The Lord’s Day/Sunday as Sabbath (Part 3): A Day of Rest

This is a series of blog posts by pastor Andrew Vander Maas from Crossroads Presbyterian Fellowship in St. Louis.  These posts were first written a few years ago on a blog that no longer exists, and we are resurrecting them at Worship Is Central.

To see the whole series, click on the Lord’s Day category link on the sidebar on this page, which is found here.  For more resources on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), see the Lord’s Day page at Worship Is Central.

Genesis 2:1  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  2 And 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.  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.

Exodus 20:8  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  9Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Day Is Done

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Come, read to me some poem,

Some simple and heartfelt lay,

That shall soothe this restless feeling,

And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,

Not from the bards sublime,

Whose distant footsteps echo

Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,

Their mighty thoughts suggest

Life’s endless toil and endeavor;

And to-night I long for rest.

I wonder how many of us like Longfellow long for rest?  OK, maybe it would be better to ask how many of us don’t?  The interesting thing is that God gives us a day that is to fall within the rhythm of our week to do just that, rest.

This is where the idea of the Sabbath begins to get quite counter-cultural.   A couple of weeks ago some friends and I were commenting on how the normal (and acceptable) answer to how are you doing is to respond by saying, “Busy!”.   By contrast think how odd it would be if the next time you asked someone how they were doing they answered with,  “slow” or “Reflective …”.  You would certainly find that strange, you may even think they were a bit lazy.  Yet, God models rest for us and invites us to the same.

What does this mean?  Normally when we think of rest we think of it in comparison to weariness.  That rest is simply something we do to refuel our bodies for the grind that lies ahead of us.   This is certainly true, but I don’t think it encompasses the totality of what this rest of God is all about.  One way we draw that conclusion is to observe that God does not need that kind of rest.  Of course his actions could have been strictly done with humans in mind, but again I believe there is something more.

My thought is that God’s rest has more to do with delight.   We see this rhythm in Genesis 1 and 2 with God creating and delighting (God saw what he made, and it was good), so it seems that when God came to day seven, he set it apart as a day not only to physically cease, but to delight.  Of course, in order to truly delight we have to cease.

In applying this I can think of a couple of questions.  First, are those ceasing or stopping points existent in my life?   We live in a 24/7/365 world.  There will always be something to keep me going if I do not intentionally stop.  Secondly, in my stopping am I delighting.   Or am I simply ceasing from activity, or worse yet filling my time with more activity that wears me out even more? (Think amusement park here.  Something we might do on a vacation or a day off but not particularly restful.)   In my restful delight I might ask is there time for a walk in the woods or by a river?  Is there time to leisurely, without hurry read books to my children, talk with my wife, have our neighbors over for dinner?  Is there time to be with God?  Not simply talk at him or even to him, but to really be with him, to enjoy the relationship I have with Him?   How about taking a nap, a real nap, not just a power nap?

Stopping, resting …  what a gift!

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