When was the last time you took a full day of rest, besides vacation time? How about a half-day of rest? Are you a workaholic type that is always looking to do the next task or achieve the next thrill? Do you thrive on adrenaline and crash when you hit the pillow at night? Or worse, do you lie awake because adrenaline is still coursing through your veins? I confess, that has been me at times. I excel when I’m achieving the next thing on my to-do list. It’s actually one of my strengths. But a strength can also become a weakness. I have allowed my penchant for accomplishment to rule the day! In the past, I’ve not allowed my body to rest when it desperately needed it, when it gave me loud signals to cease from working.
I was listening to Exodus from the Old Testament yesterday and shocked to hear that God repeatedly commanded any Israelite who did not rest on the seventh day to be put to death! Of course, God ordered a day of rest in the Ten Commandments. I remembered that. But I had not remembered His strong warning, “…whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 31:15) Whoa! How does this apply to me in the 21st century? Why was this day so important to God?
First, the sabbath was a holy day for worship.
- Exodus 31:14 “Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you.”
- Exodus 20:9-11 “Six days you shall labor and do all you work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God…the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”
- By ceasing their work for one day a week, every Hebrew heart had the opportunity to rest their mind from tasks and devote themselves fully to God.
Second, by resting, the Israelites were imitating God’s example.
- Exodus 31:16-17 “So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath…It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day, He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”
Third, the seventh day was a day of physical rest for all the people.
- Exodus 23:12 “Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves.”
- God knew that physical rest was essential for the people, and their animals. In his mercy, He provided a way for them to receive that rest. How cool is that!
So, how does this command that God gave almost 3500 years ago to an ancient people apply to you and me?
If you are Christian, the first take-away is a heart question.
Who are you worshipping on the seventh day? Who are you worshipping every day of the week? I admit that I sometimes worship accomplishment more than my God. He gently reminds me that I am His first, before all my earthly commitments. Forgiveness is graciously granted to me and I move forward in joy, both in completing my responsibilities and in resting.
The second take-away is a health question.
If the Creator of mankind knew that we would need an extended time of rest for our physical bodies, are you allowing yourself time to rest? Are you setting aside a day or a few hours each week for you and your family to relax? (Busy moms too!) I do not believe that it must be the seventh day each week. Romans 14: 5-6 says, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God…” Choose the day you want to rest and don’t be legalistic about it. If you attend church on Sunday, that seems like a good day to devote to resting. But it could be Saturday, or another day of the week. The point is to make time for refreshment, for your mind and body to renew.
The third take-away is for people in leadership.
Do you own a business with employees? Are you a father or mother of over-scheduled children? Notice how verse 12 of Exodus 23 states that “…you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves.” One way to interpret this passage is do not force people to become slaves to their work or schedule. Allow those under your care to take appropriate rest and encourage them to do so. Knowing my background as a young over-achiever, I’m saddened when I see driven teenagers who are far too busy, sleep-deprived, and exhausted. That was me! Patterns for adult living are developed during those years. Remind your children that rest is critical for them as well.
This week, I encourage you to find rest on your seventh day, whatever day or number of hours that is. Take time to honor God, the people you love, and your own body. Discover specific ways that put your mind and body in rest mode. May I even suggest turning off your television and cell phone and disconnecting from social media for your day of rest? As you stay within the healthy boundaries our Creator has lovingly set for work and rest, you will enjoy life more!
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”