a quiet place in the Smoky Mountains
I have a restful week in the Smoky Mountains as part of a Sabbath Rest gathering. One of my activities was to stop and look at the world so check out my watercolor sketches here .
This sketch is from along a hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains – I did not get to the big falls, but had a pleasant lunch at my own personal “Side Rock Cafe.”
I plan to do some exploring of this theme here at Fresh Read – while we are not under the legal regulations of the Sabbath, we continue to have the invitation, which we can take at any time where the Lord says, “just stop and spend some time with me, with my words and works.”
If you are in Madison and want to try a local version, Two Book Retreats will be offering a class this June and July along the Yahara River – see the link here.
Matthew 11-13 chronicles the rising opposition to Jesus. Again remember that Matthew gathers material thematically. So it is interesting that in the midst of this we have this sequence in Matthew 11
- A warning to those who do not repent because of the works of Christ – v. 20-24. this is the very shocking idea that it will go better for Sodom than for the towns near Nazareth.
- A statement that the Lord hides things from the wise and reveals them to the child-like – v. 25-26
- A Christocentric claim that all has been given to Christ, including knowledge of the Father. – v. 27
- An invitation to the weary to take on Jesus’ yoke – v. 2-30
So we have a sort of Calvinist proof text in the verses on God hiding and revealing things – the wise (in their own eyes) can not see what is there because God hides it from them, and yet the childlike (willing to be taught? dependent?) have these things revealed.
This is followed by an open invitation to “all” who are weary and heavy laden, who are invited to “come” and “take my yoke”. As is often the case the scriptures juxtapose Calvinist and Arminian verses right next to each other. And most will chose the one they like and explain away or diminish the one they don’t. Whereas the scriptures are happy to leave them side by side, seeing not a contradiction but some kind of harmony.
What is also of interest, is that the open invitation is “to all who are weary and burdened”. This does not limit the invitation from Jesus’ enemies.
I have often wondered at the expression in Psalm 23 “You have prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” Why are there enemies present? Is the psalmist gloating? Is the table and the cup that overflows some kind of invitation? Some of the language of Psalm 23 suggests the desert wanderings of Israel after the Exodus.
In Matthew, one of the most open and inviting passages is placed right in the center of the time where Jesus is being opposed and eventually rejected. In the middle of this life and death conflict, the invitation remained open “to all who are weary and heavy laden.” Opposition to Jesus leads to something that is worse than Sodom at the last judgment. Yet acceptance of Jesus yields a well fit yoke that is not burdensome, but rather a yoke that gives rest.
On the 7th day the Lord rested from all his work. On the basis of that, Exodus 20:8 says that we ought to rest.
Now is this because God somehow needs to rest as we do? It seems contrary to the uniform description of God as the Almighty who does not grow tired (Isaiah 40, Psalm 121). Most of us have read this at a simple level. From the greater to the lesser: If God has to rest, so should you.
What if we apply the concept that John Walton suggests. In Ancient Near East culture, a “god” rested in its temple in the sense that it took possession and assumed control. So the rest of God is not that he is akimbo in a hammock. It is rather that on the 7th day (which is not terminated in Genesis 1 like days 1 through 6) God assumes possession and control of the heavens and the earth as his dwelling place.
We then rest, not in imitation, but to show that we trust that the Almighty can in fact take care of us on that one day in seven when we do not work, or the one year on 7 when the land rests or the one year in 49 when debts are forgiven. Our rest is not imitation but response.
This makes more sense theologically. It fits the core meaning of the word for sabbath, which means to stop or cease. God stopped creating (because he was done, and the world was “very good”); we cease from working to rest and to enjoy life with our Creator.