BEMA 1: Trust the Story
19 Jul 22 — Educated quotation marks and apostrophes
8 Feb 22 — Initial public release
27 Jan 22 — Transcript approved for release
Trust the Story
Marty Solomon: Hey, everybody. This is Marty Solomon. I just want to invite you to stick around after this episode. I have a little note from the future, if you will, from The BEMA Podcast.
Brent Billings: This is The BEMA Podcast with Marty Solomon. I’m his co-host, Brent Billings. Today, we’re going to talk about the creation story in Genesis 1 and the foundation it lays for understanding the scriptural narrative correctly. Marty, this is a pretty big lesson we got today. Let’s dive in.
Marty: This is one of the biggest ones. Everything’s going to build off of this. It’s not just Lesson 1, making sure that Lesson 1 is Lesson 1, is really, really important. Before I even get started, I need to make one thing really clear. Way back, man, this would be years ago, probably almost a decade ago, I went to an event in Colorado Springs. We left from- I had just got done preaching a sermon, we jumped in a car, drove 17 hours straight and arrived at Colorado Springs to go to- years ago, Rob Bell had an event called Everything is Spiritual, not the most recent one he did, but his first one, and that teaching from that very first tour he did really set a lot of things in motion for me.
If anybody is familiar with the teaching or ends up seeing the teaching, they’re going to notice how liberally I have borrowed from his presentation exactly what I’m going to do today. That won’t be normal for me, but I definitely have no interest in plagiarizing or taking credit for anybody else’s work. I need to say right up front that this lesson was heavily, heavily influenced by that presentation I saw that day.
You can actually get it online. He does something totally different. I take the intro to that talk and I use it for a different end for our means here with BEMA, but you could actually get his whole talk. It’s really phenomenal. Again, that was the first one and not the most recent one. It’s definitely there. I want to be clear about that and not make anybody think I’m taking credit for that.
This changed things for me. Years ago, this teaching really changed things for me and became a big part of what I do. We’re going to start in the beginning, which — if you got to start, in the beginning is a great place to do so. We’re going to start in the beginning of Genesis. Bereshit bara Elohim is where the scriptures begin. Scriptures begin talking about this God, whose name is Elohim.
In your notes that we have, your PDF, the presentation you can be looking at, we have in the Hebrew there Elohim written out. You can see it in English. We’re told that in the beginning, God created. Another word for create is bara. Bara is this word for create. We hear that this Elohim is a creator. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void. Formless and empty in the NIV. The Hebrew there is Tohu va-vohu. It’s this idea of chaotic nothingness. I always like to explain it in my class as if you were to take nothing and put it in a blender and hit and whip, you get Tohu va-vohu. Our Western self says, “Wait a minute, you put nothing in the blender,” but the Eastern self says, “Exactly. It’s even chaotic nothingness.”
In the beginning, the Earth was Tohu va-vohu and darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God, the ruach in the Hebrew, the ruach of God was hovering m’rehephet is the word there for hover. M’rehephet over the waters. We find out in this first opening stanza here, that this Elohim is a bara, a creator, and this Elohim is also a spirit.
The next thing this God does is He takes on Word. This God is creator, this God is Spirit, and this God is Word. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good. He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day and the darkness He called night, and there was evening and there was morning the first day. God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it and it was so. God called the vault sky and there was evening and there was morning, the second day, and God said that the water under the sky be gathered onto one place and that the dry ground appear, and it was so.
God called the dry ground land and the gathered waters He called seas, and God saw that it was good, and God said, “Let the land produce vegetation, seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bears fruit with seed in it according to their various kinds,” and it was so. The land produced vegetation, plants bearing seed according to their kinds, and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds, and God saw that it was good and there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night and let them serve as signs to mark the sacred times the days and years and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,” and it was so. God made two great lights; the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night and He also made the stars.
God set them in the vault of the sky to give light to the earth to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness, and God saw that it was good and there was evening and there was morning the fourth day. God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, let birds fly above the earth, across the vault of the sky,” so God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind, and God saw that it was good.
God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas and let the birds increase on the earth,” and there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day, and God said, “Let the land produce living creatures, according to their kinds, the livestock, the creatures that along the ground and the wild animals each according to its kind,” and it was so.
God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock, according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds, and God saw that it was good and then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image and our likeness so that they might rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image.
In the image of God, He created them, male and female, He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground,” and God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it and they will be yours for food and to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground, everything that has a breath of life in it, I give every green plant for food,” and it was so.
God saw all that He had made and it was, in Hebrew, tov meod, very good, and there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Goes into Genesis 2 for just a moment. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array and by the seventh day, God had finished the work He had been doing and on the seventh day, He rested from all his work, and God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because, on it, He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.
Now, as we listen to this poem because that’s what this is, almost every literary scholar I’m aware of recognizes the poetry, some call it Sumerian, most call it Mesopotamian poetry, some might even place it in different cultures, but it’s a poem. It’s this ancient creation poem, but there are these refrains that as we listen to this story, stick out to us. There are refrains that talk about evening and morning, which should stick out to us because it’s not how you and I talk about that, Brent, is it?
Brent: Not at all.
Marty: We talk about it backward.
Brent: We wake up in the morning-
Brent: We end our day with the evening.
Marty: Exactly. Morning and evening. That’s a day, and yet this creation tale is telling us about evening and morning. This refrain is something that sticks out or at least it should to us. It seems backwards. There’s another refrain that jumps out all through that “It was good” is what is said all throughout the poem. It was good, and God saw that it was good and it was good, and God saw that it was good.
If we just step back, we start to see that actually, this poem is maybe not about the things that we might have been raised or have been taught that this poem is about because we have all kinds of problems. First of all, it’s evening and morning. Second of all, plants are created on Day 3, the day of separating the land from the sea. The sun isn’t created until Day 4, but the plants can’t be created without the sun. How does that work scientifically? Let alone the fact that the only way we’ve ever measured a day and all of human history has been the movement of from one perspective, the sun or our movement in relation to the sun, it’s always been related to the sun. If the sun isn’t created till the fourth day, it raises the question of how do we even know the first three days are even days.
It really becomes clear the moment you start to look at this poem. This poem is not about the scientific reality of how creation was made. This poem is about something far deeper. If you just step back and if you remember our last podcast, we talked about the Easterner, understanding the world through pictures and images. If we stop reading Genesis 1 like a lab report because it’s not a scientific lab report, if we read it as the piece of literature that it is, and we step back, we notice this poem and we have to start asking a whole new set of questions. We might realize if we just look at it from a macro 10,000-foot level, we might recognize that this poem is about creating obviously. It’s also about resting. It has this weird ending, it’s all about creation, but then at the end of the story, God rests. This poem is about creating, but it also seems to be about resting.
We continue to look at this poem because we want to know more about it. If we look at this poem, we start to notice that if we look at Day 5, fish go in water and birds go in the sky, which means that Day 5 corresponds to Day 2. The sun, moon, and stars go in the place where there’s light, which again was one of those questions. How did we have light without the source of the light? Nevertheless, we have Day 4 corresponding to Day 1, Day 5 corresponding to Day 2. In fact, animals and humans are what inhabit the land, so Day 6 corresponds to Day 3. When you actually go back and start to look closely at this relationship, you realize that God really doesn’t create much of anything in this actual narrative. What He does in the first three days is God separates. He doesn’t create light and darkness.
He separates light from darkness. He doesn’t create the water and the sky. He separates water from water. He separates land from seas. Then in the next three days — four, five and six — God fills the very three things in the same order that He’s previously separated. Now, what this does for Hebrew, if they see this story as a picture, is it draws this imaginary line straight down the middle of the story because Day 1 corresponds to Day 4, Day 2 to Day 5, and Day 3 to Day 6, meaning if you folded this story up in the middle, it would fold upon itself. In their world, it’s called a chiasm, or a chiasmus if you’re reading scholastic literature, but we’re going to call them chiasms in our study. This ends up being a chiasm.
Now, a chiasm is a particular literary tool that Easterners use. One of the things we discussed in our discussion groups this last week was that Easterners don’t teach the way that Westerners do. Westerners like to teach by making a point and then giving the supporting evidence as the supporting proof or the supporting information, the logic, and the reasoning to prove their point, but an Easterner has a fundamental belief that true learning doesn’t happen with the transfer of information. True learning happens because you discover a new truth.
The art of discovery is everything for an Easterner, which means that when they write their stories, somewhere in the story is something that the author wants you to discover. It’s not going to be blinking and bold lights on top of the story. It’s going to be buried in the story because the Eastern author writing to an Eastern audience is trying to lead you through the process of discovery. They had all these methods and they had all these literary tools that they would use to accomplish this process of discovery.
One of those tools is chiasm. Chiasm means that the first part of the story mirrors the last part of the story. It can mirror it in two different ways. It can either be A, B, C, D, D, C, B, A, meaning it actually mirrors each other, A, B, C, D, D, C, B, A, or a chiasm can also have the mirroring effect of parallelism. It can be called inverted parallelism or parallelism. It can be A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D. It can go A, B, C, D, D, C, B, A, or it can go A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D.
It can also be structured almost visually, so that same ABC-CBA type order, you can actually see a chiasm can be shaped like an arrow, either directly or inverted. You’ll see in the show notes in the presentation there I’ve shown you a couple of examples. A chiasm can be shaped like an hourglass, almost like an arrow pointing to the center, or a chiasm can be shaped almost like a diamond, where it gets larger, and then gets smaller again.
Everything is driven towards the center. It mirrors. It’s like a story folded up on itself. Now, what’s so interesting about Genesis 1, and Genesis 1 is not the easiest chiasm to start with, but it’s where God chooses to start a story is Genesis 1 happens to be both chasms at the same time. Now, here’s what I mean by that. If you look at your NIV Bible, some translations don’t do this. If you look at the NIV Bible, it’s going to show you the paragraphs. You might notice if you look at Genesis 1, that the first day of creation is a baby paragraph. The second day of creation is a mommy paragraph and the third day of creation is a daddy paragraph, followed by another daddy paragraph, followed by a mommy paragraph, followed by what would be in Day 6 a baby paragraph if it weren’t for the creation of man.
That’s what makes the Genesis chiasm slightly confusing but we’ll come back to that by the time we’re done today. It’s like the creation of man sticks out of this story like a protrusion out of the narrative because the expectation is that Day 6 would be a baby paragraph.
What I mean by Genesis 1 is both kinds of chiasm, as the literary structure follows A, B, C, C, B, A. Baby, mommy, daddy, daddy, mommy, baby-sized paragraphs, but the content of the paragraph follows A, B, C, A, B, C. Day 1 corresponds to Day 4, Day 2 corresponds to Day 5, Day 3 corresponds to Day 6. If your head is starting to explode and pop, then you are understanding what we’re talking about here.
This is an incredibly well-put-together piece of literature and, I’m telling you, it’s not a science lab report. It’s not about how God created the world. It’s not about monkeys and apes, or 7 literal days, or 14. It’s about something far wider and deeper about the nature of God, the nature of the world He created, and the nature of man. That’s what the story is driving at.
If you look at these chiasms-- Well, before we do that, let me say this, we want to make sure that Marty is not just blowing smoke. We want to make sure that — “Well, you made a jump there to this whole chiasm thing. I’m not real comfortable with it.” Let’s go back and make sure that what we’re really dealing with here is a poem. If you were to go back and look at that poem one more time, if this is a poem, you should have a cadence, you should have a rhythm, you should have patterns, you should have numbers that jump out at you. We’ve already talked about the refrains, these refrains that work as a cadence and a rhythm. It was good. It was good. It was evening. It was morning.
Then there are also other patterns. We pointed out that there were three days that mirrored three days. We would want to see patterns of three. Well, if you remember, at the beginning of the poem, we had a threeness about this creator. This creator was bara, this creator was spirit, and this creator was word. There was a threeness speaking of creation. We said this poem was about creating and resting. The word bara, the word for create, appears in three different places in this poem; at the beginning, once in the middle, and then once at the end. At the end, when the word bara appears, it appears three times in rapid-fire in the last few verses.
We have all kinds of patterns of three. Three days of separation, three days of filling, a three-part nature to this Elohim, and a three mention of bara at the closing of the poem. We would also look at seven days and we might expect there to be patterns of seven in the poem. That would be expected. When we look at the poem, we realize that the first verse in the Hebrew has seven words in it, 7x1.
The second verse has 14 Hebrew words in it, 7x2. The word Earth occurs 21 times in the poem, 7x3. There are 35 words in the 7th verse of the poem, 7x5, the word God is mentioned 35 times in the poem, 7x5. The phrase “It was so” appears seven times in the poem, and the phrase “And God saw” appears seven times in the poem. Now, as I heard this teaching taught, the statement was made if I see patterns of 3 and I see patterns of 7, the only logical question would be to ask whether or not there are any patterns of 10, which we might chuckle at and think it’s a funny question until we realize the phrase “to make” appears 10 times in the poem.
The phrase “according to its kind” occurs 10 times in the poem. The phrase “And God said” occurs 10 times in the poem — 3 times in reference to people, 7 times in reference to creatures. The phrase “Let there be” occurs 10 times in the poem — 3 times in reference to things in the heavens, and 7 times in reference to things on Earth. This poem is full of patterns. 3s, 7s, 10s, this is not a scientific lab report. It’s not a scientific lab report. It’s not a scientific lab report. It’s not trying to tell us how God created the world, it’s a chiasm.
Now, how does the chiasm work? How is this burying a treasure for me to discover? Well, that chasm points towards the center. If you look at that diagram on your show notes, you’re going to see how these chasms are structured. Then I’ve added some notes myself to the next slide, and it shows you where the treasure lies. The entire chasm points toward the center where the treasure is. You can often find a chasm by identifying the bookends. Every chiasm will have its outermost, its furthest reaching points where the chiasm begins. You find these bookends at the top and at the bottom, and then you begin to work towards the center and it’s the bookends that are going to help you find the center where the treasure lies. Now, in the story of Genesis, you might remember that creation started with what, Brent?
Brent: God creating light.
Marty: Okay, before that?
Brent: In the beginning?
Marty: Okay. The earth was-
Brent: Formless and empty.
Marty: Ah, and what did we say Tohu va-vohu meant?
Brent: Wild and waste.
Marty: Yes. You put what in a blender?
Marty: Chaotic nothingness.
Brent: Chaotic nothingness.
Marty: Now, at the end of the poem, what does God do?
Brent: He rests.
Marty: Which means He does what?
Marty: This poem is book ended by resting — or by nothingness might be the more appropriate way of phrasing it. The story starts with nothing, the story ends with nothing. If you take this creation poem, and you actually physically count Hebrew words, there’s a Hebrew word that lies dead center in the middle of the poem, and the Hebrew word is the word moad.
Now in the old translations, we used to translate moad seasons. It shows up right where you would want it to. If you consider that there are these seven creation days, you would expect the center of this poem to lie somewhere in Day 4. Well, in fact, on Day 4, God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars to mark the days, the years, and the seasons, or the moad, I think as this new NIV translated it, the sacred time.
Now moad ends up being one of four words that we translate Sabbaths, or at least the idea of Sabbath, festivals, parties, resting. This is one of four words we use to talk about Sabbath which is exactly what God does at the end of the poem and what He will call His people back to throughout the story is this idea of Sabbath and this idea of resting. If you’ve ever wondered why the concept of Sabbath is so important to the Jewish people, it’s because the Bible begins with a massive poem about Shabbat. Go ahead and ask me, Brent, the question that I know has to be burning on your mind.
Brent: Why is moad the treasure? That seems so-- What does seasons or sacred times have to do with anything?
Marty: How anticlimactic, right? After all of this build-up about chasms and all of that stuff, and there’s a treasure, why in the world is Sabbath or moad or seasons and sacred times the center word in Genesis 1? Well, if we were to take this back to the group of people that originally heard the story, traditionally, who was it that’s going to be hearing the story for the first time, Brent?
Brent: The Israelites.
Marty: Where are they going to be traditionally?
Brent: They’ll be in the desert, in the wilderness.
Marty: At what location?
Brent: Mount Sinai.
Marty: They’ve just come out of where?
Marty: They’ve just come out of Egypt. Now, what did they do while they were in Egypt, Brent?
Brent: They were slaves.
Marty: What particular thing are we told about that they did as slaves?
Brent: They worshiped the gods of Egypt.
Marty: What else did they do physically? What form of labor did Egypt have them doing?
Brent: Manual labor.
Marty: What kind of manual labor?
Brent: They made bricks.
Marty: All right, they make bricks. Imagine yourself being a bunch of liberated slaves who have just been carted out of Egypt. Liberated by God, coming through the Red Sea. For the last 430 years, you have made bricks. Egypt has told you for four centuries that your value and your worth is tied up in the idea of how many bricks you can produce. You are a slave.
The only reason you have any value to the Egyptian empire is how many bricks you can make. If you can’t make many bricks, you are not very valuable to the Egyptians. Even if you don’t buy into this Egyptian propaganda, even if you somehow manage after 400 years to hold strong and try to deny that truth on a spiritual level, it’s still a truth on a very practical level because if you can’t produce bricks, they’re going to remove you from the equation because you’re of no use to them as a slave. If they remove you from the equation, how will you ever provide for your family? If you’re no longer there, you can’t protect your wife.
I think we all know what the Empire is going to do to your wives and your daughters if you’re no longer there to provide for the family. I think we all know what Egypt is going to do to your children and your sons if you’re no longer there. There is a practical reality to this idea that you’re only as valuable as how many bricks you can make. The very first lesson that God has to teach us people in the scriptural narrative, the very first lesson, God says, “Before we talk about anything else, I need you to know something. I need you to know how to take a break,” because when you’re a slave, how many days a week do you work, Brent?
Marty: How long do you work each day?
Brent: Sunup to sundown.
Marty: That’s right. Everything has been tied up in your production. God says, “Before we do anything, I need you to know how to take a break.” A break that’s going to remind you that your value and your worth does not come from what you produce. It comes because of who you are. Isn’t it interesting that in this creation, God calls it good, very good, right after He makes mankind?
This creation of mankind sat as this protrusion in the story, almost as if it’s supposed to stand out in the narrative and tell the people that are hearing it or reading it for the first time, “You are the crowning moment of God’s good creation. How he feels about you is that He loves you, and He values you, and He calls you good.” When you go back to the story, why does God rest? Is He out of divine creativity units? Is God tired? Does He need to take a break?
Of course, the answer to all those things is no. If God is who we understand Him to be, that’s ridiculous. God isn’t taking a rest because He needs it in some physical sense. God is resting because God has done everything there is to do for creation. He has made the creation He wants to make. He’s put everything in place and there’s nothing more He could do about it. There’s nothing more He could do to it, excuse me.
There was actually one of the rabbis that helped shape the end of this lesson for me, Rabbi David Foreman. His teaching has shaped this as well. He uses the illustration of an artist, and he uses the Mona Lisa. I’ve been told by an art major that was in my ministry that it’s a horrible illustration because apparently, I believe it was Da Vinci that worked on the Mona Lisa. Is that correct?
Brent: I think so. I’m not the right person to ask.
Marty: I’m not either, but if that’s the artist, apparently the artist worked on that until the day he died and never stopped working, but the point still stands! For these artists — imagine the great sculpture of David by Michelangelo. At some point, Michelangelo had to know that there was nothing more he could do. If he takes one more swing of the hammer against the chisel, he’s going to ruin the sculpture.
He has to know that he’s done. God looks at creation and says, “I have done everything I could possibly do for creation. It’s exactly like I want it to be,” and then God steps back and He just says, “I just want to enjoy it.” He makes this creation that is loaded with potential. Westerners like to say that Genesis 1 creation was perfect but perfect as a static Western idea. It doesn’t even exist in the Hebrew mindset. It’s not that creation was perfect. It’s that creation was good. God stepped back and said, “It can go...” It’s not static, it’s dynamic. God created a creation that could go somewhere on its own. These things can reproduce according to their kind. This creative power had to be instilled in it by a creator, but this creator instills creation with its own creative power and God steps back and says, “I just want to enjoy creation.”
Now, what’s interesting about those refrains that we talked about is the evening-morning refrain is absent from Day 7. Evening and morning shows up, and it was evening, it was morning the first day. It was evening and morning the second day. It was evening and morning the third day. It was evening and morning the fourth day. It was evening and morning the fifth day. It was evening and morning the sixth day. But there is no refrain “it was evening and it was morning the seventh day.”
It’s as if the author is deliberately hanging the seventh day out there endlessly with no refrain, no cap. This seventh day goes on forever because God’s invitation to you and I is to trust the story. Trust the story of Genesis 1. I say this tongue in cheek: I wish there were more relevant material for our culture. I think we have a culture that’s all wound up in the Egyptian narrative. It’s all wound up in production. It’s all wound up in whether or not I’m skinny enough, I’m smart enough, I have enough possessions, I can impress the right people, I’ve got the right degree, I’ve made it in the right career.
I think we’re slaves to a system of brick-making that we don’t even understand, and we just keep going, we keep churning, we keep producing, we keep impressing, and we keep trying to show up to be the thing that we think we have to be. I think God says, “You need to know how to stop. You need to know how to Sabbath. You need to know how to Shabbat and join me in just enjoying creation. Will you join me in the seventh day, the seventh day that goes on forever? You are invited at all times and all places to join me in celebrating that creation is enough. There is nothing more I could do to it. I’m not holding out on you. You can just trust that I’ve made a good creation, and I feel the same way about all of it including you. I feel the same way about you as I feel about all my creations. Will you just trust the story?” One of the phrases we’re going to use over and over and over again throughout BEMA is “trust the story.” Will we simply trust the story?
Brent: Let’s go back just a little bit, the evening-morning refrain. Can you give us some clarification on that? Because that is so weird.
Marty: It’s a weird refrain.
Brent: We acknowledged that it’s weird, but why?
Marty: This is going to be brilliant when we put this back in its place because there’s a few different ways to talk about it. One of the ways that the Jews have this conversation. Your day — you see in the Jewish day, it begins when the sun goes down. The Jewish day doesn’t begin in the morning. The Jewish day begins at sunset. Right now as we are recording right now, it is 4:30, and in about four hours, the sun is going to be down and the next day is going to begin for me in a Jewish world. Sabbath doesn’t begin on Saturday morning. Sabbath begins on Friday night at sundown.
Now, the Jews teach that this is always a reminder, your day doesn’t begin with production. Let me just let that sit for a moment and I’ll say that again. Your day doesn’t begin with production. It doesn’t begin with getting out of bed thinking about all the things you have to do today. Your day begins with resting. The first thing you do in the Jewish world every day is you go to bed.
The first thing you do is you rest because your identity lies in who you are created by God, not what you do. So why evening and morning? Because that’s how a day operates in God’s economy. God’s economy is not based off of your production. God’s economy is based off of His good creation. I love the question about evening and morning. It’s this reminder worked into the poem. You are not valuable slaves, rescued slaves, liberated slaves. You are not valuable because of your ability to make bricks. You are valuable because you are the crowning moment of my good creation.
Brent: Thinking back on what we’ve been talking about for the last half an hour, it seems like the entirety of Genesis 1 is about rest.
Marty: Absolutely. I think that’s a practical rest. I think that’s real literal rest. One of the things that we’ll talk about, I’m sure in our discussion, and one of the things that my students always pick up on in this story is the need to have a Sabbath, the need to observe Shabbat. It’s a really hard thing for us to learn. The moment that some of my students start to practice Shabbat, they send me these text messages late at night and early in the morning saying, “I’m trying to do Shabbat, am I doing it right?”
The answer to that question is always “no” because you’re worried about whether or not you’re doing it right. One of the things that my kids will tell you, if you ask my seven-year-old daughter, Abigail, or my six-year-old son, Ezekiel, you ask them “what is Sabbath?” they’re going to say, “We rest. We play. No work. God loves us.” I’ve taught them that from the day they were two years old. We rest, we play, no work. God loves us.
Jesus says later in the narrative, Jesus is going to say, “Man is not for Sabbath, but Sabbath was created for man.” God gave us Sabbath as a gift. We are not designed for Sabbath. Sabbath is designed for us. Sabbath is a reminder that we are loved, valued, and accepted by God, just because of who we are and not because of what we do. So, the core of what you do on Sabbath isn’t about what you do at all, it’s about what you’re reminded of.
In my Sabbath, one of the things that I do, for those who know me, I have a shaved head. I start with the ridiculous examples because I think they communicate the best. I hate shaving my head every day. It’s one of the most annoying things in my daily routine.
Brent: Why do you even do it?
Marty: I don’t know. I don’t know these things. I don’t have answers to these questions, but on Shabbat, I don’t. It’s the one thing I don’t do on Shabbat because it brings joy.
It puts a smile on my face to remember, I’m just loved. One of the things I do that irritates me is, I don’t make my bed. Those of you that know me know I’m incredibly OCD. I like things in their proper place and neat and organized. On Shabbat, I don’t make my bed and every time I walk into my room, I cringe, but it’s this reminder. Even when my life looks like that, I’m still loved. I’m still valued. I’m still accepted.
I don’t find my value in the fact that my life is put in order, I find my value because I’m simply created and loved by God. All of Sabbath is about that thing. If what I’m doing on Sabbath, if I’m doing any work, I’m doing it wrong. If I’m not playing and resting, I’m doing it wrong. If it’s not reminding me that I’m loved by God, Sabbath should be a day that sets us free to remember what is most true about God’s creation.
One of those refrains we talked about was “it was good.” This story flies in the face of what humanity has always taught us, which is that the world is screwed up. We all know that the world is screwed up, but that’s not the most fundamental, core, essential truth about creation. Creation is good. The first lesson in the Scripture tells us what is most fundamentally true about creation is that it’s good, that when God made it, He rejoiced over it and enjoyed it and invites us today still, even in the midst of its brokenness to do the same thing to remember, what’s most true about creation and what’s most true about us.
It’s the lie that we want to buy into the other six days out of the week. I think that the rest you were asking me about is also metaphorical. It’s the big picture. It’s not just practical. I think it’s also a posture we carry through life. We either live in a posture of fear and insecurity, and we don’t have enough and we’re not enough. We just got to keep doing because God’s angry at us and God’s mad at us. Genesis 1 says God’s not angry at creation. God’s not mad at creation. God’s not inflicting chaos. God loves creation. God rejoices over creation. It was good. It was good. It was very good. God rejoices over creation. That affects my posture in life.
I believe that God really feels good about creation and values and accepts and loves me. It changes my posture from one of scarcity to one of abundance is one of the things we’ve talked about at our church here. I either have a view of scarcity that there’s not enough, that everybody’s mad, that it’s all going to fall apart, or I have a view of this life that is an abundant view, that there’s more than enough, that God’s given this world everything He needs to and He loves it and cares for it deeply. If this is lesson number one, it’s going to shape the way we read all the rest of scripture.
Brent: I just thought we should rest there for a moment from our speaking.
Marty: I like what you did there.
Brent: I don’t know what else to say. That is a heavy teaching.
Marty: I feel like there are still two more hours to the conversation we need to have, which is good because we got a discussion group, but my goodness, there’s so much more to unpack.
Brent: When you live in that world of production and you’ve been told, for years and years, it’s been all about what you can do and what you can produce and what you get out of it, what you have, what you own, what’s the first step to moving towards this place of rest?
Marty: This is going to sound like a total cop-out answer. I think it’s actually rest. It’s actually Shabbat. I think the practice of Shabbat is so essential to teaching us about this truth. Especially for-- 99% of us have grown up in a Christianity that has told us about how inherently evil and screwed up and bad and sinful we are and how angry God should be at us. Sabbath reminds us of a much deeper, much more essential foundational truth.
There will be truths in that other stuff. There’s a truth about our sin and we’ll deal with that, but first-- Far too often, we start the story in Genesis 3. We start with the screw-up and the sinfulness of humanity. We need to stop at Genesis 1 and just learn how to rest. Before we learn about how screwed up we are, we have to learn how to just rest in the fact that fundamentally above all other things, what God wanted to teach us first is that we were loved.
I think Sabbath is one of the biggest ways we learn how to do that because we have to learn how to turn off that thing that tells us we have to keep going. Turn off. We have a power button, so do our cell phones. We don’t often like to admit that, but we have an off button and we need to learn how to use that and just be okay. Just learn how to be okay. We’re okay. We’re accepted. It’s okay.
Brent: Most people have two days off from their formal job.
Marty: Yes, no kidding.
Brent: Just use one of them as a Sabbath, right?
Marty: Just do it.
Brent: That’s right.
Marty: There are so many things to do. There are so many things to do at home. Well, there’s always going to be things to do. What it does is it tells a narrative to our hearts and we got to tell God’s narrative to our heart, not the narrative that we want to tell, not the narrative that we think is most true because we think we’re so lousy and we think we’re not enough. We have to let God tell us what’s fundamentally true, that we are enough. We are enough. It’s a good place to start.
Brent: When you’re trying to take your Sabbath and then you do something and you’re like, “I didn’t enjoy that. That was work. I’m doing it wrong,” just stop. Rest again and another Sabbath will come around in a week.
Marty: In a week and then you will learn all about it again. By the way: a great book, Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the Jewish classics written this century, wrote a book called The Sabbath. If you can read really profound, deep stuff, check it out. It’s good stuff.
Brent: All right. That seems like a good place to stop.
Marty: Good place.
Brent: All right. If you live on the Palouse, we hope you join us for our discussion groups in Moscow on Tuesday or in Pullman on Wednesday. If you want to get a hold of Marty, you can find him on Twitter at @martysolomon, you can find me on Twitter at @eibcb. You can find more details about the show at bemadiscipleship.com. Thanks for joining us on The BEMA Podcast and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Brent: Okay, everyone. What you just heard was originally recorded in 2016. We are now talking to you in 2020 and things have changed since then quite a bit. We just wanted to go over a couple of things that you’re going to hear as you go through the podcast and let you know what the updates are in that. For starters, we talk a lot about local discussion groups in Moscow and Pullman. Those are not happening as we describe them in the episode anymore. There are actually discussion groups in Moscow and Pullman. There are different groups that formed after we closed down those first initial groups.
Marty did not know where the Lord would be taking him and his schedule changed and shifted after we started the podcast. Those are different, but we also have, since we started the podcast, hundreds of discussion groups around the world and we have a map that shows you those. If you go to bemadiscipleship.com and go to the group’s page, you can click on a link there to see a Google map that shows all of the groups that we know about around the world. We know there are a lot of others that are not on the map, but those are the people who have contacted us and said, “We want to be on the map. We want to know if there are any other listeners out there who are looking for a group, they are welcome to join us.” Check that out if you’re interested in finding some local listeners that you can join with.
We also talk about how you can get a hold of us on Twitter, and that is still a great way to get a hold of us. Now for me personally, if you follow me, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s just as great. I don’t care. The great thing about Twitter is it’s asynchronous, so if I’m interested in whatever you’re doing, I may end up following you, maybe not. It doesn’t matter.
You can DM either of us. You can @-mention us, whatever. It’s a great way to get in touch with us. I will not be offended if you don’t follow me. I really don’t talk about that much BEMA-related stuff on Twitter. Marty does. It makes a lot more sense if you’re interested in the content of this podcast, follow Marty. We also have a general BEMA Twitter account that you can follow as well. As far as Facebook, Marty, tell us your Facebook philosophy.
Marty: First of all, I don’t use Facebook as a medium for much. I think Facebook is a horrible medium for dialogue. I just despise Facebook on that level. I don’t use Facebook except for just getting information, getting the word out there, maybe sharing some innocent photos of family, or something fun that we do. You’re not going to see me share a whole lot on Facebook, but my general philosophy because of that is if you’re connected to me, sure, I’ll be your friend.
I’ve gotten spammed before. I’ve gotten people trying to post junk on my wall. I try to be a little careful. If we have some mutual friends and it appears that you’re a podcast listener, I typically accept your friend request. If we have no mutual friends, I set a friend request for about four days, try and decide if I’m going to accept it or not. That’s my philosophy, but I’m reaching the end of my limit. I think Facebook gives me 5,000 slots. Then apparently, I can’t be a regular person anymore.
I have to be a page you can follow. Something like that. Too many friends. There’s only enough room for so many friends on Facebook. I’m reaching that limit and then I don’t know what will happen. We’ll find out what the Facebook universe does to me.
Brent: I have no interest in reaching that limit. If you have not actually met me in person and you send me a friend request, no offense, but I will not accept it.
Marty: It lets people know. It lets people know how we operate. We’re different.
Brent: There is a BEMA Discipleship Facebook page that you’re welcome to check out. That’s a great way to be connected and find links that Marty’s posting and discussion of current topics, links to the latest episode as we release them. That’s good for that. Instagram-ing, follow me there if you want to see what I’m doing personally. I really don’t post that much, but you’re certainly welcome to check that out. Marty has an Instagram as well.
One last thing that we want to say, if you’re interested in continuing listening to the podcast, if you’re not already listening in a podcast app, if you’re just listening on the website, that’s great, but we do, on the website, have a number of apps that we recommend that just makes it easier to follow through the podcast especially because we do recommend that you go through the entire podcast from the very beginning. That will make it easier to go through these episodes one by one instead of trying to listen on the website.
You’re certainly welcome to listen on the website if you want, but being able to download the episodes, if you’re away from connection or whatever, the apps just make that a whole lot more convenient.
Marty: Brent, can we add one more thing to that list and talk about show notes?
Marty: We get that email about multiple times a week, people looking for the show notes. How do we find these presentations? How do we find these PDFs? Apparently, I do a lousy job of explaining this. Brent, how would you describe where we find the show notes?
Brent: If you’re on the website, just scroll down below the audio player and then we’ll have a set of links there. There’s not a link actually for every episode. Some episodes we have a present, some we recommend books, and some there’s nothing at all. Don’t expect to find something every single time. When we mention a presentation on the episode, if you go to the website and scroll down on that episode page, you’ll find the link there. If you’re in a podcast app, it’s going to be a little bit different for every app. Usually, you can scroll your screen up or down, maybe left or right, and there’s usually a view that will show you the description of the episode along with any links that we have available.
Marty: It should be easy to find. Just have to scroll down. Typically, the rule is just to scroll down and there they are.
Brent: All right. That’s the update. Thanks for listening.
Marty: From the future.