Studs Terkel wrote a book called “Working” where he interviewed hundreds of people about their work. He said that there was a common theme: “Most people…live somewhere between a grudging acceptance of their job and an active dislike of it.”
I think that most of us feel guilty if we are not working hard enough, and resentful if we think we are working too hard. So, in the same way, we have this strange relationship with rest – we desire it, need it, and feel guilty taking it.
In God’s economy, work is good, but so is rest. In fact, rest is commanded of us. For most of us, we don’t really want rest from work; we want escape. We dream of our next holiday, we dream of retirement, or even early retirement, or winning the lottery and joining the idle rich. But, as usual God does not offer escape, he offers rest.
From Leviticus 23:3, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.” God valued rest so much that He modeled it during creation, Genesis 2:1-3, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 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, 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.”
Do you think that God rested because he was “plum tuckered out?” Or, did he rest to set an example for the rest of us? I think we have learned throughout all of history that God doesn’t need to take a day off, but he knew that, for our own sanity, we would. He knew that we would need a day to step back and marvel at His creation so that we might appreciate all that he has made.
God made our day of rest holy because, in our rest, we are to worship the Creator and enjoy His creation. We are to enjoy all that God has made and find reason to rejoice. Somehow we have forgotten this and have relegated ourselves to slaves of society. We feel that freedom only comes after working ourselves to death. We overwork so that someday we might over-enjoy. The problem for many is that that day doesn’t come because we’ve become conditioned not to rest.
The Pharisees got it all wrong when they made our Sabbath a work. No one could truly relax because they were so worried they might sin by doing some simple task. They had turned what God had created for good into something that few looked forward to.
Jesus had to remind the people that, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). He had to bring back the concept of holy rest as a vehicle of worship. He had to remind people that the Sabbath was a gift, not another burden.
So, how are you at taking your Sabbaths? Do you neglect them? Do you take far too many of them? How can you find the balance that God created the Sabbath for?
God makes us a promise in Isaiah 58:13-14, “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” In other words, if you honor God by taking your Sabbath as a ministry to Him, you will be rewarded. Find your rest in Him. Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, help us to enjoy Sabbath once again. Instill in us the knowledge of its importance and remind us through Your creation of all that You gave us to enjoy. Give us rest and help us to see the value of it. Amen.