Rhythms of Rest
On Sunday we continued our study of Exodus there at Mount Sinai as we joined the Israelites amidst the peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, as God continued to speak to his people, giving his ten commandments. We came to the fourth word:
“remember to keep the Sabbath day 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
I’d like to share my train of thought throughout our time, before, during and after Sunday, and perhaps an insight into my general thought process.
Throughout my studying of this extensive subject, I came across this quote by the puritan Thomas Watson, which completely rendered me undone:
“When the falling dust of the world has clogged the wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God, the sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections and they can move swiftly on.
God has appointed the sabbath for this end.. the heart, which all the week was frozen, on the sabbath melts with the word. The sabbath is a friend to religion: it files off the rust of our graces; it is a spiritual jubilee, wherein the soul is set to converse with its Maker.”
Rather than join the century-old debate of whether we as Christians in the 21st century should adhere to this seemingly Israelite-only law, (far cleverer men and women have entered into that arena of debate), my concern has come out of a heart that is concerned for a generation of Christians that seems okay with having shallow thoughts about God.
I did not want to spend an hour trying to reiterate what many have spoken far more literately and clearly, but rather I was reminded that God’s heart is above all seeking the good for mankind, and that hasn’t been the case just since Jesus came, but rather that it has always been in his plan right from the beginning of time. He has always had family time in mind. God values his family. If we are born again christians, we have been born again into his family. We are a people redeemed. And therefore, a people free.
We talked about how this law came before Sinai, there in Exodus 16, God had commanded his people to gather the manna from heaven each morning, gathering a day’s portion, except the seventh day, they were to gather on the sixth day double! God was essentially setting them a trust exercise. Trust me to provide for your daily needs.
“Man does not live on bread alone, but from every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deutoronomy 8:3)
We touched on how this idea of resting comes forth out of Genesis 2:1-3, that God rested on the seventh day.
There on the seventh day, we spoke about how God did not need to rest, God did not cease all things, that would have proved detrimental to everything existing, God did not lay back and put his feet up, so to speak, for God was still ‘working’ as sustainer and provider of the universe.
God purposefully chose to bring man into existence there on the sixth day, perhaps to show him, that his intention from the start, was to have a people separated unto himself.
As he said to the Israelites in Exodus 31:13:
“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.”
To the Israelites, the sabbath spoke of God setting them apart from all the other nations, declaring unto the world, “They are MINE.” It was a gentle reminder that man, who was created and came into being on the sixth day, spent his first initial FULL day, in the presence of God. As if God was already answering man’s un-asked question, “what is my purpose?” And God was answering, “why it is to be in community with me, enjoying our relationship; the overflow of my love.”
We briefly spoke of how by the time we come to Jesus’ time, the laws of God had been modified and extra additions had been made. A day which had primarily been GIFTED to man for his good and to the glory of God, had now been demoted to a “to do list” (or rather “not to do” list in the case of the sabbath). The Pharisees had made it cumbersome. The law of God as God had intended was to be a delight to man, (Psalm 119), it was to be the light to his path, however, it had become a load which men and women could not bear. The sabbath especially.
The Pharisees had loaded heavy burdens on the backs of a people already oppressed, in Matthew 11:28, Jesus utters those sweet words that continue to echo through generations, “come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
As I was studying this, I couldn’t help but remember that God calls his church HIS BRIDE, we are in a relationship, that is the basis on which we come to God, we spend time with him not because WE HAVE TO, but rather because WE WANT TO.
HE has set us apart; though we are in the world, we are not of it; He has saved and redeemed us from slavery to sin and its rightful wages; death, and now He even declares unto us, “you are mine” therefore, “come to me.”
One day out of seven, we are invited to come near, that means to separate ourselves from those other things that keep us away from drawing near, (and those things may not even be bad things in of themselves, a little bit of Netflix, scrolling through Instagram, for me, I was a very avid gamer but I was reminded that Ephesians 5:15-16 calls me to make the best of the time, “because the days are evil” and thus the Lord cares about the use of all of our time, 7 days a week, 365.
As I reflected throughout the week, joining several discussions, listening to several different – often opposing views- I have enjoyed the discussion that this topic has brought. Fruitful conversations about God and his provision, how he calls us to trust in him with all of our lives, particularly the section we seem to often keep compartmentalised: work. The Lord invites us to cease. To stop and to come and partake in His rest. He calls us to work heartily absolutely! But in our career focused, success driven age, the temptation is to forget God, even when we are supposedly in church, our minds drift to other matters. Again these may be legitimate concerns, and for some, the issue of paying the bills, or the food for the next day is a genuine issue, But he calls us to come and cast our burdens on him, to trust him, for only He can sustain. Psalm 55:22.
I can only pray that we would have a deeper understanding of the sabbath, and the heart of the God who gifts it, that we might cherish EVERY means of grace given unto us, so that we might be fruitful in our walk with him, as we come to see our wonderful, caring creator who loves us and calls us to come to him.
And so we can declare “this is the day that the Lord has made”.
Over the last 3 years time and again I have been brought back to the 23rd psalm, especially when I am restless and busy striving, I am brought back to that simple sweet verse:
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
In that is our rhythm of rest.
We are his sheep, He is our shepherd. Our shepherd calls us to draw near and rest in his presence. Safe and secure. There we shall find our true rest. There all strivings cease. It is there we can truly sing our hallelujahs, whilst resting in him.
He is concerned for us. A God who is like that deserves all of my worship, a caring God like that deserves not only one day, but all of my days. A God like ours is one we can truly say whether we are resting or working, eating or drinking, let us “do all things to the glory of God.”
A note from Simon:
During our Life Group on Wednesday we discussed this exact heart that John has so carefully highlighted in this blog – the seventh day is given for us to enjoy God and His people because it’s His Sabbath and a gift to us for that purpose. We discussed several practical outcomes to how we can remember the Sabbath:
- We said that there wasn’t anything holy one day over another (Romans 14:5) but there gathered people of God should choose a day in which to gather and enjoy God together, not forsaking the gathering (Hebrews 10:25).
- At the beginning of the day acknowledge the gift and thank Him for it
- Prepare our hearts before church by reading the passage that will be preached on and praying for personal and corporate revival,
- If God has given us this day to enjoy Him, come with anticipation to meet with God and the faith to expect it.
- Give ourselves away to each other in service and love
- Come early. Lateness demonstrates that my heart is apathetic towards meeting God and his people
- Come joyful. We’re exhorted to “Come to me all who are weary”. If we prepare our hearts, we can truly come in joy.
- Dedicate the day to meet with other Christians in fellowship who will be able to “exhort one another” (Hebrews 10:25)
- At the end of the day Thank God for the day he has given.