It is easy to lose sight of what is important to us, especially when we fill our days with so many things such as work, church, family obligations, and community involvement. There are times we get so busy what we feel must be done that things we once enjoyed now seem like work. We adopt a mindset that the things we did to unwind are completely avoided because we feel we do not have the time to spend on them. If we are not careful, we can easily fall into a dangerous trap where we become physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired.
I’ve experienced this more times than I would like to admit; I’m hard-headed and it takes me a while to learn things. Even though the Bible makes a provision for us to set aside one day a week for rest, it has been difficult for me to take the time off especially when I look around at everything that needs to be done. Not only did God make a provision for us to have a weekly day of rest, He instituted it within the Law that he gave Moses to teach the children of Israel: Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed (Exodus 23:12). I know that Christians will often claim that we are no longer under the Law but under grace, and they are correct. However, the reasoning for setting aside one day out of each week for rest goes beyond being a part of the Old Testament canon. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes when they were attempting to rebuke Jesus for working on the Sabbath: And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). What Jesus was telling the Pharisees is a lesson that we all need to remember from time to time.
Under the Law, the Jews were required to set aside the seventh day of each week, from what we would consider sundown on Friday evening until Saturday evening (as a reference, see Genesis chapter 1, verses 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, and 31). It was to be a day set apart for rest of the body, soul, and mind, and a day to worship the Lord. Before the law, I can imagine that human society treated this day as we do – as any other day. Instead of it being regarded as a day of rest as God intended, it became another day to work, another day to meet deadlines, another day to toil and labor. Even under the Law, the Sabbath had become transformed from a day of rest to a day of judgment by religious men. Jesus experienced this first hand, as recorded in the gospel of Luke: And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things (Luke 14:1-6). In their zeal to discredit Jesus, they were willing to condemn Him for healing on the sabbath when they would have done greater work to keep their own wealth and livelihood.
Under grace, what we now have since the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, we do not have to become “sabbath keepers” as some denominations believe. As Christians, we worship on Sunday, the day of the week that we believe that the resurrected Jesus rose from the grave. For all “legalistic” purposes, Sunday is not the Christian sabbath but simply a day we set aside to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. I know Christians that work on Sunday and I know other that treat Sunday the way that the Pharisees treated the sabbath.
Under grace, I am convinced that it does not matter which day of the week I set aside for the worship of God and as a day of rest. What is more important to God is that whatever day I say I set aside for Him, I must not let it become common or filled like every other day. From a spiritual perspective, we need that day to worship and fellowship with the Lord; from a biological perspective, each week we need one day where we break from our normal routine and get rest for the body, mind, and soul. Under the Old Testament, God made the provision and later the Law reflects His practicality that the day of rest and day of worship should be the same. Under grace, while there is no biblical requirement that the day we set aside to rest and worship must be the same day, for me it is not only practical but it is being a good steward of the time that the Lord has given me.
Jesus understood the need for rest; although He was God, he was also man. His disciples were men – flesh and blood just like us. Shortly after the death of John the Baptist, Jesus and his disciples were living a fast paced life and they were beginning to feel the pressures: And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately (Mark 6:30-32). Jesus understood that if they were not given an opportunity to rest, they would become ineffective in their ministry. They would begin to question the reasons why they were doing all they were doing. They would begin to question His leadership and if they were really effective in their efforts.
If you think about it, when we become spiritually, emotionally, and physically tired, we begin to question ourselves. We get discouraged, we get ineffective. We begin to lose our joy. He doesn’t want us to face spiritual, emotional, and physical exhaustion. This is not the life that Christ has for us. He wants us to live a life of joy and He wants us to be able to get the rest that we need so that we can continue our work effectively and in a manner that brings glory to Him.