Summary: Sometimes we are so busy we simply do not find the time to slow down, pause, or stop long enough to rest and listen to God. Yet, since time began, God has offered us all the opportunity to rest.
We continue in our series on Hope Found Here and this month we are thinking about ‘Hope in the calming presence of God’ or to put it another way, knowing how to rest and relax in God.
The question I want to address this evening is "Do we understand what it means to rest in God?"
We live in a fast paced world and for many of us it seems almost impossible to take time to pause and rest.
When you think about rest, what do you picture in your head?
Sitting on a beach somewhere?
Staying in bed as long as possible?
An afternoon nap?
Sitting on a river bank with a fishing rod and pocketful of chocolate?
Perhaps you are thinking “I would love to rest but there is so much that needs to be done.” Sometimes we are so busy we simply do not find the time to slow down, pause, or stop long enough to rest and listen to God. Yet, since time began, God has offered us all the opportunity to rest.
The Bible first speaks about the importance of rest in Genesis 2:2-3, “On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from all His work of creation.”
God is omnipotent, God is all powerful, God does not need to rest for reasons of physical tiredness or exhaustion. God chooses to rest, to pause, to stop and relax, to give us a perfect example of what we should do ourselves.
But people chose to ignore God’s example of rest, so in The Ten Commandments, where God says we are to love God, put no one else before Him, worship nothing and no one instead of Him, or use His name as a swear word, where He commands us to honour our parents, to not murder, to not commit adultery, or steal, or lie, or lust after things that belong to someone else, number 4 on His list is resting on the Sabbath.
Listen to the fourth commandment from Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy."
For Christians, the Sabbath is both a day of rest and a day of service to God. Most Christians honour the Sabbath on a Sunday to remember the Resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week on the Jewish calendar.
The commandments are translated from ancient Hebrew to English, in the modern world, the word Sabbath has lost the depth of meaning it had to the Hebrew people.
So let me give you a little Hebrew lesson! In Hebrew Sabbath is a day reserved for rest or prayer. The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat (????????).
Shabbat happens on the seventh day (Saturday) of every week. In Judaism, the day is defined with the cycle of the sun: The day begins and ends at sunset, not midnight. So the seventh day of the week, Shabbat, begins Friday when the sun goes down, and ends Saturday night after it gets dark.
The word Shabbat is built from the 3 letter Hebrew root Sh-B-T, meaning rest. In the Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, the Sh-B-T is the word used to describe God resting on the seventh day.
In Jewish law, observing Shabbat is considered more important than Passover, or celebrating Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year, or Yom Kippur - the day of atonement when the Jews spend 25 hours asking God to forgive their sins.
Jewish scholars often say that a Shabbat day is meant to be an example of a perfect world where everyone knows about God and loves Him. The Jews also believe that kind of world has not been seen since the Garden of Eden, and will not be seen again until the Messiah comes.
In the bible the Ten Commandment are listed in the book of Exodus and the book of Deuteronomy. In the original Hebrew there is a difference to how the Sabbath commandment is phrased. Exodus 20:7 starts with “Remember Shabbat to keep it holy.” Deuteronomy 5:11 says “Guard Shabbat to keep it holy.”