Rest?

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

Gen 2:2 NKJV

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:8-11 NKJV

Rest, an almost distant memory in our culture of 2020. We now associate rest with R&R - rest AND recreation. We live our lives in frenetic activity, trying to achieve as much as possible with all the hours God has given us.

Being "busy" is seen as a badge of honour and importance.

Yet, is has not always been this way. The two bible references above are but two out of many others e.g. Exodus 16:23-29; 31:13-16; 35:2-3; Leviticus 16:31 and we could go on.

The instruction or command is given in the Hebrew language as an imperative - not an optional extra.

Why is this stressed so much in the Bible?

Does this still apply to us now in the 21st century?

I think that there are a number of reasons for this instruction, and they apply as much today as they ever have. Let me explain.

Rest is more than the absence of work

In the creation account we see that Elohim finished or ended His work and rested. This was not a passive idleness, rather He then set about remembering and looking at what He had completed. He also gave the verdict: "it was good" over each and every part, in fact some of it was described as being "very good". They took the time to enjoy what They had created.

One of the benefits of this time of rest, is it allows us to (re)examine the recent journey and take stock. Maybe we can learn from what has just been done, and make consequent adjustments to our going forward.

I believe a more significant benefit, is that it allows us the opportunity to see that much of what has happened in our week, was not of our doing. Many of the ways things happen, happen in spite of us. May I suggest that if we open our eyes a little further, we may recognise the fingerprints of God touching parts of our lives. Taking the time to ponder over how things have come together; ... or not; may also help us gain perspective, may enable us to see other possible outcomes that have not occurred, could have occurred.

In our headlong rush from day to day, activity to activity, it is easy to loose our sense of connection with other(s). We can easily come to think that my destiny is all of my own making. It all depends upon me. Thus I need to work harder, avoid this thing or that, and possibly miss recognising the activities of others that have enabled me to get this far.

We may, in rest, have the chance to give thanks and honour, to those others that have intersected our lives. Let's not be slow to be grateful, rather let's take time to give recognition and accolades to those around us.

As the command to keep the Sabbath (Shabbat - rest, cease work) was given to the Israelites, we do well to consider the context.

Here are well over 1,000,000 people freed from slavery. They have spent the last few centuries working seven days a week. Week in, week out.

Suddenly, they are all alone in the dessert or wilderness. After some grumbling and complaining, God provides them daily food / bread / manna. They however, have to gather it, enough for each day, some effort is required.

He provides in a very specific way, six days they can gather the provision, and if they are greedy or lazy and gather extra to avoid the next day's provision, it goes rotten and stinks. Yet they are instructed to gather enough for the sabbath on the sixth day, and it doesn't go rotten or stink. On this seventh day they are instructed to do no "work" but to "remember", consider and take note.

As humans, we are so prone to forget the things behind us. We see from the journey through the wilderness, that the Israelites kept forgetting who their God was. In spite of the command to keep the sabbath. Forgetting our history typically dooms us to repeat it. Certainly the stories of the Israelites over the next many centuries shows this, time and again.

Sunday Trading

Talking about this subject of sabbath rest, is not complete without a discussion about Sunday Trading.

Many reading this will not know any different, however for those of us a little older, we will remember a time when most businesses were closed on Sunday. Most countries with a Judeo-Christian heritage followed the practice of working 5 or six days and then having a day off. This enabled time with families, time to remember, time to share within our communities, meals, celebrations and so on. This also became the day where many typically attended church. Unfortunately, for many, this turned into a ritual with little heart and soul involved. This is what we would call religion.

Our culture became more influenced by media than by the Word of God. Our core beliefs became similar to those of the world around us, and thus the purpose and value of the sabbath eroded.

Greed had people believe they could make more money by working and trading seven days a week. Unfortunately the result has made families worse off, not better. Let me explain.

The amount of money available to spend within a community is largely determined by the income earned by each family. So if we each have our income source, we have to provide for our shelter, food, clothing, other costs of living and maybe some discretionary spending. So in a given community if we move from six days to seven days trading, what happens? There is no magic increase of available funds in the community, rather we find that the costs of earning our income increases as we have to pay seven days of salaries and other costs of business, to earn the same as we previously did in five or six. Net effect - negative impact on our profitability.

Now there are other factors to consider. Certain industries are productive and can earn in direct proportion to the productiveness of their enterprise. These can therefore, in theory achieve more output, thus if costs per unit can remain similar and demand for their product increases without a fall in price, they can in theory be better off. However, within a community, unless there is growth, the available funds are constrained, thus demand remains similar. Thus we turn to selling to other communities, the world, and thus the cycle of chasing improved sales and margins begins. A rat race, to lower costs, differentiate our products, target more profitable market niches, and so on, begins.

However, unless there is growth, historically this is through population increase, and hence an increase in productive capability and consequent demand, the total available spending power is still a function of community income.

Thus, in an effort to earn more income, we moved from largely single income families, where one partner was the main income source, to double income families. However the costs of living for each family also increased. One car was no longer sufficient. We moved to buying our clothes, rather than making most of them. We now paid for day care and on and on it goes. And so the costs increased to erode the additional family income.

Another consequence of this new way of doing life, is that relationships suffer. Divorce rates increase. Now we need two homes rather than one and thus the average occupancy of housing decreases. This increases demand and thus price, another drain on our constrained community income.

Are we really better off?

Now I recognise that we cannot simply roll the clock back. There are many more factors involved than what I have covered here. What I hope I have done is make you realise that much of what we have allowed into our communities has not been a net positive. As we have moved away from the order that our creator intended, we inevitably pay the price.

Our mental health

With our abandonment of a day of rest, we have also impacted our brain's ability to make sense of the world around us. Losing that time of reflection, remembering and recognising what has really been going on, has come at a price.

Anxiety, depression and stress have all increased. Our frenetic schedules, that time and effort to give our kids that extra perceived opportunity, all continue to extract their toll.

I believe that humans are in fact designed to function best, when we have a day of rest

  • a day of remembrance
  • a day of telling the stories
  • the stories that remind us of our Father who provides every good thing we have need of.
  • a day of celebration and hospitality
  • a day we purposefully set apart (make holy)
  • where we say (demonstrate) that there is someone important in our lives
  • where we acknowledge we are not our own
  • we have been purchased at a high cost, and pause to give thanks

Please don't hear what I'm not saying!

This is not about laws and religiously keeping the sabbath. Jesus clearly tells us

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!

Mark 2 : 27,28 NLT

Jesus recognized the need to save the ox that falls into a ditch, the need to demonstrate mercy and justice, even if that meant raising a sweat.

So this is my challenge:

How do we remember the sabbath and keep it set apart for the things that are important, maybe even critical, for our lives and well-being?

God's promised rest

And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy.

Ezekiel 20:12 NLT

We have briefly discussed the weekly day of rest that God gave as a sign and promise of His covenant with us. There are many more scriptures to illuminate this further and I'll leave searching those out as an exercise for you.

As you research rest, it becomes obvious that there is in fact a much deeper and intense rest that is promised to us. There is the rest of the seventh year, where the Trinity mandated a reset, the forgiveness of debt, the freeing of slaves. There is the rest of the year of jubilee, the 50th year. Note there is no recorded practice or observance of these in the Bible. Thus after almost 500 years, Israel first, and then Judah are given over to slavery once more in Asyria and Babylon for 70 years as prophesied by Jeremiah and the land gets its sabbath rest. Maybe this is much more important than we usually give credit and attention to.

Then there is the promised rest, restated and exposed in the New Testament, we are now going to examine. It is this rest that I now want to outline and hopefully stir a hunger and interest in you, to find this rest for ourselves.

And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven, think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house.But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

That is why the Holy Spirit says,

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.

There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years.

So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

So in my anger I took an oath:

‘They will never enter my place of rest.’

_”__Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God._

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

Remember what it says:“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”

And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice?

Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?

And who made God angry for forty years?

Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness?

And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest?

Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him?

So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.

Promised Rest for God’s People

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.

For only we who believe can enter his rest.

As for the others, God said,“In my anger I took an oath:

_‘__They will never enter my place of rest,’_

_”__even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.”_

But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest.

But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

Heb 3:1 ~ 4:11 NLT

Come, let us sing to the Lord!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come to him with thanksgiving.

Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods.

He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.

The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,for he is our God.

We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today!

The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.

For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.For forty years

I was angry with them, and I said,‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

Psalm 95: 1-11 NLT

All who found them devoured them. Their enemies said,‘We did nothing wrong in attacking them, for they sinned against the Lord,their true place of rest, and the hope of their ancestors.’

Jer 50:7 NLT

Seven english translations use "rest" the others use "pasture", "habitation of ..." etc. These variations shed light on the promise of God, initially to Israel as they were eventually given the promised land.

The writer of Hebrews makes it plain that the promise has been restated and given to us, His church, yet implied is the need to search for it, to focus upon entering it - it is by no means automatically ours.

Not quite done yet, some more to come - real soon now....