Mark well the pattern of creation. As an end, the Sabbath rest represents the pinnacle. Notice that we do not rest one day so we may work six days. It is the other way around: we work six days so we may rest One day. Jesus confirms this truth: “The Sabbath is made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”
God wants to give us rest. He himself is our Sabbath rest.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of Jesus as our once-and-for-all priest and our once-and-for-all sacrifice. Why do we tend to leave out that he is also our once-and-for-all Sabbath rest?
Jesus himself invites us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Notice that rest is a gift for which we may not work. As soon as we feel we have to earn it, we have stopped resting.
Yes, rest is granted. Our only part is to receive it and enter into it—or allow it to enter us. It seems too good to be true.
“What did you say he wants to give us?”
“Rest. That is all. Just rest.”
“That is all? But…”
“It seems so simple, I know. How can it be?”
“Yes, how can it be?”
“But it is, it is.”
I can hear the sighs of relief even now as this undeserved blessing sinks in to our souls. What a relief!
We live in a restless world. Restlessness insinuates itself into too many relationships. Our need to acquire material possessions creates restlessness. And our self-protective postures are bound up in restlessness.
St. Augustine was right: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You, God.”
The Psalmist knew this long before then: “Be still and know that I am God.”
When will we learn to rest, just rest?
On day five, God said his creation was good and he blessed it.
On day six, God said his creation was very good and he blessed it.
But day seven was even better: God made it holy.
Abraham Joshua Heschel points out that the Hebrew expression which we translate as “made holy” can also be translated as “married.” To make something holy is to marry it—to set it apart and cherish it and cling to it all at once.
For this reason, the Sabbath is often portrayed in Jewish literature in feminine terms. She is to be received as a bride. She is addressed as Queen Sabbath in the special day’s opening prayers and appropriately mourned in closing prayers. Her spirit thus infuses the other six days of the week, until a reunion can be enjoyed come next week. Sabbath thus represents both the origin and culmination of life. In many ways, she is the personification of shalom: no peace exists without Sabbath and Sabbath always brings peace.
“So, what does this have to do with me?”
Well…some of us need to simply let ourselves be loved by King Jesus because Queen Sabbath always attends him.
Others may need to simply learn the ways of Queen Sabbath for, in doing so, we grow more in love with the Lord Jesus.
In either case, my prayer is that each of us would learn to rest in the God who wants to give us rest, and that God would enable us to help others find the rest they so desperately need in a restless world.