Exodus 23:10=13 “Dear Lord…Thank you that you created us both to work and to rest. Please help us to find the right rhythm for our lives…” This is how the Narrator prayed at the end of the ODB Devotional reading on July 8, 2017, and this will be my kick-off point. At first glance “rest” is a very simple topic indeed. But take a close look, and you will discover that it is the basis of one of the great controversies within what can arguably be referred to as the Christian Church.
To simplify the analysis, let us divide rest into its component parts. There is physical rest, usually associated with relaxation and/or sleep. All the Scientists and Educators, Christians and Atheists alike, agree that significant periods of rest are necessary for the optimal development of the human body. Despite what I practice, I am forced to teach that eight hours of sleep per day ought to be the goal, in addition to specific periods of relaxation during the week. The human body repairs itself more efficiently during periods of sleep, and adequate sleep at set times is preferred. Forgive me Lord for I have sinned.
Then there is spiritual rest which is best described in the 4th chapter of Hebrews, and especially Hebrews 4:10, as our permanent rest from our works for salvation, and replacing it with our reliance on the finished work of Jesus – “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.”.
The real difficulty arises because our Bible advances both arguments, and there is a substantial part of what I believe to be the Christian Church that legalistically and ritualistically rest and worship on the Seventh Day, not by preference or as an option, but as a requirement. Of course, there is arguably the numerically larger portion of the Christian Church that worships, and hopefully rests on the First Day of the Week. What is really unfortunate is that the two opposing camps may occasionally suggest that the other side is wrong.
Exodus 23:10-13 attaches no spiritual significance or worship value to rest. Rhythmical rest of 1 day in 7 days benefits the animals as much as the workers, and these benefits are physical, and not spiritual. The land benefits from 1 year in every 7 years from being ploughed. And in the case of the animals, the humans and the land, greater productivity is achieved as a direct result of the rest.
To enshrine this universal law of productivity, before Scientists came on the scene, God Himself set the example. He worked on six days, and rested on the seventh. Clearly, God was not tired, nor did he need to be refreshed. But because it was to be a survival law for us, He set the example and hallowed the Seventh Day.
In its simplest form, the words “hallowed” and “Holy” used to describe the Seventh day by God in Genesis 2:2-3 and Exodus 20:8-11, have mislead many into believing that this day is specially set aside for worship. God demands no less than 24/7 Worship. The words “sanctify” and “devoted”, simply mean “set aside for” and “dedicated to”. In this instance, the day was set aside for rest. We are to “Remember” the Sabbath day. What are we to remember? God rested from His work, and we also should rest from ours. But there is an obvious difference. Unlike God, come the next week, we have to start all over again. And for us, that is a significant reminder that the comparison between our survival requirement to rest on the Sabbath Day, and God’s resting after His work on the Seventh Day, is at best, symbolical.
Typology is a method of Biblical Interpretation that identifies a person, thing or event in the Old Testament as foreshadowing a person, thing or event in the New Testament. The former is called the “type” and the latter is called the anti-type. God’s permanent rest from His creation work, far beyond being used as a partial model for our physical rest, served as a type for the antitype of Jesus finishing His work of redemption on the cross of Calvary, and being permanently resurrected to forever testify to this fact. In the Old Testament the best we could do is “remember” the Sabbath. In the New Testament we are commanded to frequently re-enact the perfect sacrifice of Jesus in the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine, or the Eucharist, and in so doing, “remember” Jesus and His finished work of redemption. It is in the remembering of the finished work of Jesus that we can permanently abandon all our flawed works of righteousness aimed at earning our salvation, and instead permanently rely on, and rest, not in God’s finished work of creation on the Seventh day, but on His finished work of Salvation on the First Day. For He, having been crucified, was raised again for our justification (Romans 4:25), and now lives forever, and is seated in Heaven, interceding for us to His Father (Hebrews 1:3 & Romans 8:34).
It is the will of God that we rest our bodies adequately and rhythmically every day by way of sleep and once per week by way of additional relaxation and rest from work. This will facilitate a long, healthy productive life. But this will not get us closer to God. However, It is also God’s will that because we cannot qualify for His presence by perfectly keeping all His commandments and laws, that we should concede defeat, and accept His alternative of salvation by His grace, and not by our works of righteousness, and instead enter the rest that He has prepared for us.
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