God Sanctified and Blessed the Sabbath Day
by Jennifer Roach
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Rest is holy.
Around New Year’s many people ponder on their lives and think of ways they can become better, holier, and happier. Some want to lose weigh, others want to read the scriptures more consistently, still others want to improve their relationships. But I bet you will find few people who say they want to get better at resting.
What IS Sabbath rest anyway?
If you ask a primary child about what it means to rest on the Sabbath day they might tell you about how the family attends church, activities are limited, no shopping is done, and the family tries to spend more time together. All good things, but not always restful things.
But when we see Heavenly Father on the first Sabbath Day he is just…resting. A strange practice to our perfectionistic minds. And perhaps we fall into 2 camps. On one side are the folks who believe they are too busy to actually rest. On the other side are folks who rest in a legalistic way. Neither sounds very appealing.
In his book, Sabbath author Dan Allender says, “Sabbath is not about time off or a break in routine. It is not a mini vacation to give us a respite so we are better prepared to go back to work. The Sabbath is far more than a diversion; it is meant to be an encounter with God’s delight.”
The Hebrew word for rest is menuchah and if you trace it through the Old Testament you can see that it is not some modern conception of rest like taking a nap or having a pleasant day in the sun. It is something much more.
In Numbers 10 we see the Israelites walking in the desert and learn that when the people were to set out Moses would say, ““Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” And when it was time to rest he would say, “Return Lord to the countless thousands of Israel.” And in this we see a pattern – God goes forth to scatter enemies, and then comes back to be with the people. And we too are asked to do this. The rest is not just leisure, it is so that we can rise up again and go fight the enemies.
In Jeremiah 45 rest is to be relief from sorrow. Jeremiah writes “Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.” And sometimes this is the kind of rest that is needed, a rest from the difficulties. While it is tempting to find relief from pain in mindless activities that may masquerade as rest, God is calling us to true rest from pain ultimately through the atonement. Lounging on the couch for the afternoon watching Netflix may sound restful, and in some ways it is, but it is not the kind of rest that a soul filled with pain actually needs. Sometimes rest is a very active struggle toward finding God’s path toward the atonement and how to apply it in our lives.
All through Psalms we see the idea of rest being something humans long for, something God wants to provide. In Ruth we see the same Hebrew word used when she obtains the rest and security through marriage. And in Isaiah God describes his resting place as glorious (Is 11:10).
True Rest Looks Back – and Ahead
A true Sabbath rest is supposed to remind humankind of our days in Eden and to help us look ahead to our days of living in God’s glory. Allender states, “The Sabbath is a feast day that remembers our leisure in Eden and anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God.”
On your next Sabbath Day see if you can find ways to view Sabbath as a remembering of Eden and a looking forward to Heaven and as a celebration of Heavenly Father’s goodness to us.
More Come, Follow Me resources here.
Jennifer Roach earned a Master of Divinity from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and a Master of Counseling from Argosy University. Before her conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she was an ordained minister in the Anglican church. Her own experience of sexual abuse from a pastor during her teen years led her to care deeply about issues of abuse in faith communities.