Sunday, April 22, 2012
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord….It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
(Exodus 31:15, 17)
Early on in The Hobbit, Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Dwarves spend some time at Rivendell, the "Last Homely House" on the edge of the wilderness. They stay there for a number of days, during which time they regain their strength and receive from Elrond help in interpreting Thorin's map of the Lonely Mountain and advice on the best route through the Misty Mountains. When they leave, they are rested and re-supplied, ready for the next portion of their journey.
After Rivendell, the travelers face their toughest challenges thus far, involving goblins, wargs, and several very narrow escapes. They are rescued from certain death by the eagles, who then provide them with transportation a little bit farther down their path. They have lost their supplies, however, and are hungry and discouraged when Gandalf leads them to the home of Beorn, the fearsome shape-shifter who is sometimes a man and sometimes a bear. As in Rivendell, they are welcomed, fed, given soft beds to sleep in, and allowed to stay a few days to rest. Before they leave, they are given food, water skins, bows and arrows for hunting, and ponies to carry them and their supplies, at least a little ways. Like Elrond, Beorn gives them wise counsel about the best way to get through the forest of Mirkwood and warnings about the dangers they may encounter within.
Without these two important rest stops along the way, the dwarves would never have made it all the way to the Lonely Mountain to finish their quest. There are similar waypoints along the Christian journey, known as Sundays. When we gather as the Church for worship, study, and fellowship, we experience rest from the everyday grind and renewal of the spirit, and if we pay attention, we might also hear God's advice for living. It is possible, I suppose, to go through life alone, relying only on God, but it is much more fulfilling and enjoyable when we take advantage of His rest stops.