Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rest

Last week we looked at work so today we’re going to look at its partner, rest. As we do this bear in mind that we’re still dealing with how God runs His creation. Coming to see how He runs things is really important. I hope to come back to that topic in the future. But for today, listen as I read from Genesis 2.

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.

The point of what I just read is pretty clear. After doing His work of creating all of this, God rested. Does this have anything to say about how we are to live? That’s a good question to ask because there are lots of things that God does that we aren’t called to imitate. But the Scriptures don’t leave us guessing. Listen.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Did you notice the reason given here for our taking a day of rest? It’s because of what God did. He made all of this, and then He rested. We are to do the same in imitation of what He did back at the beginning. Work and rest. Part of how God runs His creation is that there is to be a day of rest for us.

Let’s consider more closely what God did. He finished His work of creating and then He rested. But that doesn’t mean that He stopped and did nothing. If He had, we wouldn’t be here. Remember, at every moment God keeps this creation going. He’s always doing that. That has something to say about how we are to imitate God in this. We are to stop our work, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing. Rest is not the same as inactivity. What this means is that we do other things.

What kind of ‘other things’ are we to do on this day when we rest? Again, the Scriptures show us. Speaking of this day of rest, God said,

It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

So, God rested and was refreshed. And that is what this day is to be for us as well. That’s an important guide when it comes to enjoying this day. The point of the day of rest isn’t about what you aren’t supposed to do. The point is about what you can do. It is to be a day when you do things that are restful and refreshing.

It’s important to see that this will mean one thing for one person and something quite different for another person. So, no cookie cutter rules here. But in ways that work for each of you, on this day you are to do things that are different from the stuff that fills the other six days. You are to do this so that you can be refreshed.

This is the time for one of those, ‘howevers’. However, taking a day of rest where all the regular work of the week gets put on hold just might be asking for a lot. In fact, it is. We all have lots of things demanding our attention, and it just seems that they don’t fit into six days. The pressure is there to let some of that work bleed over into what is supposed to be a day of rest. How are you to handle that?

This is where I tell you that doing this ‘day of rest’ thing just might be an act of faith. You just might have to trust God that He knows what He’s doing when He calls you to take this day of rest. You might have to trust Him and actually take the day off.

Here’s a good illustration of what I’m talking about. Remember the manna for Israel in the desert? Each morning the people were to go out and collect the food that God had dropped from heaven. They were to collect enough for everyone in their household but only enough for that day. None of it was to be left over for the next day. But, as you remember, some of the people did exactly that. They kept some for the next day. And I think you know why. ‘What if manna never comes again? What if there’s no food? We need to take precautions.’ Let’s translate that. ‘I’m not sure that I can trust God. Does He really know what He’s doing?’

The same sort of thing sometimes happens when God tells His people - that includes you - to enjoy a day of rest. ‘But what about all the things that just have to get done!?! Can I trust God on this? Does He really know what He’s doing?’ God promises, more times than you know, to take care of tomorrow, whether we’re talking about manna or your to-do list. What you need to do is trust Him on that, and then, take the day off. Rest and refreshment.

Let’s look at that act of faith from a different perspective, the perspective of the people watching us. Our culture is so very busy. It’s overbusy. That’s just another result of the godlessness of our world. They are trying to fill a void that only God can fill. It really is very sad. So, things that used to be limited just to the six days are bleeding over into the seventh. There is no day of rest. And the expectation is that you will join in with them in their overbusyness. To decline to do that so that you might enjoy God’s day of rest just might be a way of showing the difference between who you are as a Christian and the rest of the world. It just might become a Gospel statement where faith in God is about trusting Him when it comes to your work and your rest, and not just about getting into heaven.

There’s also this. Remember that this day of rest is a part of how God runs His creation. People can work with Him on how He does that or they can work against Him. But if anyone works against God when it comes to how He runs His creation, at some point, life will no longer work. You can jump off a high cliff because you don’t believe in gravity and still be able to say, ‘See this is fine’. But at some point you will meet up with reality. There are consequences to refusing to live in keeping with how God runs His creation. Some of those consequences happen quickly while others take their time. Our culture is already feeling some of the consequences of rejecting God’s way of running things. Barring a culture-wide time of deep repentance, it will get worse. I wonder if the recent increased use of medications to deal with stress, emotional trauma and the like is just one indication of some of these consequences.

Earlier I read to you from the Ten Commandments as recorded in Exodus. There, the reason for a day of rest was about imitating God when He created. Deuteronomy also records the Ten Commandments. But it’s just a little different when it comes to the day of rest. After commanding a day to rest, it gives this reason.

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Here, the day of rest is about Israel remembering their rescue from the slavery of Egypt. That ancient rescue is a picture of your rescue from a different kind of slavery, the slavery of sin. One of the purposes of the day, one of the ways of enjoying the day of rest, is to remember with joy how Jesus has rescued you. And you can pair that up with looking forward to remind yourself that Jesus will return to finish the job. As the Scriptures remind us,

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

Joyous worship makes sense on the day of rest.

So, what should you do with all of this? Well, how about enjoy it? Relax. Take the day off. Do things that will refresh you. God promises to provide for what you need. It might be a good idea to see how you’re doing when it comes to enjoying this gift of a day off. I can’t help but think that some of you feel the pressure of Monday morning and so you set aside this idea of a day of rest to get a head start on the week. It’s not a good idea to fight against how God runs His creation. It won’t work. You just might need to consider that point I made about resting as an act of faith. There will be some interesting questions about how to live this out, and some of them won’t have easy answers. That shouldn’t be surprising. Sin does a good job complicating things. But don’t fret. Pray and think and discuss. The answers will show up when you need them. But in the mean time, enjoy. God has given you a day off. Take it.

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