This is our monthly entry by elder Russ Rohloff:
This is part of a bigger question that has to do with participating in God’s salvation history, or what the Church refers to as marking time. The simple answer is that God requires us to tithe our time to acknowledge His purposes in a similar manner to how we tithe our money or possessions. This is not because He needs our time, but it is the manner in which He chooses to sanctify our time. Paul spoke of this in Romans 11 when he said, “If the first fruit is holy, so also is the entire batch.” In the Mosaic Law God simply stated “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. The account in Exodus 20 states that we observe this day as holy because the Lord created the heavens and the earth and rested on this day of fulfillment. The account in Deuteronomy 5 adds that we observe this day because the Lord has acted to deliver us from bondage. This one day in seven was given to recount the two great acts of God in our world, creation and deliverance, and a participation in those acts of grace in turn sanctified all of life. The main difference between Old and New Testament times is that we observe our Lord’s Day at the beginning of the week, not the end, for it is on Sunday that Jesus rose in power to affirm our deliverance from death. The marking of Sunday as holy is a tithe of our time in which we dedicate our week to God’s purposes and thus declare all of our week holy (consecrated or set apart).
The Old Testament is full of references to marking time so that the followers of God might participate in His salvation history. The Sabbath day marked one day in each seven as holy to the Lord. Similarly Leviticus 25 says that one year in every seven years is holy to the Lord in order to give the land rest, and one year in each seven of seven years (1 in 50) is the jubilee year of the Lord in which all debts are forgiven. In Leviticus 23 the Lord commands that Israel should keep seven holy convocations that Moses calls “the appointed times of the Lord”, each of which were intended to be present reminders of the historic work of God’s deliverance on their behalf. And in order to further highlight the importance of the salvation work of God, the nation kept a sacred calendar that was different from their secular calendar. The beginning of the sacred year is detailed in Exodus 12 and includes the month in which Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is celebrated, while the civil New Year, Rosh Hashanah, comes much later. The first celebrated the reality of God’s deliverance, the second the miracle of His creation and order.
Now all that is said as a reminder that time and history lie in the hand of God, and we need that cyclical reminder in our own lives to allow us to participate and fully receive the deliverance and freedom that He alone can give. There has always been debate over what keeping the Lord’s Day means, what the day should include, what the day should not include. Each of us must judge what the day means and holds for us according to our own conscience before God, but a good starting point for any understanding of keeping the Lord’s Day holy has to be Isaiah 58:13-14 and that is where I will close.
“If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the LORD and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Why do we go to church on Sunday? To set our entire past, present, and future into the history of God’s marvelous work of grace, to mark and set apart our lives as dedicated to His purposes, and to delight in all that He offers. This day is a gift from His hand, made especially for us, a day to renew covenant in our mind, heart, soul and spirit.
Russell currently serves as an elder in the church. His own spiritual pilgrimage extends back almost 40 years and includes a sojourn in the Roman Catholic, American Baptist, Lutheran, Independent Charismatic, Independent Congregational, home fellowship, and Federated Congregational church settings. In these settings he has served as a catechist, bible teacher, independent school principal, outreach coordinator, and ordained pastor. His current life verse is Romans 1:15. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you…”