Have you ever held a child that needs a nap in the worst possible way, but fights sleep even harder because of the need? The child doesn’t know that she needs a nap, only that something is not right and she is not happy.
It’s me. I am that child. I will run and push until I am so worn out that I don’t even know I’m worn out. I just know I’m grumpy and everyone and everything is too much.
Until I rest.
Rest can mean a lot of things for me: a nap, a hot bath, a weekend with no cell service, a few hours alone mindlessly browsing things I don’t need at Marshall’s. it can even mean a good belly laugh with my kids.
But there’s a rest only God can give. After all, He did create rest.
In the Beginning
After creating the world, the next thing God did was create rest:
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.Genesis 2:2 ESV
Have you ever stopped to consider why God rested? Being God, He didn’t need to rest. He rested as an example to us – to demonstrate the importance and meaning of rest. The next verse explains:
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.Genesis 2:3
Rest isn’t weakness; it is worship – not a punishment, but a privilege. FN1 It honors God because it honors His created order. God made man. Then, God made the rest.
If you try to find the definition of sabbath, there’s a solid chance that you find that it is defined “sabbath”. Helpful, right?
I assumed I’d find the word in the book of Genesis. It’s not there. The term’s first mention is in Exodus, and as a command, not an event. The event of Sabbath is instituted when Moses is given the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:8 (Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.) The first mention of sabbath comes four chapters earlier.
In Exodus 14, the nation of Israel escapes through the Red Sea. Chapter 15 is a song of praise, followed by God’s provision of water. In Chapter 16, God provides manna and quail. Each day God gave them their daily portion. Those who gathered extra found it stinking and full of worms in the morning.
Except on the seventh day. See, God told Moses who told the people to gather twice as much manna on the sixth day as provision for the seventh day:
…he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”Exodus 16: 23, 29-30
See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
Rest before Rules
As Jesus tells the Pharisees, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” FN2 God instituted rest before rules.
As I dug into the word Sabbath, I found that it comes from the Hebrew word shabath, meaning to cease, desist, rest. Sabbath isn’t used until Exodus 16, but shabath is first used… in Genesis 2:2 when God rested.
God created man and then created rest. He demonstrated rest and consecrated it as holy. He gave us Sabbath before commanding Sabbath.
It is so easy to see God’s commands as rules instead of gifts. Rest is really one of the first examples of how the “rules” God gives us are for our own good. The holy Sabbath both glorifies the Creator and revitalizes creation. Rest is one of Jesus’s promises for believers:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you restMatthew 11:28
Rest was created before the fall of man; It was created for man before sin and is not sin. The very thing that God created right after creating man is what our Savior offers in salvation. Rest. Holy Sabbath.
Go to Bed, Sinner
As I struggled for practical ways to enter God’s holy rest, I also struggled not to be trite and cutesy. The twitter account Church Curmudgeon often sends the last tweet of the night, “Go to bed, Sinners.” And you know what, it’s not bad advice.
Go to bed. You were made to recharge.
Read and study your Bible. His words refresh your soul.
Get to church. Rest is holy. Go worship with God’s people.
Don’t jam pack Sunday with activities. Let your soul breathe.
Don’t be an overtired-spiritual toddler. Stop fighting. Rest.
1. See Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary Mark 2:23-28
2. Mark 2:27