“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the LORD.”
“Work is a gift”, I told my youngest son last weekend as my husband, son and I worked with hoes to demolish the weeds in our garden. “Why else do we think God gave us work?” I asked. I was trying to get him to think higher than the complaints he was sharing about having to work. “Another reason why God gave us work—when we work, we are not being idle, and being idle can lead us to sin. Everything we do is unto the LORD.” My son listened and agreed to the many different reasons we could come up with as to why work was good and why God gave it to us. My son gave pretty good answers, too. Work was validated.
The only thing was . . . we were doing this work on the Sabbath. I had just shared in my small group class how God has been working on me (pun intended) to help me understand that rest is good, too. And that His Sabbath rest is not a suggestion. It is a command—His purposes go some much further than my limited understanding. Like my son, who did not understand why we have to work, I needed to catch the vision that God has for rest.
The LORD speaks to me often in my Bible reading/devotion time with Him. It would be the next day after our discussion on work that I would “happen” to be reading in Exodus 33-36. This verse first stood out to me from Exodus 34:21 (NLT):
“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest.”
Yep. This verse had to go there. Even gardening was work on a day that is to be set aside for our great God. This was very personal to me because I had just been asking the LORD about a deeper understanding of His purposes for the Sabbath.
Maybe you’re like me. You want to be faithful to the calling of God on your life but can find yourself not knowing how to stop. I never would have called myself a workaholic, and still don’t, but I realize that as much as I love the LORD’s work, the same LORD also rested. I must, too. If Almighty God rests, surely the One Who designed me knows that I need it, too. But then there is this verse, too, that reminds me that a day of rest is not a burden:
Isaiah 58:13-14 (NLT)
“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!”
Delight. Have you thought of the Sabbath as a delight? I love to worship God, love to sit in His presence reading, and one of my family members said I had Sabbath every day because of my time with God. But friends, a whole day set aside where God cares so much for us that He just wants us to be with Him—this is the delight, the highlight of the week. There is nothing greater, no One greater than to be in His presence. And in His presence, we are changed.
Our God wants us to rest one day of the week—think of that, He is not demanding us to get up and work. He wants us to be still and know that He is God. This puts everything into perspective for the rest of the week where we must get to work. (Work is a gift, too, remember?) Boy, we really need to guard our hearts about a right attitude toward both work and rest, right?
So if you are stubborn like me when it comes to rest and ready to defend yourself on why you don’t need it, here are a few reasons that God spoke to my heart about why we need rest. I pray that they encourage you, too, friends.
Just that word. Breathe it in. Pause. A day of rest helps us to stop our constant motion. We really need that. It is a space where we get rejuvenated for the work God has called us to in the coming week. But what we do during that rest matters. A lot. If it is just wasted time where our minds are not renewed, as well, then it is not fulfilling the original intention behind the Sabbath—a day dedicated to the LORD. It doesn’t have to look perfect and it is not a legalistic event. It is simply rest. Being. In His presence. Without an agenda. Without a busy mind. Focused on One.
Even God rested. How much more do we need rest? In humility, I must leave undone what I cannot get to. The world will still spin around when my to-do list is left unchecked. Sometimes we get more done by resting.
Rest is a sign of trusting. Like the Israelites had to trust in God’s provision, we need to do the same thing. God has given the same amount of time to us all. How will we use it? Being diligent is important, but so is being present. I can work so hard toward my goals that I miss out on what God wants me to learn in the process. And those around me want to walk with me through it, too.
Keeping ourselves busy without perspective can lead us to burn out real fast. Going a little slower by taking rest helps me to have clarity in the midst and not lose focus on what this life is all about, anyway. A day of rest reminds us that our identity is as a child of God, and our worth is not based on our work. It is just in being who we are in God’s creation. He delights in us and invites us to take a full day each week to delight in Him. He must know we need it because we so easily can go astray.
Our souls need rest. Rest leads us to Rest-oration. Good restored us with His mighty salvation. (Psalm 62:1 “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.”) This crazy world will do us in unless our souls find rest in God. When we live out the life God intended, both in work and rest, we are better capable of being the witnesses God wants us to be. And God loves us so much, He reminds us on the Sabbath that He doesn’t want our work, He wants our hearts.
All those years I spent trying to rationalize that Sabbath looks different today and that I did not need a full day—I am so thankful that God is patient with us, aren’t you? However God speaks to you about the Sabbath, it is between you and God. Everyone’s Sabbath rest might look different. The day of the week might differ. What is rest to one might not be to another. The point isn’t legalism. It is an extended intentional encounter with the living God every week. So friends, when we work, we work as unto the LORD. We give it all we’ve got. And when we rest, we bask in His presence and love those in our lives, too. Rest is a gift. May God help us to be grateful for it and to delight in Him as we are faithful to rest in Him, too. There is rest for the weary, after all.