Two Things Needed for a Good Sabbath’s Rest
This fall at ACC, we are studying the Ten Commandments. Of all the commandments, you would think the one mandating a Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:8-11) would be easiest to follow. Just think of it – God ordered his people to take a day off! This ought to be the most delightful commandment of all.
Strangely, however, people often find this commandment difficult to enjoy. Throughout the Bible, we read of God’s people either ignoring the Sabbath command (Neh. 13:15-22; Jer. 17:21-22; Ezek. 20:11-21) or turning the Sabbath into a burdensome obligation (Matt. 12:1-8; Mk. 3:1-6). Even today, though the New Covenant allows much greater freedom in the practice of the Lord’s Day, many Christians find it difficult to set aside a day a week for renewal and worship.
Why is it so hard for many of us to practice a meaningful rest day? What do we need in order to “call the Sabbath a delight” (Isa. 58:13)? Let me suggest two qualities that are necessary for those who want to get the most out of the Lord’s Day.
First) To enjoy a Sabbath rest, we need humility.
One of the reasons many of us find it hard to practice a weekly day of rest is because we are too proud to admit we need it. “Rest is for weak people, for slackers,” we think. “We are hard-working New Yorkers. We don’t need a break.” But God says otherwise. God says that we are made of dust and that our souls and bodies need a regular rhythm of rest. The question is whether we have the humility to admit that God is right.
The same goes for the discipline of gathering weekly with God’s people for worship. Luke 4:16 tells us that Jesus’ regular custom was to worship weekly on the Sabbath. If Christ himself felt the need for weekly worship, why do so many Christians today think they can survive spiritually if they attend church only once or twice a month? The answer can only be that they are blinded by pride.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” To withstand the lies of the enemy, Christians need time each week to rest, re-focus, and gather with others to hear God’s word. Let’s not be so proud as to think that we are somehow exceptions to this rule.
Second) To practice a regular Sabbath, we also need faith.
Let’s face it – we all have a lot to do. In fact, many of us have more to get done than there are hours in the week. If we set aside our Sundays for rest and worship, how will we ever make it?
Well, the practice of Sabbath rest is an exercise of faith. It is a way of declaring our trust in God. When Christians tithe, they set aside the first tenth of their income for the Lord, trusting that God will multiply the remaining ninety percent to meet their needs. In the same way, when Christians honor the Lord’s Day, they set aside the first seventh of their week, trusting that the Lord will multiply the hours of the remaining time so that they can accomplish all they need to do.
Phil. 4:19 says, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” This promise not only applies to our financial needs; it applies to our scheduling needs, as well. When we trust that God can make our efforts fruitful, we no longer fear setting aside a day a week to draw close to him.
Knowing that God loves us enough to have given his Son, and that God is powerful enough to have raised him from the grave, enables us to trust that he will care for us in all the details of our lives. This frees us to call the Lord’s Day a blessing and a joy.