Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work. Exodus 23:12
One Sunday, I stood by the gurgling stream that wends its way through our North London community, delighting in the beauty it brings to our otherwise built-up area. I felt myself relax as I watched the cascading water and listened to the birds chirping. I paused to give the Lord thanks for how He helps us to find rest for our souls.
The Lord instituted a time of Sabbath—a time for rest and renewal—for His people in the ancient Near East because He wanted them to thrive. As we see in the book of Exodus, He tells them to sow their fields for six years and rest on the seventh. So too with working six days and resting on the seventh. His way of life set apart the Israelites from other nations, for not only they but also the foreigners and slaves in their households were allowed to follow this pattern.
We can approach our day of rest with expectancy and creativity, welcoming the chance to worship and do something that feeds our souls, which will vary according to our preferences. Some will like to play games; some to garden; some to share a meal with friends and family; some to take an afternoon nap.
How can we rediscover the beauty and richness of setting apart a day to rest, if that’s missing from our lives?
Lord God, in You we find our rest. Thank You that You’ve created us both to work and to rest. Please help us to find the right rhythm for our lives.
In our faith and service, rest is as important as work.
The reality of our need of rest is reinforced by Jesus’s invitation in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus speaks of life’s burdens and His provisions for us (an easy yoke and a light burden), and that is good. Notice, however, that the rest He offers is not simply found in the cessation of activity or release from burdens. It is found in actively seeking His presence and His provision for our lives. Jesus speaks of rest “for [our] souls” which is far more than mere relaxing. It is the rest that replenishes us in the core of our being. This is the ultimate goal of Sabbath—a rest that recuperates the heart and restores the spirit. Bill Crowder