A People Known for the Ability to Rest

Why does Sabbath rest matter?  What does it mean?  This sounds like an odd question, I know, but it’s an important one.  Let’s figure it out together.

The command to rest on the Sabbath was given by God to Israel as one of the Ten Commandments.  Evidently, God wanted His people to be known as “The People Who Rest.”  Sabbath was built into the weekly fabric of Israel, a crucial part of their identity as the people of God – in fact, failure to honor it led to severe consequences.  Have you ever wondered why?

I see the Old Testament Sabbath as an early indicator of God’s determination to undo the results of the Fall.  Adam was told in Genesis 3 that toil and sweat would be among the consequences of his sin.  When God chose “a people for his own possession,” Israel was told that they were to be unique among the nations, and the command to rest was part of that unique identity.  Their ability to rest was a direct result of the faithfulness of their all-powerful God whom they trusted to watch over them, provide for them, and protect them.  In the same way that a lamb’s ability “to lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2) reflected well on the work of its shepherd, Israel’s ability to rest reflected well on the care of their God, and brought Him glory.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), decisively rolling back the effects of the Fall, and He also called His followers to rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). While the command to observe a 24-hour Sabbath is not repeated in the New Testament, the provision of rest is clearly important to Christ.  This means that God wants His people, in all ages, to be known for their ability to rest!  Read that last sentence again – it matters.

Now we get to the obvious question: Are we known for our restfulness?  Sadly, I don’t think so.  In fact, I find that Christ’s command to come and find rest is one of the few that Christians are proud of breaking.  I’m not proud of my anger, or my lust, or my self-centeredness.  I’ve never gloated about my lack of discipline.  But I have taken subtle pride in my busy-ness, and inability (refusal?) to rest.  Sure, I would complain about it – but I’ve also worn it as a badge of honor.

What a shame to love and serve a Savior who says “I will give you rest,” and refuse to accept it.  How much better would it be to relax, and to rest in a God who makes rest possible, who loves me not because I’m busy or productive, but just because He delights to love me?

Sabbath is a regular reminder that I don’t have to impress Him, and instead can rest in Him.  It calls me to be more Mary and less Martha, sitting contentedly at His feet even when work is clamoring for my attention.  It calls me back to a simple, relaxed walk with a God who delights to walk with me, and is best glorified when I delight in Him and His gifts.

I want to be known for my ability to find God-given rest for my soul in Christ, because that brings honor to the One who makes it possible.  That is why Sabbath rest matters.

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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8 Responses to A People Known for the Ability to Rest

  1. Jacqui Coudry says:

    Ever since I started to read your Sabbath’s Thoughts I have been seeking more rest on the Sabbath also.. Thanks Mike~

  2. Amy says:

    Thanks for taking the time to keep pointing us to Sabbath!

    • Believe me, it’s my pleasure, Amy. I’m especially eager to see folks who do elic-type work respond to this principle. I’ve come across Sabbath relatively late in life, and I can’t help but wonder how my 15 years of cross-cultural ministry might have been different if I had started this sooner. Please let me know if I can be of any further encouragement.

  3. Richard Dinsmoor says:

    “How much better would it be to relax, and to rest in a God who makes rest possible, who loves me not because I’m busy or productive, but just because He delights to love me?”
    Thank you for this. How wonderful it is to have this statement made. So much struggling and striving, but still He smiles at us not because of all we do but because of who He is. We will never lose the love that he gives us.
    I was just asking this question this last Sunday. I had a bunch of homework that I “needed” to do by Monday morning, but I did want to keep the Sabbath. I didn’t know what that looked like when I had all that stuff that needed to be taken care of, but I chose not do it. I did feel guilty, but I wanted to honor God and what He says more than I wanted to do the homework. I still wasn’t sure if I was doing it “right”, but it is wonderful to trust that God is good, reasonable, and faithful. He will be faithful to grow me and to love me at every turn. Thank you for being part of this journey I’m on to understanding these things better. I have many things to think about.
    God bless you Mike

    • I’m glade this had been helpful, Richard, and even more glad that you are chewing on how best to apply it. As you might tell from an earlier blog post, I’m not as connected to the Sunday Sabbath as you might be. In fact, due to ministry responsibilities over the weekend, I took my Sabbath hike yesterday (Monday), and had a great time. I’m very attached to the principle of Sabbath rest, wherever I might carve it out, and less attached to the day of the week. Let me know if you’d like to get together some time and talk more about it. I’d be glad to help you carve out your own pursuit of Sabbath. It’s definitley a work in progress – but the progress is fun.

  4. Laurie Norman says:

    Thank You, Mike for giving an explanation for the reason God commanded His people to rest. I had never really looked at it that closely. It gives much more meaning to the ‘rest’,as you said, He was saying…’Trust in Me, I AM will provide your needs’. God Bless

    • Glad it was helpful, Laurie. I think the level of trust that rest requires is even more evident when we put it in context. Israel began honoring the Sabbath while in the wilderness, and they had to trust that the manna, which spoiled overnight the rest of the week, would be preserved for their use on the sabbath when they collected 2 days’s worth on Friday. Once in Israel, in a largely agrarian society, people had to trust that their livestock and farms would be just fine while they rested, that God would watch over them. There is a lot of trust involved, and that trust does say something good about God.

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