The Lord then gave these instructions to Moses: “Tell the people of Israel: `Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord , who makes you holy. Exodus 31:12-13
The Sabbath rest. It’s a call from God that we aren’t particularly good at in our culture today. For one, Christians today love to throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to the Law and God’s calling on our lives. We’re under Christ not the Law so we tend to just see most of what God calls us to in the Old Testament to be antiquated and irrelevant for us. More to the point, we tend to just pick and choose what’s convenient. And resting, as a discipline and a practice, is not very convenient in our go, go, go society.
But rest is part of the rhythms of life God has given us. Rhythms to keep our life in order and to keep us standing upright—physically, emotionally and spiritually. And rest is essential to following Jesus well.
Peterson, in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places writes, “The most striking thing about keeping the Sabbath is that it begins by not doing anything.” In deed, this is a big part of our problem with it. Our culture has trained us that there is no value in not doing. Only in doing, building, creating, profiting do we prove our worth and value. And we have bought this idea even though as followers of Jesus we should be living in the reality that our value is connected to grace not activity.
What’s also important for us to remember is that while Peterson is right—the Sabbath is about not doing—it doesn’t mean that by resting we are doing nothing. Not doing is actually central to accomplishing a great deal for our souls.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his book The Sabbath makes some deep and meaningful observations:
Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self. -Heschel
This day is priceless for re-centering on Christ and the cross. For refocusing on priorities of Gospel and God’s Kingdom. It is a time to take a breath, to seek the Spirit and to slow our pace. I am not legalistic in any sense of the word. (Well, I am much less so than ever before in life. I would imagine we all have legalistic tendencies we have to fight against.) I am not promoting some sort of legalism about resting. But there is a difference between legalism and discipline. Making rest a priority and being disciplined to follow it through honors the call of God in Exodus to keep the Sabbath rest. Rest is important to God, even thought he Law itself is not linger over us. The principle is still true. God doesn’t change. Resting also honors the heart of Jesus that invites us to come and find rest.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
This weekend, may you find rest, true rest for your soul. It is a rhythm that will order your week and give life to your existence.