I used to think that the idea of “keeping the Sabbath” was totally old fashioned and didn’t relate to me in any way whatsoever. I was so wrong! While Sabbath keeping is deeply rooted in Jewish law and tradition, it couldn’t be more relevant to modern Christian living and being still. It is still very much for real!
Before I delve into various aspects of the Sabbath, today and over the next few weeks, let’s take a moment to establish the concept of a Sabbath rest as part of God’s design for creation. The Creation account in Genesis declares:
On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.Genesis 2:2
In this way, one way to look at the Sabbath is as a physical time of rest. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean napping, binge watching Yellowstone (although I’m totally guilty of that!), and taking relaxing baths. It is not a rest as in merely abstaining from activity. Rather it is an intentional action which results in a much deeper, soulful, fulfilling time of replenishment. This type of rest is known as menuha in Hebrew. Rabbi Heschel explains:
Menuha, which we usually render with ‘rest’ means much more than labor and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity of any kind. Menuha here [in Genesis 2:2] is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive. This must have been the views of the ancient rabbis if they believed that it took a special act of creation to bring it into being, that the universe would be incomplete without it. What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.Rabbi Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man
Since the creation story is indeed seven days long, and not six, that necessarily stipulates that rest is also part of what was intended to be created. Rabbi Heschel goes on:
We would surely expect the Bible to tell us that on the sixth day God finished His work. Obviously, the ancient rabbis concluded, there was an act of creation on the seventh day. Just as heaven and earth were created in six days, menuha was created on the Sabbath. After six days of creation, what did the universe still lack? Menuha. Came the Sabbath, came menuha, and the universe was complete.Rabbi Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man
We’ve established that rest was intentional. However, it was also so important that God Himself partook in it, regardless of His own strength or actual necessity for such a pause. I doubt God actually needed to rest, as we often think of the word, but He did it anyway. He did it within the confines of what was intended for the created order. How can such a realization change the way we think of rest? Would anyone dare judge the Lord’s need for rest as weakness? Perhaps, there is wisdom in the stillness. Perhaps there is something more to this Sabbath rest as implied by the Rabbi.
The act of resting is also intended for us. With that truth in mind, we can also know that God wouldn’t intend rest for us if it wasn’t possible.
So why don’t we rest when we know we ought to? While there are likely many reasons, some of which we’ve explored together in the Be Still Series, I think much of our apprehension to rest comes from a lack of trust in Him.
While we can say we trust the Lord, its an entirely different ballgame to actually align our lives in such a way which demonstrates our proclaimed trust. It is this very concept which we will explore next week, followed by additional thoughts on how we can incorporate a Sabbath mindset into our everyday lives.
Father God, thank you for giving us an example of not only how we should live our lives through your Son and written Word, but also how we should rest. I admit that sometimes I worry about not being able to accomplish everything I want to accomplish, so I forego resting as I ought. I need to trust you more, knowing that if you desire me to rest, I will be able to accomplish everything you desire me to accomplish while still being able to press pause and press into you. Help me trust you more.
In Jesus’ Holy & Precious Name,