Slave masters not resting on a Sunday -  Plate showing "Sunday on la Grande Jatte 1884"
Slave masters not resting on a Sunday – Plate showing “Sunday on la Grande Jatte 1884”

The value of:

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.  – NIV Genesis 2:2-3

We live in an action-oriented world! There always seems to be something to do and no time to rest.  Yet God demonstrated that rest is appropriate and right.  If God himself rested from his work, then it should not amaze us that we also need rest.  Jesus demonstrated this principle when he and his disciples left in a boat to get away from the crowds (see Mark 6:31, 32).  Our times of rest refresh us for times of service.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”NIV Mark 6:31

When the disciples had returned from their mission, Jesus took them away to rest.  Doing god’s work is very important, but Jesus recognised that to do it effectively we need periodic rest and renewal.  Jesus and his disciples, however, did not always find it easy to get the rest they needed!


Why God wanted Israelites to rest on the Sabbath:

He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ “  – NIV Exodus 16:23

The Israelites were not to work on the Sabbath – not even to cook food. Why?  God knew that the busy routine of daily living could distract people from worshipping him.  It is so easy to let work, family responsibilities, and recreation crowd our schedules so tightly that we don’t take time to worship.  Carefully guard your time with God.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour 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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  – NIV Exodus 20:8-11

The Sabbath was a day set aside for rest and worship. God commanded a Sabbath because human beings need to spend unhurried time in worship and rest each week.  A God who is concerned enough to provide a day each week for us to rest is indeed wonderful.  To observe a regular time of rest and worship in our fast-paced world demonstrates how important God is to us, and it gives us the extra benefit of refreshing our spirits.  Don’t neglect God’s provision.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

“ ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people.  For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD.  Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death.  The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.  It will be a sign between me and the Israelites for ever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.  – NIV Exodus 31:12-17

The Sabbath had two purposes: It was a time to rest and a time to remember what God had done.  We need rest.  Without time out from the bustle, life loses its meaning.  In our day, as in Moses’ day, taking time out is not easy.  But God reminds us that without Sabbaths we will forget the purpose for all of our activity and lose the balance crucial to a faithful life.  Make sure your Sabbath provides a time of both refreshment and remembrance of God.


What “God’s rest” means:

So I declared on oath in my anger,

‘They shall never enter my rest.’ “ – NIV Hebrews 3:11

God’s rest has several meanings in Scripture: (1) the seventh day of creation and the weekly Sabbath commemorating it (Genesis 2:2; Hebrews 4:4-9); (2) the promised land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 12:8-12; Psalm 95); (3) peace with God now because of our relationship with Christ through faith (Matthew 12:28; Hebrews 4:1, 3, 8-11); and (4) our future eternal life with Christ (Hebrews 4:8-11).  All of these meanings were probably familiar to the Jewish Christian readers of Hebrews.


When our rest in Christ begins:

For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.”NIV Hebrews 4:4

God rested on the seventh day, not because he was tired, but to indicate the completion of creation. The world was perfect, and God was well satisfied with it.  This rest is a foretaste of our eternal joy when creation will be renewed and restored, every mark of sin will be removed, and the world will be made perfect again.  Our Sabbath-rest in Christ begins when we trust him to complete his good and perfect work in us (see the note on 3:11).


God’s invitation to enter into:

It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:

“Today, if you hear this voice,

do not harden your hearts.”NIV Hebrews 4:6-7

God had given the Israelites the opportunity to enter Canaan, but they disobeyed and failed to enter (Numbers 13:14). Now God offers us the opportunity to enter his ultimate place of rest – he invites us to come to Christ.  To enter his rest, you must believe that God has this relationship in mind for you; you must stop trying to create it; you must trust in Christ for it; and you must determine to obey him. Today is the best time to find peace with God.  Tomorrow may be too late.


©Kingsway International 1973.

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