January 24, 2012
Studying Colossians this week has reawakened my thoughts on Sabbath, which we started discussing in December. Colossians 2:16-17 reads, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” After studying this passage through the week, I spent Sabbath on Sunday considering whether or not the practice of Sabbath for me has become an embrace of shadow or substance.
The shadows Paul is discussing were all good, Old Testament instructions for the people of God. They involved dietary laws, festival guidelines, and Sabbath keeping. They cast an outline of beautiful promises given in the direct presence of God, including rest (Gen 2:3), provision (Ex 16:5), and remembrance (Ex 20:8; Deut 5:15). The unfolding of this promise of Sabbath rest continues straight through Jesus’ proclamation of healing (Lk 13:16) and provision on the Sabbath day (Lk 6:3-5). Finally, it will find its fulfillment in eternity when we enter the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God (Heb 4:9-10).
So my struggle this weekend centered on recognizing how much of the past two years I have spent enveloped and actually pursuing the promises of the shadow of Sabbath. By practicing Sabbath on Sundays, I actively sought rest and rhythm. These shadows are certainly provided by merely ceasing to work for one day. The promises of Sabbath shadows are good things, but we are able to walk in fellowship with Christ himself (Heb 4:16)! We no longer settle for mere shadows.
So what of the substance of Sabbath? I think it’s possible that in my headlong pursuit of the shadows, I have at times missed the substance of Christ.
Sunday was a regeneration of the pursuit of Christ for me in the practice of Sabbath. I have been asked to expand upon what it means to “tune into the bass line,” as discussed weeks ago. For me, to look upon the substance of Christ and to enter his presence requires stillness, confession, and prayer. Often I will follow that by meditating upon a particular verse. Sometimes I find walking slowly through the woods helps me to converse more naturally with my Creator. I suggest Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook if you are looking for some creative ways to hear God’s bass line call in your life.
My aim is to not just embrace the outline of God’s promises, but to embrace He who casts the shadows directly. I am inhibited from doing that the more I emphasize the pursuit of physical rest. Instead, when I envision the Lamb in the throne room or the man walking along the road of Emmaus, I can begin to dialogue with and expose myself to my God for transformation that satisfies the need for both physical and spiritual rest and that continues throughout the week.
That designated, full-day intimacy is worth the pursuit of Sabbath. It helps me embrace of the very substance of Christ in the rest of the week.