Did You Know Rest is Both a Gift and Command?
“He said to them, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: “Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD … ”’” Exodus 16:23a (ESV)
Have you ever felt guilty resting? Or wondered how others can sit and read a book when there’s so much to do?
For some, these thoughts plague us, keeping the enjoyment of rest an impossible dream. And yet, God told us to rest. It wasn’t simply recommended. But commanded.
Isn’t it odd that some of us feel guilty keeping one of God’s Ten Commandments?
Perhaps it would help if we went back in time before the Ten Commandments. This command to rest came even before Moses received God’s law on stone tablets. It started shortly after God freed the Israelites from 400 years of slavery.
Before the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, they spent decades wandering the desert. That’s where God cared for His people so much He provided manna in the morning and quail at night. (Exodus 16:12) But God only provided food six days of the week. Moses said, “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none” (Exodus 16:26, ESV). And, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD … ’” (Exodus 16:23a).
The Lord had His purposes for this time in the desert, and everything that happened was intentionally to train, teach and test the Israelites.
God’s desire was a relationship. He was calling this people His own, and He wanted them to call Him their God.
God took care of their needs, but satisfying their hunger wouldn’t create the trusting relationship God desired. God wanted to heal their hearts and minds from generations of bondage, and that would only come through dependence on One who was completely trustworthy.
The Israelites needed to trust that God would protect rather than abandon them, redeem rather than exploit them.
In the midst of meeting their physical needs, God made a request that would start to meet their heart needs. Before God ever gave them the Ten Commandments, the very first trust-training exercise had to do with not working one day a week.
Of course, the people didn’t trust God at first and tried to save some of the manna overnight. Except when they did, in the morning it was filled with worms and began to stink. When hoarding an extra supply didn’t work, they tried gathering manna on the seventh day, but there was none.
It’s not that God didn’t want them to have enough to eat. He did, and they had enough by collecting an extra portion on the sixth day that stayed fresh on the Sabbath. God wanted them to retrain their brains to look to Him as their provider. This trust would break the slave mindset that pervaded the Israelites’ minds.
It seems like such a simple thing, really. Yet why was it so hard? God had shown the Israelites His power in miracle after miracle. They’d seen things with their own eyes that we only read about. He’d freed them, protected them, led them, and fed them with His mighty hand. And all He asked was that they not gather food on the Sabbath and trust Him to care for them.
But they didn’t.
And honestly, we don’t always trust Him either. We don’t trust that He’ll help us get our work done in six days. Or if we can’t get it done in six days, we don’t trust that He’ll make it possible for us to work less.
The reason God always wants us to honor the Sabbath is we still need to learn to trust Him. Because the depth of our relationships is equivalent to the degree we trust the other person. This is true with every person in our lives, and it’s definitely true with God. We can only go as deep as we trust.
What a beautiful, loving way for God to teach living by faith — by asking people who have worked nonstop to rest. God did it then, and He does it today.
The question is, will we trust Him enough to actually rest?
Lord, thank You for the invitation to stop working and trust You. Help me obey Your command to rest when the pull to work starts. I want to trust You more and accept Your gift of rest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Genesis 2:3, “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.” (ESV)
If you struggle to find the balance between work and rest, Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book is for you. Doing Busy Better: Enjoying God's Gifts of Work and Rest will help you find the holy balance that will lead to true soul rest.
Glynnis is one of the teachers at COMPEL Training for writers. Whether you’re writing a book, a blog, or an article, you'll find Christ-centered inspiration and practical teaching each month at COMPEL. We’ve just revamped our website, so stop by and see what’s new by clicking here.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How might your life change if you had one day a week to rest?
What keeps you from resting on the Sabbath? Is there something you need to edit from your life in order to allow more time to rest? Join the conversation, and share your thoughts in the comments!