Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11
This fourth commandment is the last of the first group of the Ten Commandments that focuses on our relationship with God with the remaining six commandments focusing on our relationship with our neighbor. It is a commandment that symbolically and as it is lived is filled with light and power, liberty and salvation. I will begin with some thoughts on Isaiah 2:1-2, the beginning of a chapter in which the Lord illuminates principles involved in the sabbath of this existence, the millennial reign of Christ, as contrasted with and emerging from the darkness of this world:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
Almost every word of verse one in Hebrew is rich in symbolism and can be read with multiple meanings individually and in combination: Isaiah sees the word, and in Hebrew the word that is translated as word means word but in addition can mean or is linked to the meaning of to commune, declare, teach, lead and guide (particularly in reference to leading flocks or herds to pasture), to rule and direct, to follow, and it can refer to the inner room of the temple or Holy of Holies. In this sense, and as a synthesis of all of these different meanings, the Hebrew word provides increased understanding to the Greek and English word, as it is used in the first chapter of John in which Christ is referred to as the Word. Christ is the Word in that He comes first from His Father’s presence to speak, teach, and direct, in that He is the source of all light and life, in that He is the Creator and Redeemer, in that He is the messenger and message of salvation, possessing in Himself and giving to all His creations all that is good in the universe.
The Hebrew word translated as saw in this verse is not the most common Hebrew verb that means to see. It carries a deeper, more sacred interpretation in that it can mean to see as a prophetic seer with spiritual vision, and can also mean to see by experience and with spiritual intelligence. In this sense it parallels the meaning of the Hebrew word for knowledge, which is knowledge based upon experience, and which as true knowledge is inextricable from character and being. These two words (word and saw) in combination communicate the powerful, transformative vision and testimony of Jesus as the Christ. As taught in Revelation 19:10, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, and in combination these two words involve the great message of Christ and His salvation combined with the receiver enabled by the spirit to receive this message.
The name Isaiah means Jehovah has saved. Together with the names Joshua and Hosea, the name Isaiah stems from the root verb to save, and as with these two men Isaiah is a type of Christ, through his name, life, and words testifying of the God of salvation. It is interesting that Isaiah is referred to 13 times as the son of Amoz and that these are the only 13 instances of this Hebrew word for Amoz appearing in the Bible. The son of Amoz is a designation that has symbolic significance in addition to reference to literal descent. Amoz means strong or strength, coming from a root verb that means to be strong, alert, courageous, bold, and solid. Through his name, including the reference to his father, Isaiah is a son of strength—one who bears Jehovah’s salvation in strength and boldness. He is a symbolic parallel to Joshua whose name comes from the same root verb and who is told repeatedly by the Lord at the beginning of his mission to be strong and of a good courage: (Joshua 1:6) In this sense, again, both men are types of Christ who is the true source of salvation and strength as they speak and act in ways that foreshadow Him.
The word that Isaiah sees specifically concerns Judah and Jerusalem. Judah means praised and is derived from a root meaning hand or arm and a root verb meaning to throw or shoot. Symbolically Judah holds power to direct and deliver through the most important descendant of Judah who is Christ with many of the attributes and history of Judah as a man and as a tribe foreshadowing Christ’s attributes and role. Jerusalem means to teach or spread peace, and from its time as the ancient city of peace it holds this position and role as a center of truth and peace to light the world through the Lord’s law and power.
The word in verse two that is most interesting to me as a key to finding meaning in a number of complimentary ways, which in combination provide more profound insight is exalted. In Hebrew the root verb can mean to lift up or be lifted up, to bear, carry, support, sustain, forgive, and take away as just a few among a long list of potential meanings. In the Book of Isaiah alone in different tense forms this verb appears 58 times, and in chapter two alone it appears six times, translated into English as exalted, lift up, forgive, and three times as lifted up. When a word contains so much variation in meaning in Hebrew and is translated into English in different ways I like to contemplate alternative meanings in context in order to see what additional insight and perspective that yields. In the case of verse two, and since in addition the construction of the sentence in Hebrew is different from the English, it is interesting to me to think of this word in terms of it being interpreted as forgiven and then see how that change in interpretation flows back into affecting the other words and the message of the verse and chapter. Again, this kind of exercise is often complimentary rather than being contradictory to the common understanding of the text.
In this case the next question, or point at which this change in interpretation flows back and impacts the text as a whole is: What is either exalted or forgiven? In the Hebrew construction as in the English it is the mountain of the Lord’s house that is either exalted or forgiven. In Hebrew and to some extent in English both the words mountain and house clearly symbolically apply more to people and family than they do to a literal mountain or house. For example, the house of Israel is not a literal house but rather is the descendants of Israel, including the roles and prophecy of and relationships between its tribes and individual descendants. Likewise the word mountain, which in Hebrew is pronounced as har, has clear reference to people and family as it is linked to conception, pregnancy, and birth--the rounding and protrusion of the mountain being compared to a woman’s abdomen swelling in pregnancy. This root is the antecedent for the English word harem, which refers to conception but also anciently and among the righteous the root involves a sense of righteous protection and guardianship. Together the words mountain and house in this verse symbolically communicate God’s faithful increasing both in number and righteousness, and as this mountain is singular it communicates unity among the righteous. The complimentary link between this interpretation and the more common interpretation of the mountain of the Lord’s house as the temple of the Lord is beautifully profound. It is the people or family of the Lord, increasingly sanctified and receiving knowledge and power, who return to God in and through His temple, and in this way these interpretations are really one.
The next question is: From what are the people or family of the Lord forgiven or what are they exalted above? The phrase above the hills may also be translated as from the hills, and the Hebrew word translated as hills means hills that are lower than mountains and is used in a variety of contexts from hills existent from the creation to hills that are designated as illicit and idolatrous places of worship. By juxtaposing the symbolism of the singular mountain of the Lord’s house with the wide spectrum of activity and morality conveyed by the surrounding many hills, Isaiah’s words paint a picture of the singular and sanctified mountain being separate from the hills representative of man in varied degrees of uncleanliness and idolatry—hills, or men, requiring forgiveness, requiring sanctification and exaltation.
This imagery beautifully and profoundly communicates the return journey in the universal pattern of progression, or the ancient temple pattern. In terms of one of the most important prototypes of this pattern, from symbolic Egypt with its Passover and Exodus into the wilderness and on to the Promised Land God enables salvation through sacrifice and resultant forgiveness of sin at the turning point of the altar and the continued enabling grace and exalting power that allows the return journey into God’s presence. This ancient, universal temple pattern also is manifest in part in the return journey of man through time into a sanctified state in the millennial reign of Christ as described in Isaiah chapter two. Likewise, the days of the week can be viewed as a return journey into the Sabbath as the Sabbath is ideally separated from and exalted above the activity and pursuits of the week, just as the millennial reign of Christ is separated from and exalted above the existence of preceding times.
It is interesting and instructive to recognize how much of God’s teachings, commandments, and ordinances follow this great, universal temple pattern, and with that understanding recognize the importance of the key principles of the temple pattern, centering in salvation and all that is good coming from and through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Exaltation truly is the same as forgiveness of sin together with all blessings that can be received with that forgiveness. As He is the turning point, Christ is also the end of the journey as He receives the sanctified into His presence and the presence of the Father. The Sabbath is one of the Lord’s most important teachings and commandments as it represents, reminds, and is purposed to direct God’s children through His forgiveness, grace, and enabling power eventually into an eternal state of sanctification, separated from the darkness of this world.
I walked into one of our favorite restaurants to grab some takeout and found my darling husband with his friend Brady. They met in Italy as missionary companions and it made me smile seeing this meeting. Brady is a photographer, movie maker (there is probably a proper technical name), musician, and all-around great man. It's been fun to add his work with John's posts.