (Sabbath Queen) or Ruach haShibi'i (the Seventh Spirit) but it is also a Feast of Simcha (Joy), celebration, eating and dancing! The last day of the Sukkot season - Shemini Atseret or the Last Great Day - moreover marks the Millennial Sabbath - the 7,000 Year Sabbath Rest.
Now obviously we are not going to spend 1,000 years partying. We will be working and resting according to the same tavnith (pattern) and cycles as we do now. The Millenial Sabbath is principally about inner rest, when there is no more confusion, because there are no more demons and no presence of Satan in the world to lie and deceive us. Yah'shua our Messiah (Jesus Christ) will be reigning here physically to ensure justice, shalom (peace), and order. It's important, then, to realse that there are two types of sabbath rest:
In either one, a true Sabbath results when there is an absence of confusion in spirit, mind, heart and body. Confusion is banished when we do things in the proper order and tavnith (pattern), following the divinely-appointed cycles or work and rest. I want to therefore suggest to you that Rest is not something that stands on its own but that it always is combined with other things, making the Seventh Day the peak of everything tov (good). Sabbath Rest is a Divine Echad (Oness) of shalom (peace), ahavah (love), emunah (faith), simcha (joy), order, tavnith (pattern) and completeness. True rest is resting from disorder, disharmony, chaos, anarchy, misery, lawlessness and all that is antithetical to the Kingdom. You can only dance when everything tov (good) is, as they say in the military, 'all present and correct!'
- 1. The Inner Sabbath; and
- 2. The Outer Sabbath.
And now a third apparent paradox. You cannot rest until you first die. Dying is an act of rest for the saved both inwardly and outwardly. When the saved physically die, they enter a world of complete rest. When the unsaved spiritually die to sin, they enter into spiritual rest within. Rest - whether inward or outward - is being free of a confining world. Physically, we cannot find that kind of rest until the resurrection, and so it is meaningless and futile to expect to find it down here. You can never do so more than for brief moments. This is not a world of shalom (peace) and never will be until Messiah returns. So we can spare ourselves a lot of confusion and misery by early coming to terms with this emet (truth). We must focus on, and start with, the inside for that most certainly can be changed if we are willing to accept the heavenly conditions on which inner shalom are offered.
Either way, inside or out, death for the believer is full of simcha (joy), because his reality includes a dimension - the essential dimension containing the Ultimate Reality - that the unbeliever knows nothing about and as a result of which makes many false assumptions about life and therefore draws many false conclusions about it too.
Many people make the equally dangerous mistake of assuming that rest means laziness. It doesn't. Laziness is just a denial of the confusion that is most definitely there. Work and rest are a unit of reality - six parts work, and one part rest - with the monthly Rosh Chodesh to make sure we get synchronised properly. Laziness is simply opting out of the responsibility to choose and deal with reality. Laziness is burying your talent in the ground and expecting not to be cast into the lake of fire for your indifference to emet (truth). Laziness is the foolish man's 'rest' because it is fantasy. Laziness is self-extinction - almost.
Then there are those who are so confused inside and so terrified to face what is there that they metaphorically work seven days a week. They can't be still for fear of seeing the awful emet (truth) of what they have allowed themselves to become because of the bad choices they have made, remembering that makiing 'no choice' is also a choice. Surrendering to Yahweh and dying to self so that we can obtain eternal life is also to obey the instruction:
Many 'keep busy' precisely because they do not want to know Elohim (God) - they do not want to meet Elohim (God) - they want to remain in denial. Standing still means you have to listen, and those who are in rebellion dread hearing the One they are running from. There is no rest for them either. You see, death is a kind of simcha (joy) if we have lived life as we were supposed to, but remaining alive in sin is sure misery.
"Be still, and know that I am Elohim (God)" (Ps.46:10, NKJV).
When we stop asking Yahweh questions we are either shrinking or getting ready to die. If our box of questions has shrunk by the time we're old, we're in trouble. The evidence of Yahweh's existence is everywhere - just look! Ask questions and dare to be startled into seeing Him! The evidence is vast and the number of different ways our finite human minds can arrange the evidence is vast too, which is why all our perspectives are slightly different. That doesn't mean we are 'wrong' but rather we have assembled the puzzle starting in different corners or in the middle. The fact that our individual puzzles are incomplete should neither alarm us nor be any cause for judging others who have their eyes on the same goal. We must all see with our own eyes, surrendering our eyes to Yah'shua's (Jesus') and progressively seeing the way He does. We do that by assembling the correct spiritual Lego bricks and following the Instructions in Scripture! Yes, some things in our thinking, feeling and behaviour have to be removed, but first we must learn to see the bits that don't fit and the wrong tavnith (pattern) but know what the right bits should be and what the correct tavnith (pattern) is.
Remember also that just because we have a few things wrong doesn't necessarily mean that other people aren't loving and worshipping Yahweh. The desire for union is there, the goal is the same. The obstacles in our path and the wrong choices we are trying to fix doesn't change the reality of what we want. Unity in the foundational principles is what counts - in essence, the Apostles' Creed. The rest is icing.
The mitzvot (commandments) are the Lego Blocks, the tavnith (pattern) of Yahweh's ways are the Biblical Instructions, and the Builder is Yah'shua (Jesus). We need all three to have our lives changed into lives like His.
Yes, I do believe Rest is the Greatest Act of Creation because it is the summation of all the rest!