Last night I went to the bookcase in my bedroom and grabbed a book. A book I bought several years ago and never read. A book on the Sabbath Principle. A Bible study on REST.
I have no idea why I bought this Bible study by Priscilla Shirer when I did, then put it unopened on my bookshelf. This is definitely not what I typically do with a Bible study book. But as I focus on learning to REST IN THE LORD during 2018, Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath was exactly the book I was needing to pick up and actually begin studying. As I study it over the next four weeks, I will be sharing some of the truths God teaches me through this Bible study. Today I’m beginning at the beginning, when God first established the principle of REST.
REST is a concept clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures. A brief search on the word REST in the Bible makes clear that this is a subject that God cares about. It is a repeated theme in the Scriptures, beginning with the creation week. It is a vital part of how God calls His people to live.
The first mention of REST in the Bible is found in the second chapter of Genesis. God Himself rested.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:2-3 NIV
Because God finished His work in six days, and then He blessed the seventh day and made it holy, a weekly day of REST was established by God for His people. As Priscilla Shirer says,
“The purpose of God’s Sabbath day was not to put up His proverbial feet, take a load off, and chill out after creating the universe in the previous days. He wasn’t tired. He was expressing satisfaction. Creation was complete, so He rested. And in doing so, He introduced the concept of rest to humanity.”
After He set them free from the slavery of Egypt and miraculously took the Hebrew people through the Rea Sea, we see God’s REST was to be reflected by them by a weekly day of REST on the seventh day (Saturday), which He called the Sabbath.
“Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.” Exodus 16:29-30 NIV
“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.” Exodus 20:11 NIV
Honoring the Sabbath day was one of the laws established in the Ten Commandments.
“’Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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.” Exodus 20:8-11 NIV
The Hebrew word for REST, shabbat, primarily means to sit down, to sit still. To rest is to cease from labor, to stop what we have been doing, to pause, to stop. God rested, and He called His people to rest.
Later in the Old Testament, God extended the use of the word REST (shabbat) to include the land.
“The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.” Leviticus 25:1-2 NIV
Rest has been a part of God’s plan since creation. Rest is still a part of God’s plan today, when it is more needed than ever in the hectic lifestyle that has become a part of our daily lives. Today, I encourage you to take some time to pause. To stop what you are doing. To cease from your labor. To let go of your burdens. To turn your eyes off of everything that still needs to be done. To rest.