This week’s study came at a time I really needed the reminder of the importance of rest. As a parent, during this pandemic especially, the concept of rest seems remote and unreachable all too often, and really as a human being living in a broken world it feels much the same on a larger scale. I personally have worked hard to keep my Sabbath day full of rest and worship, and use it to study and learn more about God with my family. This week, though, the temptations of the to-do list won and we ended our Sabbath drained, having had no real rest at all.
'And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. ' Genesis 2:2-3
Taking a Sabbath rest is about resting with God, and dedicating time to worshipping, honoring, and focusing on Him. It is not only vital to our relationship with Him, but also a command from God who set the example for us in the days of Creation. On the seventh day God rested from all the work He had done the previous six days. Also noteworthy is that while God was resting, this seems to be when Adam and Eve committed the first sin that resulted in all of humanity being cursed by the Fall. God is all knowing, so He knew what would happen ahead of time but He took His rest, came back, and handled the problems that occurred while He was resting. Upon returning to work He implemented the necessary disciplines and made a long term plan to fix the problem.
As someone who can be classified often as a workaholic, taking a break from the work knowing things will pile up, some things may go wrong, and I will likely return to some kind of problem leaves me thinking “why on earth would I take a break knowing things will go wrong?” Simple - God knows every problem that will ever occur and is in control of it all. He has a plan, and even the problems we face in our work, as well as life in general, will be used for good. I’ve found that many of the problems I face are used to strengthen me, and strengthen my trust in God. If I do not take the needed time to rest, though, I am less likely to see this and I will be less effective for God and the work He has given me to do.
And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord . Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 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 31:12-17 ESV
Many of the rules that have been named for the Sabbath were from man, not from God, and the intention of the Sabbath is often missed. God gave the Israelites the command to keep the Sabbath holy. The intentions of the various boundaries God laid out were to help us put work aside and focus on God as our priority, allowing us to enter into His rest and grow in our faith and relationship with Him. When we prioritize relational and spiritual growth with our Heavenly Father we are refilled, refreshed, and restored by and to Him - we get the rest for our souls that we need in order to do His work and remain focused on Him, clinging to Him as our anchor in all things.
Much like the Israelites, and similar to the threat of death Adam and Eve faced with eating from the tree of knowledge, if we choose not to prioritize our rest with God we will drift from Him, lose focus, and eventually experience the spiritual death that comes with separation from God. If God is truly our priority, we truly trust Him, we will rest in Him cling to Him so that we can be more effective in the work He has given us.
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 ESV
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, Hebrews 4:9 ESV
God knows we need to be refreshed and He also wants us to understand that He's the only way to find rest for our souls, one of the many blessings we receive with the incredible gift of salvation. When I first came into my relationship with Christ I instantly experienced an insane peace that was far beyond my understanding, but I have learned that in order for that peace to be constant it takes work. Just as a relationship takes intention, communication, and time - so does our relationship with Jesus and the benefits of that relationship.
Sometimes we need to hand over to Him what we think we need to be doing and rest in what He says we should be doing. God gives each of us a calling, our designated work to do. Learning to discipline myself in coming back to the Lord over and over again as my source of instruction, life and sustenance has helped me to learn what He has called me to, and to recognize His voice and work, presence, and will for my life. Constantly resting with God allows me to be reminded of and refocused on His right path for me. It helps me to stay the course of the work He has given me rather than getting caught in the trap thinking I need to do more than I am called to. We need to rest in Him and stay in His perfect peace even while life is filled with tornados and roller coasters, and stay focused on His path in the midst of it all.
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.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
He calls on us to come to Him, bring our burdens, cares, worries, concerns and questions to Him so that He will give us His rest in return. He wants to lighten our load. He wants us to trust Him with our problems and praises. He wants us to give Him our sins and our shame and replace them with peace and rejuvenation through His forgiveness and salvation. We are not good on our own, and we need to intentionally come back to Him over and over again to be restored, to clean out the gunk in our hearts, chip away the hardened spots, and soften us once again to His will and love.
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Psalm 3:5-6 ESV
'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.' Psalm 23:1-6
He is our Shepherd, and He will lead us to still waters - but we have to choose to come, drink, and be restored. We must choose to trust and obey Him out of love, and reap the benefits of an obedient relationship with Him rather than allow our hearts to become hardened against Him, rebel, and fail to enter His beautiful gift of rest that can only be found with Him.
We can trust that if God calls on us to rest in Him, which He does, that it is for our good and it is worth the time, worth the benefits, and worth any problems that may come about during our rest, worth any correction and realignment, worth the painful softening process. If God calls us to it, He will provide for us to it, through it, and after it.
Are you trusting that God will sustain and restore you while you rest? Are you valuing God enough to make time for Him daily, and for His Sabbath? If rest is not a priority in your life, then you will quickly become deflated. Come to the Lord and let Him refill you; let Him sustain you. Trust God with your work, your rest, your provisions, as well as with any problems you face. He will always be with you, but you must take the time to rest in Him and strengthen your relationship and reliance on Him regularly. That is where true rest can be found.