Some theologians speak of the concept of the Holy Land (the land of Israel) as a scandal, the scandal of particularity. This is a high-sounding phrase that refers to the following: how is it that God, who creates all of the earth, can say this one little segment is somehow different or more special than all the rest? It troubles their mind. The word scandal (Greek, scandalon) simply means a stumbling block, an offense, something that troubles you, that does not compute.
However, the land is inseparable from the people and the book. The land, the people, and the book are joined together by God in a threefold connection that runs throughout Scripture; one that cannot and should not be broken. Why? Because space is considered holy when it is set apart by and for the Holy One Israel. That is my first point.
Point 2: Time is also considered holy when it is set apart by and for God
In Genesis 2:1-3, the seventh day is spoken of as holy, it is part of a rhythm, a process called time. The first thing that God sanctified was time; time is extremely important to God as evidenced in the biblical text. Notice carefully how often the Scripture says things like, "in the third month," and "on the seventh day," etc. These references to time are significant.
Judaism and Christianity are the only religions in which history is real, therefore time is important. The other world’s religions are ahistorical or non-historical, they function independent of time. In fact, most of the world’s religions believe time is just some kind of a circle or cycle; that over great aeons being emanates from itself then it retracts (such as within Hinduism). First it is emanated, then it retracts; time is meaningless, it is an illusion.
But in the Bible, time is real and history matters. It is a process that has an origination at the hand of the Creator, and it will have a conclusion at the hand of the Redeemer. And everything in-between is under the sovereignty, the oversight, the permission and initiative of the Creator himself. Time is holy. There are anointed times like Feasts, set throughout the Scripture. For example, Passover (Peach) begins on the 14th of Nisan. You then count seven Sabbaths until the fiftieth day, which is Pentecost (Shavuot). Sacred time reveals a rhythm of kingdom living.
The fundamental rhythm in Scripture is the seven-day cycle. Interestingly enough, scientists now tell us that there is even an inherent seven day bio-rhythm within your body that operates unknown to you. It seems to be tuned in to the eternal clock of God’s way of reckoning things. Time is important, he calls the Sabbath (the seventh day) holy.
I want to make a point which when I first came across it in my studies some years ago struck me as extremely profound, probably because of my background in philosophy. The holiness of time in God’s scheme of values is even greater than the holiness of space.
In Exodus 35 we are right in the middle of the construction of the tent of meeting according to God’s very specific architectural description. We tend to think of the tabernacle as being the holiest place, where the glory of God (shekinah) came and descended and dwelt. But in 35:1-3, God says that there is something which takes priority, even over the construction of this physical habitation for him, "I want you to set aside even this holy project and not work on the Sabbath."
I believe what he is implying here is that there is another work that is even more important than this, and that is the work that should be done most especially on Shabbat. A time set aside not for physical construction, but spiritual building. I think time and the Sabbath take on such precedence for God because he is looking for more than just a sanctuary in space, he is looking for a sanctuary in time.
In other words, the holiness of the Sabbath teaches that the sanctity of time and spirit is higher than the sanctity of space and place.
Shabbat is a time dedicated wholly to God, it is the time for the pursuit of the things of the Spirit. On this day even the most fundamental aspects of life—shelter, clothing and food—are not to be pursued. It is legitimate and appropriate to pursue them for six days of each week, but on the seventh day one is to cease from physical pursuits and pursue the Spirit.
God is looking for a people who will regularly say to him, "we gladly set aside all other concerns in order to build for you a sanctuary in time." The Holy One of Israel, by his grace, created this world for us to inhabit. It is our reciprocal responsibility to create a place for him to inhabit, a place in time as well as in space.
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.