Sabbath Rest Is More Than A Command
I wrote and article for Charisma Magazine that appeared in its March 2018 Magazine entitled Sabbath Rest Is More Than A Command. I will post it in two parts today and Monday due to its length.
Sabbath Rest Is More Than A Command
Rest is a part of the cycle of life that God wove into the fabric of creation. We have days for work, and nights for rest. We have summers full of blooming plants, flowers, and trees, and winters of agricultural quiet. This rhythm of being active and then resting is a necessary balance both in nature and in human personality.
As a high strung get-it-done personality, the Lord dealt with me strongly about taking a break once a week. Many years ago, I wrote in my personal notes: I reduce both the quality and length of my life when I choose to neglect necessary rest.
God set an example of rest for us in creation. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. (Genesis 2:3-New Living Translation). The Hebrew word for rest here is Sabat and simply means to cease, to desist from labor. God worked, then ceased or rested, leaving us an example of His plans for a healthy creation to take a cycle of work and rest.
When God gave the law to Moses at Sinai, one of the Ten Commandments for fallen man included this necessary rest: 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-New King James).
God so valued rest in creation that He also commanded Israel that, along with personal rest, the land that produced their food also needed a cycle of rest every seventh year. Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you have entered the land I am giving you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath rest before the Lord every seventh year. For six years you may plant your fields and prune your vineyards and harvest your crops, but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest. It is the Lord’s Sabbath. Do not plant your fields or prune your vineyards during that year. And don’t store away the crops that grow on their own or gather the grapes from your unpruned vines. The land must have a year of complete rest (Leviticus 25:2-5-New Living Translation).
We are in many ways rest deprived as citizens of the twenty-first century. Our technology gadgets and connectedness via internet social apps have created a cultural demise with respect to taking a personal sabbath rest mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Now, even when I take time to rest with a refreshing bath in my garden tub, I find that I have answered an email or two, connected with a few people via text messages, checked some comments on Facebook posts I’ve made, and even answered a phone call or two. The inventions that make communication and connectedness in modern life convenient, have also robbed us of needed personal time to disconnect from life’s pressures and to rest.
If we want to walk in personal peace and emotional and mental health, rest must become a part of our life cycle. We are created to sleep a third of our lives away each day. And because God knew that life on earth brings with it inherent stress, He asks us to take one day a week and cease from normal activity.
I have found that regularly taking a Sabbath rest, that is, taking one day a week and ceasing from my normal routine, brightens me mentally and emotionally, refreshes me physically, and enables me to focus on my personal relationship with the Lord without interference.
Rest has a two-fold application. We need two kinds of rest. We need inward rest and outward rest. Our bodies need a break, and our internal persons, our spiritual natures as well as our minds and emotions, need a break from the rigors of a hectic schedule and demanding deadlines. How many times have you taken a vacation with your family for a week or so, only to come home and say, boy, I’m just so tired. I still feel that I need more vacation time!
Author A.B. Simpson made this comment at the beginning of the twentieth century: All physical strength is spiritual in cause. He was saying that physical strength starts within us. We really haven’t rested until we are rested within. God gives us a clear antidote for our tiredness: But those who wait on 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 (Isaiah 40:31-NKJV).
Inward rest comes to us by taking time to read and meditate on God’s Word. Jesus encourages us to include scripture in our daily diet: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4-NKJV).
Inward rest can also be heightened by taking time to pray in the spirit, that is, in other tongues. The prophet Isaiah prophetically urges us from twenty-five hundred years ago: For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, to whom He said, this is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest, and, this is the refreshing… (Isaiah 28:11). The Apostle Paul mentions that praying in the spirit, or in tongues, edifies or builds us up (1 Corinthians 14:3), and Jude mentions that when we pray in the Holy Ghost we build ourselves up on our most holy faith (Jude 20).
In my own life, I take time daily not only to read and meditate on the scriptures in my mind, but also to pray in the spirit. The results for me are an increase in the peace of God and an inward connection with Jesus that really help ease tension and stress. When you know you’re praying the perfect will of God (Romans 8:27), it helps you know that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). I found praying in the spirit to be a real aid to dealing with external stress and pressure. The spiritual power released by praying in the spirit is a tremendous help in facing life’s modern pressures.
Inward rest enables us to let go of the problems and issues of life, giving them over to the Lord by faith, and refusing to strive to make things happen. The Message Paraphrase of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 frames our need for inward rest and refreshing so well: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30-The Message Paraphrase).