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Rest: It's a Sacred Thing
Matthew Dickerson
Thursday, June 15, 2017

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Rest: It's a Sacred Thing
Image: Ostap Senyuk/Unsplash

The Sabbath day was not just an idea introduced for the first time in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8-11), but rather it is fundamental to the very order of Creation.

Holy Rest

We read about rest early in the creation account of Genesis: "And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done" (Gen. 2:3, NIV et al.).

The first thing to note here is that the word "because" is not an accident of modern English translation, but a word corresponding closely to the original Hebrew. As one scholar of ancient Hebrew explained to me, the word "because" is not only present in the original, but it is of the essence. God made the day holy because it was a day of rest. In other words, holiness and the restfulness are inextricably linked.

We see this in the phrasing of the Ten Commandments as well. "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (Ex. 20:11). The word "therefore" here is like the "because" of Genesis 2:3. God rested on the seventh day. Therefore the day was blessed and made holy.

Holiness flows out of Sabbath rest. We experience it when we put aside this world's concepts of productivity and self-reliance and choose instead to trust God's provision. If you want to pursue holiness, you must be willing also to pursue rest—or, rather, to accept rest.

To enter rest is to be godly. To be godly is to enter rest.

A Choice

We can choose to put aside our constant busyness and labor, even just one day a week. We can place ourselves in God's hands, to delight in his creation, to cease striving and know that he is God. We can take a break from ceaseless consumption. We can acknowledge our dependence on God.

As a society, we fail to take the Sabbath seriously. More broadly, we refuse to accept rest. This is the accepted disobedience of our time. No wonder our lives are so frantic.

But there it is, right there in the Ten Commandments at number four. It is the longest commandment, and it makes no concessions. No one works on the Sabbath, not the Israelites, not their servants, not even their animals. Is it harvest time? Doesn't matter. Exodus 34:21 points out that the command holds "even during the plowing season and harvest."

If you think this is unrealistic in your busy life, just imagine how that commandment sounded to ancient farmers. Yet God promised he would provide for them. And he can provide for us too.

But the roots of this commandment are deeper than that. Rest is part of the very nature of God's creation. Rest is part of the rhythm God intends for our lives. Rest is something God himself does. We rest to reflect God's image.

Adapted with permission from the original article "Too Busy to Rest" at TheologyofWork.org. All rights reserved.

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