Week 4 – Thou Art One and The Presence of a Day

Observance of the seventh day is more than a technique of fulfilling a commandment. The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man.

Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath, pg 60.

Read and Reflect

This week, read chapter 5, “Thou Art One,” and chapter 6, “ The Presence of a Day.”

Once again, Abraham Heschel teaches us by way of allegory. “At the beginning,” he says, echoing the words of Genesis 1:1, time was one, eternal. But undivided time could not relate to space, so time was divided into seven days.

We are accustomed to thinking that on the seventh day of creation, God did nothing, that God rested. But Heschel sees it another way: on the seventh day, he says, God created Sabbath and declared that Israel would be her mate.

Thus Sabbath is to be welcomed as a queen or a bride. “Israel is engaged to holiness, to eternity” (pg 58).

What is the image you have as Sabbath as a bride or queen? If you are an artist, draw it.

There is, in this idea , a hint at the spirit of Sabbath. Man’s relationship to spirit is not one-way: “there is a reciprocity between man and the spirit” (pg 53). It is not just a longing of man for the Sabbath, the Sabbath also longs for man. The seventh day is not simply an abstract idea; it is a living presence and is to be treated as a welcome guest.

Imagine Sabbath coming to your home as a guest. What might you do in preparation? How will you treat her? Will you not put aside all your chores and sit and visit with her?

The allusion of Sabbath as a bride and Israel as the groom also speaks to the unification that takes place in marriage. Just so is Israel united to Sabbath. What we see, says Hescel, is God’s desire for love.

In chapter six, Heschel clarifies that the ancient rabbis did not endow Sabbath with human features. Seeing Sabbath as a bride or queen speaks to how we treat the day, says Heschel. Sabbath is the very presence of God, and is part of God’s relationship to man.

In celebrating Sabbath, our souls are responding to affection, entering into fellowship with the consecrated day. It is a sign of the covenant between man and God: God will be our only God, and we will be God’s people.

What practices might you adopt to receive and return affection on Sabbath?


Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer by Jane Kenyon, a poem. Click the link.


More Resources on Sabbath

Sabbath and Work

The Theology of Work Project teaches that “The Sabbath is an essential part of the biblical understanding of work, and Jesus teaches about the Sabbath in the Gospel of Luke. Work and rest are not opposing forces, but elements of a rhythm that make good work and true recreation possible.” TOW incorporates The High Calling, which was developed and operated by the H. E. Butt Family Foundation for many years.

Click here or the link below to Read the article about Sabbath and work.


Sabbath: An Enduring Principle For the Soul

We Christians say we want to live the gospel, but then we work and act as if running the world is all up to us. The principle of weaving regular, Christ-centered rest into our schedule is a piece of peculiarly divine brilliance, a revelation that—while clearly counterintuitive to many of us—is for our flourishing and God’s glory.

Click here or the link below to read the essay from The Gospel Coalition.


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