“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” Exodus 20:8-10
I just returned to the office after a two-week vacation and I’m feeling renewed. I really needed a vacation. You should meet some of the people I have to work with. Wait, most of you reading this are those people. Forget I said that, I’m just glad I was blessed to be able to take one. But really, I needed a vacation because I was tired and losing my perspective. I was beginning to see the world and the ministry through the eyes of my weariness. I wonder how often other people experience this- getting so exhausted that they bark and snap at people for no real reason and become disillusioned with the state of things. It’s easy to do and I have a feeling I’m not alone.
God commands, yes, commands His people to rest. There are at least two applications to this theological idea of rest. The first comes from Exodus 20 in the fourth commandment. Here we are commanded to set aside a day, set it apart for rest. Why does God command us to do this? What a strange command. Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t worship other gods, don’t make images, and… rest! I believe that of all the 10 Commandments this is the one we tend to break the most, and with little to no social or moral backlash. If I were to stand up and suggest we begin worshipping the sun god I may receive a few emails. But if I were to suggest we have a church yard sale on Saturday nobody blinks an eye. I believe we need to be reminded of the value of God’s command to rest.
The Sabbath command is not for God. Remember how the Pharisees’ tried to co-opt the law on this so that Jesus was being accused of breaking the command? Jesus pointed out that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. God understands that we need rest and rejuvenation. We need our bodies to be refueled. We need our spirits to be rekindled and our souls to be restored, and we can do none of this without taking the proper time out of our busy lives to do it. God says to us, PUT THIS ON YOUR CALENDAR EVERY WEEK! REST! Be restored. Read the Bible. Pray. Listen to a good sermon online. Take time to rebuild the parts of you that are broken down during the week. I’m totally guilty of not doing this for myself. I have all the excuses too, but none of the excuses amount to anything when I find myself spent, broken, burnt out, and viewing life through the lens of exhaustion. We need to obey God here.
The other application for the theological idea of rest comes to us from Jesus himself who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” In Hebrews 4 the author points out that God had promised the Israelites rest in the Promised Land, a type of Sabbath rest from their wandering in the wilderness. He says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” What is it about this rest that the Israelites were striving to enter that Jesus himself says is in Him? I believe this rest is from our righteous and religious efforts. Some of us strive and struggle to do right and to be right and yet we find ourselves still in the throes of sinfulness. We’re back in the same old situations dealing with the same old issues. Jesus tells us to come to Him and rest. Rest from your shame. Rest from your regret. Rest from your sense of failure. Rest from your anxiety about what the future holds. Rest! And the way we do this is by acknowledging who Jesus is, the Lord who forsook all to bare the wrath of God for your sinfulness, dying in your place and paying the penalty for what you owed in your shame. It is because of His work that we can rest. It is because of His taking up humanity that we can lay down our feeble attempts at divinity. Jesus’ rest is the real deal- but often it takes taking time out of our busy schedule to acknowledge these truths.
These two applications go hand in hand. True rest is found in Jesus, but it takes resting from our fever pitch lives to ponder the truth of His renewal. Take some time this week to rest- not simply to nap, though that is great too, but to remember what an awesome Savior we serve and how He has given you rest from your struggles.