God created us to work hard and rest well – both are His idea, and both are good. Very good.
Most of us get the work piece. We work, and work, and work. If we were being honest, we would admit that what we are missing is good, deep rest.
Interestingly, the Bible, and, in particular, Jesus, has much to say on this. Let’s start here, “On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?’ And he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’” (Luke 6:1–5)
The Jewish Halakhah, a collective body of Jewish religious laws, said that reaping grain was one of the 39 forms of work that was prohibited on the Sabbath day. While on one hand a long list of ‘dos and don’ts’ might seem like legalism – but notice Jesus doesn’t say “I have come to do away with this,” instead he says, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus is confirming that he is all in on the Sabbath – he doesn’t reject it, he confirms the role of rest in his Kingdom.
No culture has such an obsession with work as our culture does. And, there is an enormous amount of anxiety around our jobs. Job security is decreasing. Technology allows you to work anywhere – so we work everywhere. Cultural Anthropologist have discovered that our meaning in life is no longer derived from family, but now from work. No culture in history has been driven by work like ours.
Although your out-of-balance life is a modern problem, it has an ancient solution: Sabbath.
Judith Shulevitz, “Bring Back the Sabbath,” writes this “when Sunday was still sacred, not only did drudgery give way to festivity, family gatherings and occasionally worship, but the machinery of self-censorship shut down, too, stilling the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach.”
What does she mean?
There is within each of us a desire to prove ourselves. Meaning, it is never enough.
The religious authorities accuse Jesus of working too much – of breaking the Sabbath command to not glean from the field, and here is how he responds, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?”
Jesus is referencing 1 Samuel 21 when David enters into the holy place of the temple and takes what is called the showbread – bread consecrated for Sabbath worship. And David is never punished or condemned by God for this. Jesus wants us to think about this.
If the Sabbath can be set aside in a bind, but there is nowhere in the Bible where the rest of the moral law – adultery, murder, stealing [I was in a hurry, so I took it] – is accepted, it tells us something about the Sabbath. It is a shadow and temporary – meaning they point to something or someone who will fulfill its intention and make it obsolete.
And, Jesus answers the question of how! He says, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus is going to give you the rest.
Let me show you this; God makes something and says it’s good. The same language is used in days 1-5 of creation – God created something and calls it “good,” then at the end of day 6 we read this, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
“Very good” means to be utterly satisfied – it is the only way you can walk away from your work; it is to be satisfied. The only way you can put your work down is if you are satisfied with what you have done. But we can never do this – we can never look at what we have done and say it is ‘very good.’
So, we look to the author of Hebrews, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (4:9-10).
Something happens when you see your work the way God sees your work.
But, how is this possible?
Look at Luke 6:11, “But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” Why were they furious? He said he was Lord of the Sabbath – he is claiming to be God.
Ironically, it was because Jesus claimed to be God that the religious rulers had him put to death. And, being put to death is what MADE HIM LORD OF THE SABBATH.
On the cross in his suffering, in his restlessness, He is becoming our rest:
- Isaiah 57:20, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The internal murmur that says you aren’t good enough, which is the reason you never rest, has been conquered not by your works but HIS.
Jesus’ victory gave us dominion in our work and peace in our rest. He says, “come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you peace.” The Christian life is full of redemptive work making all things new and peaceful rest that says what makes my work valuable is the work of Jesus.
Go to him to find rest and if you go and haven’t found rest, you still don’t know the depth of what you have in Jesus.