We Need To Hear God’s Message Of Rest Today More Than Ever!
The word “sabbath” in Hebrew means cessation, or rest. The sabbath is for the Lord, therefore, it is holy and to be set apart from the other days of the week in order to praise God, his work of creation, and his saving actions. For the Jews, this was in reference to their liberation from bondage in Egypt. For Christians, the sabbath observance remembers this and our liberation from the bondage of sin and death forever, through the saving actions of Jesus on the cross.
In the Genesis account we see that God rests from his labors of creation on the seventh day. The Third Commandment calls on us to imitate God’s actions. There is a wisdom here. While our labors are good and necessary, it is even more important for us to rest and refresh ourselves. The sabbath is intended both to get rest from our daily work, but in doing so to give all of our attention to God, the creator of all that is good, true and beautiful.
We work in imitation of God. Work is both necessary and good. It is what gives us dignity, the ability to participate in the work of creation, the opportunity to use our God-given skills and abilities for the good of ourselves, our families, and society. But because work is demanding and hard, we also need to rest, as God rested. We do this to refresh our strength. As Christians, we do this also to take the time to thank God for all he has given and done for us, and to continue to develop our personal relationship with him. We know, too, that “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The sabbath is a day to honor the Lord’s mercies, and to honor God. “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:28) Therefore it is a day set aside to do good and to honor life in his name.
As Christians we also remember that Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.” (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1) Because of this it recalls the first creation and signifies the new creation ushered in by his resurrection. This is the first day of all days for us. It is for this reason that it is right and good to take time out from our everyday lives to give praise to him who has both given us life and who has given our lives meaning and purpose. It is proper to rest and to reflect on these great mysteries of God’s love. I am old enough to remember when this was honored by everyone and all of the stores would be closed on Sunday. The culture respected the day of rest, but this is no longer so. In fact there is no rest today. Work in service to, or in obeisance to, mammon has taken on more importance and the day of rest has been shunted aside. Church attendance has fallen dramatically, in every denomination in the last few decades. Might this be as much a part of the reason for the chaos we find ourselves in as a nation today? The neglect of the sabbath has its consequences in our individual lives as well as in the life of the nation.
Lord, help us to honor you by keeping holy the sabbath. It is right and proper that we should take time out of our daily routine to give time to you. In doing so we will find our truest rest and be refreshed by your graces. God, help us to imitate you in our work, but especially in keeping holy the sabbath, the day of rest. In this we will find our truest strength. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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