Rest or Die
“Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community.“ – Exodus 31:14 NLT
Rest. It’s a foreign word to most of us today. We don’t know how to rest. We know we need it because we feel exhausted most of the time. We don’t get enough sleep, and when we do, we wake up just as tired as when we went to bed. We take vacations but come back just as stressed as when we left. The problem is that the kind of rest God offers is soul rest, not physical rest. Jesus offered us this kind of rest when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB). This isn’t about a cessation of activity, but about learning to rely on God for all our needs. It is about dependence. It is about relationship. It is the reason God created the sabbath. He knew we needed rest and He also knew we would do everything to violate and ignore it. Rather than depend on Him, we would start depending on ourselves. Even in our efforts done on His behalf, we can end up leaning on our own strength and abilities. We can find ourselves doing things for God, but not in the strength of God.
It’s interesting that God decides to reiterate His sabbath command just at the time the people were about to begin construction on the Tabernacle. God had given them all His instructions and had anointed various craftsmen with the abilities they would need to accomplish the work. But God seemed to know that the people, in their zeal to accomplish this great task for God, would be tempted to work seven days a week to get it done. But God knew they needed soul rest. And He was so serious about it that He threatened the with death if they violated it. Think about it, God is so serious about soul rest that He threatens His people with death if they don’t take advantage of it. In the Jamieson Faussett Brown Complete Commentary on the Bible, they say that this renewing of the sabbath command was done for the following reason, “The reason for the fresh inculcation of the fourth commandment at this particular period was, that the great ardor and eagerness, with which all classes betook themselves to the construction of the tabernacle, exposed them to the temptation of encroaching on the sanctity of the appointed day of rest. They might suppose that the erection of the tabernacle was a sacred work, and that it would be a high merit, an acceptable tribute, to prosecute the undertaking without the interruption of a day’s repose; and therefore the caution here given, at the commencement of the undertaking, was a seasonable admonition.”
God knew how prone we are to do His work our way – even if it means violating His will. If God had put so much thought into the design of the Tabernacle and its construction plans, don’t you think He had give some thought as to how long it might take. He knew this work could only be done in His strength, according to His plan, and on His time line. Sabbath rest was a non-optional necessity if they were going to pull this off. But how easy it is for us to ignore God’s command to rest and think we can accomplish His work without it. God threatened the Israelites with death if they violated or literally, treated as common, that day.
In our day, rest is a luxury most of us can’t afford. Or at least we think so. We work around the clock. We have our kids involved in anything and everything. We find ourselves, financially tapped out, emotionally stressed out, physically worn out, and spiritually burned out. And some of our rest-lessness is due to all the things we are trying to do for God. But God wants us to learn to rest in Him, not wear ourselves out for Him. He wants to restore us, reprioritize us, redirect us, and reveal Himself to us. But we must learn to rest. Saint Augustine expressed it best when he prayed, “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in Thee.”
Father, You are serious about rest, but we aren’t. We think we don’t need it. Or we think we can achieve it on our own. But experience teaches us otherwise. Only You can provide soul rest – the kind of rest we desperately need. I can’t find rest for my soul on my own. It always ends up in failure and exhaustion. So show me how to rest in You. Forgive me for trying to do Your work my way and in my own strength. It only results in weariness and a lack of joy. Open my eyes to see that resting in You is the key to serving You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men