“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words…” (Isaiah 58:13)
Do you wonder why God placed such enormous emphasis in the Old Testament on keeping the Sabbath sanctified to Himself? Here it comes again, just before the chapter concludes with more promises. Sabbath is first mentioned in Genesis 2:2-3: “On the seventh day God ended His work…He rested…from all His work…Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because…He rested from all His work.” We ask, “Why did God rest?” The answer is He rested, not because He was tired (an impossibility), but because He was finished. It’s important that we understand this or no Sabbath passage will make sense.
Curiously, Sabbath remembrance was not mandated immediately following the Fall. It was not given to Adam, Noah, Abraham, or to the patriarchs. It isn’t mentioned again in Scripture until Exodus 16, with the giving of manna. The people were to gather food six days, but not the seventh, as that was set apart for rest. God was saying, in essence, “Remember, your provision comes from my work, not yours.” The Sabbath became a commandment, with the observance enforced under the law even to the death penalty.
The lesson is that our work depends on God and has a stopping place. Whether “finished” or not, people must rest. But God forever demonstrated that He finished His work, and then rested. Isaiah 58 is a “faith-plus-works” chapter. God says, “You do this, and I’ll do thus and so.” Yet He emphasizes the need for Sabbath, lest the people think they could accomplish anything without His preceding work and help.
The application for Christians is more wonderful than we can imagine. Whereas in the Old Testament the Sabbath was a commandment, now it is an invitation. Our Lord said, “Come unto me, all who are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Hebrews 4:9 emphasizes this: “There remains…a Sabbath-rest for God’s people.” Not a day, mind you, but a place in God. How? When Jesus died on the cross, He cried, “It is finished!” Then, following His resurrection and ascension, He sat down in His Father’s house. And now, because of Him, so may we “rest.” The work of redemption was finished at the cross.
In your time seeking God today:
- Is your life restful in God? If not, ask the Lord to pinpoint the problem(s). Is there anyone you haven’t fully forgiven for hurting or abusing you in the past? Forgiveness is often the key to being released from inner stress, anger, unrest, even bitterness.
- Sometimes we fail to “rest” in God because we are simply too tired. Some Christians have been taught to “stay busy for God.” If that is you, ask God to help you to sometimes say “no” without guilt. Remember, you are one person, and Father will help you find your place of rest in Him.
- Be sure you are clear on the Gospel message and its power. We do not “help” God save us or to keep us in grace. If you have doubts about your full acceptance by God, seek help from your pastor or a mature Christian you know and trust.
- Finally, resting in God is not idleness. Sure, we all need some time “off,” but God has made provision for you, in His grace, to live in His peace and rest even in tense or difficult seasons.
- Psalm 46:10; Psalm 62:5-8
- Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 5:1; Romans 8:1-2; Hebrews 3 and 4, entire chapters
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