Thursday, July 11, 2024

God of Rest

On the seventh day, the Lord rested from His work of creating. 

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, for on the seventh day, even the Lord rested from His work. 

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, as the Lord your God led you out of slavery in Egypt. 

There's a strong emphasis in the Bible on rest. It is a prescription for goodness and wellness and a thriving life, not just for us, but for all of creation. The natural rhythms of rest are built into the cycle that we know as life, from sleeping and waking to seasonal changes. Rest is inevitable. 

And yet, we are very, very bad at it as a species. And I think we almost always have been. 

In today's world, many don't rest because every minute is another dollar for them. They want to work themselves to oblivion to pay for a life they don't even have time to enjoy because they are too busy working to fund it. Or we work ourselves excessively as a form of escapism, so that we don't have to deal with the thoughts in our head that naturally arise when we have a little bit of down time. Or we are stuck living paycheck to paycheck and scraping by and those extra hours at work are the difference between choosing between toilet paper and groceries for the next few days. 

As always, there are also folks who do not rest because they don't work at all and therefore, they have nothing to rest from. We would think their whole life is rest, but in fact, none of it is because without work, there can be no rest. 

So we have a whole world, almost, that doesn't seem to know how to rest.

And we're not alone. 

Back in the Old Testament, Sabbath rest was a hard-and-fast command for God's people. They had hundreds of rules surrounding the Sabbath and how to keep it. They spent a lot of time determining what was work and what wasn't. Remember when Jesus's (I know - New Testament) disciples picked a few heads of grain on the Sabbath and the religious elite lost their minds? Or when He healed a man on the Sabbath and then made reference to pulling an animal out of a ditch on the Sabbath? That's because the people had gone so far as to figure out if pulling an animal out of a ditch on the Sabbath was work or not. 

They were hard core. 

Until they weren't. 

As Israel lost their way, they lost their Sabbath. They stopped resting. Merchants were coming freely through the gates, even on Saturdays. (Israel's Sabbath was Saturday.) But then, after many generations and hundreds of years of no rest, God sent them into exile. Not so that they could rest, necessarily, since exile is not exactly a restful existence, but so that the land could. So that the rest of creation could get the rest that God promised it and designed it for after we, human beings, had taken it away for so long because we are so bent on not resting. 

He even said it - "This exile fulfilled the Lord's message through Jeremiah that Israel would like quietly at rest and be desolate for 70 years to make up for the generations where they did not observe the Sabbath" (2 Chronicles 36:21). 

God commanded rest. He created rest. He designed us, and all of creation, for rest. And if we don't rest, if we refuse, if we won't even let creation get some rest, He will make it happen. 

So rest, friend. You were created for it. 

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