The concept of rest has been so corrupted by the world, especially in nations like the USA that it has become almost alien to us. We look at rest as something only the weak or lazy do, when in fact rest is a gift from God which keeps us strong and reveals our faith. God created rest. Verses 1-2 read,
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 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.
The Lord had done His work. The heavens, the earth, the angels, the plants, the animals, humanity, all of it was done. So He rested. He rested for a whole day. Why did God rest on the seventh day? He wasn’t tired. He didn’t need to sleep. Isaiah 40:28-29 says,
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
So if God doesn’t grow tired then why did He rest? He rested on the seventh day as a gift and an example for us. Then He gave us the gift of the seventh day. Verse 3 reads,
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.
The Lord set aside the seventh day as holy, not for Him but for us. Remember He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. God’s understanding is unsearchable. That doesn’t mean we cannot know His reasons, it means that His knowledge, wisdom, and compassion are endless and we as finite beings can’t grasp the limitlessness of it. One part of God’s infinite understanding is that He knows what we need and will need. He knows that as humans we need rest. He understands the science because He created us, He created the science of how we work and how the world works. Isaiah 40:30 reads,
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
He knew we would get tired and we would need rest. God’s example of rest doesn’t mean we rest all of the time or most of the time. He worked for six days. He rested when the work of creation was finished. We follow His whole example and not just the parts we like. We work hard and then we rest. Ephesians 4:28 reads
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
And Proverbs 6:6-9 says,
Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
We are supposed to work, work well, and with a good attitude. Colossians 3:23 encourages us this way,
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Jesus gave us the example of hard work just as much as He gave us an example of the real meaning of the Sabbath (John 5:17). Pharisees and other legalists have turned what should be a celebration of rest in the Lord into an unenjoyable list of rules as crazy as don’t light a candle or make any food. But Jesus lived without sin and taught that the Sabbath is not about extra-scriptural rules like requirements to wear “church” clothes or not press elevator buttons. The Sabbath is about real rest and celebrating God’s love. It is a gift for us, not another set of shackles. In Mark 2:27-28 Jesus said,
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
What are the benefits of rest? Why does God encourage us to rest? Life is hard. Our work is hard, the events of life can be draining both emotionally and physically. After John the Baptist’s execution and after the disciples had been teaching and preaching the Gospel Jesus told them they needed to rest. Mark 6:30-32 reads,
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
Rest gives us to time with Him and allows Him to invigorate us for the long haul. Hard work saps our strength and rest renews it.
Isaiah 40:31 reads,
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Rest, when we do so in and with God allows us to understand who God is. Psalm 46:8-11 reads,
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Rest shows others that we trust God. When Jesus slept in the boat during the storm, it gave Him a chance to teach the disciples that God is sovereign over everything including things that are out of their control like the weather. It gave Jesus a chance to show them He is God (Mark 4:35-41). Likewise it allows us to show the world Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior and He is able.
And Believer, know this that we have entered His Sabbath Rest now, although our physical earthly work continues now, the work of God was finished on the Cross. We are in God’s rest now since we do not have to work for our salvation and we will fully experience it in eternity when all our labors are done. Hebrews 4:9-11 reads,
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
God established the Sabbath as a gift to us, to meet our needs and renew us physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and to demonstrate His power and love to the world. Exodus 34:21 says Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. So Brothers and Sisters, I encourage you to step out of what the world considers right and instead honor God by working and resting for Him, for us, and for the world.