Light is to Darkness as Sabbath is to _______________ ?

lightstock_63673_small_user_7669920In is to out as up is to _______? Down. Right is to wrong as sanctified is to _______? Profaned. Each of these analogies demonstrates an antonym type relationship between the terms. Often students are tested on various types of analogies in which case the first three terms are given (as shown above) and one must guess the final term in the analogy based on the relationship demonstrated by the first two terms. In this case our first example “in is to out” shows an antonym or opposite type relationship. That relationship is also intimately connected to each word’s individual definition and meaning as a whole. Why is that? Because, without a knowledge of each pair’s opposite, these terms in and of themselves would be more difficult to appreciate fully and might limit our ability to understand their meaning in its fullest sense.

Consider the following. Today, our culture knows all too well the idea of separation. American families and culture are more divided than ever on a variety of issues. During the work week parents often separate for work, and kids get shuffled off to school, also being separated from each other. Electronic devices, while bringing the world together has also served to be another source of division as people sitting right next to each other may as well be worlds apart as they focus their attention on the small screen in front of them rather than those around them. Therefore, the idea or meaning of separation is something we all experience and can identify with.

But when I say the word Sabbath what comes to your mind? How would you define that term? Most people in our current culture could not biblically define the word Sabbath. If you were speaking to a foreigner who had never heard anything about the Bible or God and you had to define or sum up the essence of the Sabbath what would you say? Depending on the presuppositions you have derived from tradition, culture, family background, religious background, etc., that definition could vary from person to person significantly. Some of you who do your best to keep the Sabbath may think of defining it as “setting the Sabbath apart” or “separating” the 7th Day from the 6 days of labor. And while that is true, it does not serve to truly communicate the underlying meaning behind this unique and “set apart” day. While the Sabbath is a day “separated” from the 6 days of labor, the word “separation” has another sense when applied to the meaning as intention by God behind such a day.

Therefore, if we take a look at the opposite definition of the Sabbath, we just might get a deeper insight into a major aspect of the lost biblical meaning behind the term. Tonstad explains saying:

If I want to suggest the meaning of the seventh day with reference to its opposite, the opposite must first be defined, and the counterpoint to the seventh day is in my view separation.” (p. xi)

How can this be? If the 7th Day is separated from the other days, how is it that the 7th Day’s opposite or the Sabbath’s opposite is the word separation? Well, it has to do with the intention behind the day. While the work week is for separation and absence, the Sabbath is for regathering and coming together. Tonstad continues saying:

Separation, transience, discontinuity, and absence are all familiar realities in human experience. They describe well the land that lies opposite the territory of the seventh day. The Sabbath, on the contrary, means togetherness instead of separation, permanence instead of transience, continuity instead of disruption, and presence instead of absence. According to my understanding, the seventh day touches an area of profound existential need brought to the surface by life’s unremitting [i.e. constant] separation. Seeing in the seventh day the antidote to separation brings my daughters near in thought even when they are far away, a remedy only to be surpassed by the Sabbatarian premise that separation is contrary to God’s intent and will come to an end,” (p. xi)

Having moved to Phoenix three years ago, I have been plagued with separation anxiety. We had not planned to move away, but were forced to because of my husband’s job situation. In the process we became separated from family, from dear friends, and a church we started and loved in ABQ. Try as I may, we have not found a place that we “fit in” or are “accepted” and welcomed and cared about genuinely. It has been a torturous three years of lonely days and holidays. I agree with Tonstad that “separation is contrary to God’s intent,” but in the long days of loneliness these past three years, there is a hope that keeps me going and it is fully related to the underlying intent and meaning I learn each week on the 7th Day Sabbath. The Creation week itself proclaimed this fundamental premise that God separates for the purpose of regathering or making two into one. Light was first separated out of darkness, waters above separated from waters below, dry land separated from seas, and ultimately woman was separated out of man and the two became one flesh. All of the separation served the purpose of creating new life through these opposite relationships when they are brought back together and function according to God’s design.

Although my husband and I are separated for long days during the work week and the kids are busy doing their various sports training activities or studying for school on their individual subjects, I know in the back of my mind that these times of separation and individualized focus are only temporary. I am always preparing in my heart, mind, and physically for the next coming Sabbath. A time to suspend the separation and purposely come together, both with God and each other, and with God’s people.

So the next time you are feeling lonely, separated, and the pain of absence in your life, know that it is not the ultimate purpose of God to cause separation for separation sake, but that it is only temporary, because there is a future time of regathering promised to us and seen in part in the commandment of the 7th Day. We are only given the opportunity to experience a taste of it in the present age, in the physical and literal practice or rather spiritual discipline of the 7th Day Sabbath. But through this biblical practice, it serves to give us hope, which is the fertile ground on which relationships flourish. It is the place of life with God as believers that God Himself designed and modeled for us to point us toward a future age to come. A time in which we also will be regathered to God’s people from time immemorial. At that future moed or Appointed Time, we will come once again, back to His garden, back into the physical presence of God Himself.

 

  • Thoughts from the Preface of: The Lost Meaning of the 7th Day by Sigve K. Tonstad

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