By Andy Nash … I’ll never forget my first Friday evening in Jerusalem— and the surprising clarity it brought to my Seventh-day Adventist faith.
Drawing near the temple mount, I expected the serenity and solitude of Orthodox men rocking back and forth in prayer at the Western Wall. But as the plaza came into full view, another emotion filled the evening air . . . Joy!
Circles of Jewish teenage girls danced hand in hand, singing. Not far away stomped a spirited line of Jewish boys, their hands on each other’s shoulders, their yarmulkes hanging on for dear life. Closer to the wall, hundreds of worshippers gathered socially in close conversation: the women and men in their respective quarters. Laughter and tears, hugs and clasps. The whole place burst with emotion. I was stunned by the pulsating energy of the place.
Every so often a Jewish man or woman broke from the socializing to approach the wall and pray—then returned to the community, walking backward. Some Jewish worshippers won’t turn away from the wall all evening. Why would they want to turn away? This wall once protected the temple of the Lord!
Watching these children of Israel, I found myself marveling. What an interesting people God chose to reveal himself to! What an interesting way they dress and worship and act. Then I remembered: God didn’t choose a people who dress and worship and act this way. These people dress and worship and act this way because God chose them.
Suddenly, I had the strangest sensation wash over me. Familiarity. I somehow felt right at home. How could this be? I was at a place I’d never been before . . . with hundreds of people I’d never seen before. No one had really made any effort to welcome my family and me. We weren’t even Jewish. We were Christian. How could we feel right at home?
I looked around the plaza at other Christians standing there. They also seemed happy to be part of the evening. Still, by the looks on their faces, they seemed out of place. Their expressions seemed to say: What an interesting experience this is. It’s a little like church Sunday morning . . . except that it’s not church, it’s not Sunday, and it’s not morning.
That was true. It was Friday evening under the stars—as it was for the first humans. And that’s why I felt at home— not because of people or place, but because of something that transcends both people and place.
Because of Shabbat—the sign of the Jews—I’d never felt happier to be a member of my own Judeo-Christian faith community.
Today, more Seventh-day Adventists keep the Sabbath than any other group in the world, including Jews. We have the true privilege of being the torch bearers of Sabbath rest as a symbol of our salvation rest in Christ.
But as Judeo-Christians it’s important that we represent the Sabbath in a balanced and scriptural way.
Sometimes in our zeal we’ve gone too far in emphasizing Sabbath rather than emphasizing Christ. After all, consider which of the following prayers you hear most often in our churches: (1) Thank you, God, for the Sabbath, or (2) Thank you, God, for Jesus.
We’ve also at times gone overboard in criticizing other Christian believers for “Sunday worship” when in reality they are simply worshipping Christ on Sunday. There is nothing wrong—and everything right—in worshipping Christ every day of the week. In fact, a bigger problem someone who worships only on Sabbath and lives in Babylon the rest of the week.
At its heart, the Sabbath commandment is about resting from our labors—about resting in Christ Our Savior, who alone restores our souls.
–Andy Nash is lead pastor of Littleton Adventist Church. He leads study tours to Israel each summer. Email him at: [email protected]