Summary: When we observe God’s prescribed Sabbath we are led into at least the types of rest.
“Law & Order: SPU – Rest-less or Rest-full?”
Ex. 20:8-11; Heb. 3:7-411
Has anyone ever said to you something like “You know, you wouldn’t be so tired if…?” or “You’d have more energy if…?” How did they fill in the blank? How is your life? Are you rest-less or rest-full?
God has told us that our lives must be rest-full. Therefore He has established a rhythm for life, one of rest and work. To understand this rhythm we must understand God’s purpose in establishing a Sabbath day – a day, if properly observed, that will provide at least three types of needed rest.
First of all, a faithful Sabbath observance will lead us into THE REST OF CREATION. We find this in Genesis 2: 1-2. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so 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.” When the Israelites heard God’s command about the seventh day, their minds would return to this creation message. They needed the reminder. They had lived in Egypt as slaves for over four hundred years – toiling 24/7 the entire time. They were treated as production machines. The idea of seventh day rest was simply that – just an idea, its practice long since forgotten. So before the Israelites entered the Promised Land God re-introduced the concept of resting – ceasing from work – on the seventh day as A SIGN AND CELEBRATION OF THEIR LIBERATION BY GOD. In fact, in the Deuteronomy version of the 10 commandments, the reason for the day of rest is stated (Dt. 5:12-15) “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
This whole idea was presented as well when God announced to Israel that He would provide manna for them. They were to collect manna every day, except the seventh day. On that day they were to rest – and God promised the manna they picked up on the sixth day would be sufficient for the seventh as well. The day of rest was a continuing gift to them. The prophet Ezekiel would later remind them that the seventh day was to be hallowed as “…a sign…that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” So the seventh day was to be a day of remembrance and celebration.
Since only Israel treated the seventh day in this way, this rest on the seventh day was also a sign to the rest of the nations that ISRAEL WAS DIFFERENT, THAT THEY WERE GOD’S SPECIAL PEOPLE and belonged to Him. It was to be a very intentional action. Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon point to the State of Texas to demonstrate this principle. In Texas there is a day known as “Juneteenth.” It was on June 19th that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas. June 19th became the day when African Americans, with no legal recourse, simply refused to show up for work. Hauerwas and Willimon then point out that this seventh day rest is really our Juneteenth. It is when we are truly counter-cultural and set apart because we simply refuse to show up for work! That’s intentionality.
Jesus taught that this ‘rest from work’, however, allowed for doing the work and ministry of the temple (Mt. 12:1-14). It can be a day of doing deeds of mercy and compassion – a day of serving in ways we do not serve during the rest of the week – a day to be intentional about extending the mercy of Jesus Christ.
This seventh day rest has tremendous SIGNIFICANCE FOR US TODAY. Let’s first of all be clear about ‘the seventh day.’ God did not designate Saturday or Sunday – he just declared a seventh day. The word ‘Sabbath’, in fact, means ‘intermission’ or ‘break.’ The Jews followed God’s pattern by making the literal 7th day – Saturday – the Sabbath. Christians moved it to Sunday, the first day of the week, in honor and celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. A certain day is not binding, but a day is. And when we understand that God did not rest because He was tired, but because He was satisfied, we begin to understand how we are to observe this Sabbath day. As God entered into a time of enjoyment of what He had made, so do we. On this Sabbath we are to enter into God’s rest by enjoying and celebrating Him and what He has made and done. So it’s to be a day of worship and celebration that God has, through Jesus, brought us out of bondage to sin and into a life of grace.