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.

Hebrews 4: 9, 10

 

These are not restful times, and most people are not very comfortable in entering into rest, either. The days in which we live are filled with activity and with agitation. These forces operate somewhat like the various streams of high velocity water that crash together from many directions to form the turbulence of a section of white water rapids. This sort of multi-vector swirling violence can overwhelm and drown anyone who gets caught in it. Even skilled boaters can be overcome in a singular careless moment. The forces that are at work in our world can do the same. On top of that, many people, even people who know God, have become hyper-vigilant due to the concerns and the fears that are surrounding our hearts and minds.

 

However, Christ seems to desire for His people to live differently from all of this. He calls to us to enter into a form of rest that is a gift from God to the people of this war torn land. The vacation from the conflict that Christ directs us toward is different from the sort of hiatus from combat that soldiers sometimes enjoy, for Christ’s rest is not found in disengagement or in temporary insulation from the stressors of this world. Instead, it is achieved through the realization of the ultimate and final truth of the cross of Jesus. The ability of this world to bring about true harm to people was nailed to that cross, and nothing that Satan and his forces of evil can bring to bear upon Christ’s people can actually damage the part of us that has eternal significance.

 

The rest that we can accept from Christ’s sacrifice is His gift to us. Entering fully into that rest is a form of service that we can render in return. Herein lies the difference from the sort of vacations that people usually plan for themselves and the form that resting in Christ takes for His people. Our vacations are generally times during which we seek to escape from engagement with our world. They are filled with activities that take our minds off of what occupies them during the rest of our days. The Sabbath rest that Christ gives to us is fully scheduled with engagement in our world. It provides the sort of peace that frees our hearts and our minds to engage in fierce and fearless love for others and that establishes worship as the rhythm of our days.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize wit our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4: 15

 

There are pressures and situations that take us outside of God’s will. Every person is born into this life with disobedience to God as our orientation; so, believing, thinking, and acting in ways that God calls sinful is our natural manner and certain approach to life. None of us get through our days without traveling along this devious path that leads away from God’s truth. Every human being fails to love absolutely and to give all for the sake of that love. Each of us compromises and is compromised in little and in great ways as we prosecute our journey through this world.

 

These statements present a bleak picture of humanity. Well, life can be truly bleak; however, that is not the way that God says that He desires for us to live. The Father wants us to join with Him in a life that is characterized by the experience of peace in our souls. He calls to all people to turn away from ourselves and to Him. This all begins with the acceptance of Christ as our Savior, and it continues with submission to Christ as Lord over all. There is no aspect of creation that is not under His authority, and there is no portion of our lives in which He does not have the right to reign supreme.

 

In the Father’s perfect plan, He established Christ as the high priest over all of creation. In this role as high priest Christ has the authority to act as judge and adjudicator of our righteousness. He has been well prepared for this position in that Jesus was truly tempted by all that we experience. Yet, He did not give in to any of the temptation. He remained true to His absolute trust in the Father and to a response to the world’s calling that is based upon faith. We can come before Christ with our brokenness and sinful hearts fully exposed. With total confidence we can open up the darkest corners of our lives to the light of His love. So, it is in the presence of God’s infinite grace that we can enter into the Sabbath rest that is the Father’s will and desire for our hearts and minds.

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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner within your gates.

Exodus 20: 9

 

In the Unites States this is the official holiday that is called Labor Day. For most of us it marks the practical end of summer. We set many of the cycles of life around this point in the calendar. The traditional start of the school year is at about this time, organizations and clubs that have taken a summer break start meeting again, our churches start engaging in a full slate of ministry activities and meetings, and work schedules frequently become more intense now. The way that a date on the calendar which designates a holiday that is little observed in its original intent or truly understood has such a large impact on our lives is actually rather interesting. We people like to frame our lives with tangible events that bring order and organization to them. Our minds embrace the cycles and rhythms that create this comfortable structure.

 

It seems to me that God may have had order and structure in mind when He set out the command to enter into a regular time of Sabbath rest as well. What exactly God meant by working six days and resting one is not the topic that is on my mind. It seems to me that the Lord intends for our lives to be led and shaped by His Spirit and His Word and for all of life to be lived within the real and tangible provision of His grace. What I do think is that God intends for us to develop and to maintain regular patterns in our lives where we purposefully set aside the routines of work in order to focus all of our energy and attention on Him. Most of us, myself certainly included, do not stop, contemplate, meditate, pray, and listen to God for any real and meaningful portion of our lives. Even when we engage in regular bible reading, times of prayer and personal engagement with God, we seldom are truly at rest in a manner that opens up our deepest places to the Lord’s restorative touch.

 

God’s fatherly aspiration for each of us is that we would come to know Him as well as He already knows us. There is an intimacy in His desire that operates to bridge the gulf that we have created between ourselves and our Creator. In this light, resting from our labor means that we enter into a time of deep trust in which faith in the totality of who God is becomes our primary driving force. True Sabbath rest is found as we set aside ourselves with our agendas and plans and turn our lives over to God and to His agenda. The deep and total restoration that Christ desires to work in us is found as we surrender to Him. Christ speaks to us out of His Word and from the depths of our silence. He brings refreshment and restoration to our over worked and damaged hearts. The Lord provides clarity of purpose for our next cycle of work, and He reenergizes our bodies and our souls for that effort. A true Labor Day holiday is found on a regular basis in these periods of surrender to God’s Sabbath rest.