Rest, a Betrothal

Beautifully, Shabbat in rabbinic tradition is sometimes pictured as a bride, or an approaching bride. The idea that we learn from this is that rest with the bridegroom is to be the condition of the bride – leading to the use of white tablecloths, and fine dinnerware on Shabbat.

In Exodus and Deuteronomy, two different words introduce the commandment regarding shabbat: remember and observe, respectively.

What does it mean to זָכוֹר, “remember” the Sabbath or to שָׁמוֹר, “guard” the Sabbath? What does it mean that “Sabbath was made for man (the betrothed), not man for the Sabbath?” Or, “the Son of Man is Lord (the Bridegroom), even of the Sabbath?”

Shabbat is a memorial of things accomplished/done in the past (remember), and a resting from what we are attempting to get done for the future (observe). It is, at heart, a recognition of Lordship, even headship.

It is a blessed day of “shabbating,” of resting. We might understand it in this way: Shabbat is the spiritual worship of God by the temporal rest of man – it is an act of worship through rest. It is the day our bodies worship by saying “ah!” and our heart and minds say “Hallelujah!”

Yet, there is more.

In Leviticus 23:3 we read, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ, “and the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a holy gathering.” “Sabbath” and “rest” in this verse (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן) come from the same root שָׁבַת, meaning “to repose, desist, cease, rest, cessation or to sit down.” When we speak of Shabbat, we are really speaking of resting – specifically sitting/reclining. But what is it we are “rehearsing,” rendered “holy gathering” above?

The marriage feast of the Lamb.

Rest, then, becomes a sign – a betrothal sign (Matt. 11:28). It is a rehearsal of the Bride and the Bridegroom uniting as one. We now remember, anticipate, and set in right perspective the work He has set before us (Eph. 2:10). It is a living sign of the past redemption, and the future redemption, as a semi-eschatological redemptive rest – living out the now but not yet, as we await:

“And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God” (Rev. 19:9).

How blessed we are now, and how blessed we indeed yet to be!

Shabbat Shalom.

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