Wednesday, July 13, 2011

“The Sabbath and Worship”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Sabbath and Worship”
For the week of  July 10 – 16, 2011
(PDF Link)
“Out of sight, out of mind” is an idiom which implies that we easily forget or dismiss what is not in our direct view.  It assumes that if persons or objects are not present, then they will not be missed.  
However this is not always true.  There are occasions when you know something is missing but cannot pinpoint what that ‘something’ is.  At other times something is missing and that ‘something’ is identified.  It is as if its absence is so obvious, that it is visible.  There is a Spanish expression for this:  “Algo brilla por su ausencia” – Something shines by its absence.  A more accurate interpretation would be, “something is conspicuous by its absence.”  Of course, this is a play on words since (the word) conspicuous means:  standing out so as to be clearly visible, attracting notice or attention.  In this case, the thing’s very absence causes it to stand out.  It is as if you look toward Ground Zero expecting to see the World Trade Center, and instead you see an abyss.  The Trade Center’s absence may impact many people more than its former presence.
Our lesson this week focuses on the Sabbath in relation to worship.  The author highlights the Sabbath primarily as a commemoration of God’s creative and redemptive power.  The first reference is Exodus 20:8 where God says, “remember the Sabbath day to keep it…”  Obviously, God knew the people would either forget or find excuses to ignore the day when they wanted to ignore Him.  In Exodus 20:11, there is an obvious reference to God as Creator -
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.
Conspicuous by its absence in our lesson is any reference to how Creation is tied to the Great Controversy.  The creation of this world gives evidence that God is not what He is accused of being.  In creating this world, it was demonstrated that God is not despotic and arbitrary.  The omniscient God created man with the power to choose good or evil.  When Adam and Eve fell, they forfeited the blessings God had given them under His original plan.  Consequently, they and their future offspring could now only choose evil.  In mercy, an alternative, previously designed plan was put into effect by God.  So now the question remains: can fallen man now be righteous in a fallen sinful nature?  And, will fallen man choose to be righteous? 
In consequence of the fall, sinful man turned from the knowledge of the One Who created him.  Therefore, he lost sight of the plan to redeem him, since it originates from the same source.  Throughout the Old Testament, God constantly reminded both Israel and Judah that He was Creator and Redeemer (cf. Psalm 33:6–9; Isaiah 40:25-26; 45:12, 18; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2 to Isaiah 44:15–20, 46:5–7).  God says to all who will listen, “I created this world perfectly, and although it has been marred, I will create a perfect world again.” 
Conspicuous by its absence in our lesson, is how God brings healing and wholeness to our world through Sabbath keeping and worship.  In Exodus and Hebrews the Scriptures illustrate through the life of Moses, a life lived by faith (Hebrews 11:23 – 27).  It is clear that God’s intention was to redeem man from the bondage of slavery to sin and elevate him to that stature he would have possessed had he not sinned. 
 Ellen White says, “The object of God’s work in this world is the redemption of man” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 260).
Conspicuous by its absence in our lesson, is the omission of any reference to chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews, where the Apostle Paul makes the point that the children of Israel, and later, the Jews never entered Christ’s rest due to their unbelief (Hebrews 3: 18 – 19).  Hebrews 4 is clear.  Only those who believe enter His rest, and only those who enter His rest truly keep the Sabbath.  Remember, “Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  Those who believe are righteous.  “…in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy.  Through faith they must become partakers of the righteousness of Christ. . . .Only thus could the Sabbath distinguish Israel as the worshipers of God” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 283). 
Last but not least, conspicuous by its absence in this lesson is the fact that the Jews in Christ’s time were not true worshipers of God.  They refused to partake of the righteousness of Christ.  They ceased from work on the 7th day of the week, but they did not keep the Lord’s Sabbath.  That is, they did not cherish nor treasure the Sabbath, or its giver.  In fact, they accused the Lord of the Sabbath of breaking it (Luke 6:5; John 9:16).  And, when they crucified Christ, they wanted to make sure He was removed from the Cross, so their Sabbath would not be profaned (John 19:30-32). 
As you can see our greatest challenge is not what to do or not to do during the Sabbath.  Our greatest challenge is allowing Jesus to sanctify and make us righteous.  Only then will we be true Sabbath keepers, only then we will be true worshipers of God.
--Raul Diaz