Rest. Sabbath. These are foreign words to too many busy, busy people.
To rest is really a matter of faith. To stop, to be still and to know that He is God is the whole point of the Sabbath.
Can we trust what the Lord has said? Do we believe in who He is, in His essence and character and goodness and faithfulness and mercy? He is present, ever-present, and always present. And He is holy. That is to say that God is Whole. He is One in the Persons of Father, Son, and Spirit. He needs nothing to make Himself complete.
This is what He wants us to believe and receive.
Sabbath was a choice that the Lord made for Himself in Genesis 1. He set aside the Seventh Day for appreciation and communion. On that Day, He saw all of Creation–the entire Universe, something that includes all that was brought into being by the Word of the One true God.
And how did He see all of this? As “good,” and then, “very good.” It was after the forming and enlivening of Man that He pronounced His creation as “very good.”
Moses was given the words of Genesis to write and read before the people of Israel to explain how they got to where they were. For more than four centuries, the people were in Egypt. At some point, a pharaoh of this empire became intimidated by their numbers. He and his government enslaved the Israelites and burdened them with hard labor.
Perhaps, the Egyptians thought they could wear the people down and thereby slow the growth of their population. Their plan failed.
Pharaoh turned next to genocide. He ruled that all of the male Israelites were to be cast in the Nile River. There, these boys would die and become food for the crocodiles, which just happened to represent Sobek the powerful idol related to the Nile River in the nation.
In the midst of this killing season, Moses was born and set into the river, albeit in a basket waterproofed with pitch, and floated toward the bathing beach of the royal family. The basket and the baby were rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and so Moses grew up in the palace of Egypt.
The God Who Can Be Known
We know the story of deliverance as it was led by this rescued baby boy. Oh, how the Israelites rejoiced when they were let go. Really these slaves were driven from the brick pits of their bondage following the progression of plagues that God rained down upon their masters. The coming of the death angel to the homes of this empire was too much for Egypt to bear. They recognized the hand that pressed heavily on them and could resist no more.
And so the Israelites–following the coup de grâce that was the opening and closing of the Red Sea, a miracle that swamped the chariot forces of pharaoh forever–headed into a new and living way before the living God who had chosen them.
The history of this great release set the stage for Israel to relate to Yahweh, the “I AM THAT I AM,” the God who draws us to know Him.
This takes us back to the reason for the Sabbath. God was delivering a command to take time as He took His time.God was delivering a command to take time as He took His time. Click To Tweet
Rest was something these Israelites never before enjoyed. Their days under pharaoh were spent working and working and working. Any kind of slowdown was answered with the lash of the taskmasters. This was all that they knew.
Once on their own, under God, the people of Israel still found it difficult to quiet themselves and to rest in their God. They were hard-hearted, stiff-necked, and stubborn. Their dissatisfaction reached boiling points every now and then. On a couple of occasions, Israelite rebels sought to assume control and lead the nation back to bondage in Egypt, where they always had leeks, onions, and garlic to munch.
Israel came to embody restlessness. They ignored the commandments. They refused to lay full claim to their land. Idolatrous peoples were allowed to hang around and led the tribes into sin. They demanded a king so they could be like all the other nations. At last, the people were invaded, captured, and relocated.
But the promise of God and His Sabbath continued and is still in effect today. And this promise is open to all who choose to believe in the work of Christ.
The New Day
In Hebrews 4, the writer emphasizes that it is a new day, an era of true rest because of what Jesus had done. The promise of Sabbath remains to the people of God, “for whoever has entered into God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His” (see Hebrews 4:9-10).
Again we see in this New Testament letter that the writer sought to address hearts on the verge of backsliding. The communication pointed to the forever Sabbath of salvation. There’s no work to be done. Any ritual offering made is ineffectual since Calvary covered the sin issue once and for all.
Be still and know Him. Rest and draw near in faith and confidence. Get to know better the One who knows you. Everything about us is “naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (see Hebrews 4:12-13).
We are seen and known by the Lord. May we allow His Word to cut like a scalpel and trim away the desires of our flesh, even the “good” religious desires must go for these pull us into self-righteousness and pride.
Are you having trouble with Sabbath and what it means? Look to Jesus. This is where the writer of Hebrews points as he closes this chapter.
“Let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). Rest in who you are in Christ and don’t let go of the thought that have been made holy in Him.
Recognize the Sabbath. Understand the reality of the work done by the Great High Priest, the Son of God. And what did this Son do in preparation for His position? He came to live among us as one of us. And then His resurrected self went through the clouds to assume a role of representation for us.
More than the Prophet who speaks for God and more than the King who rules for God, Christ is also now the High Priest who offered Himself in death for our sins. The High Priest of our salvation “passed through the heavens” to the glorious abode of the Lord, carrying with Him the Blood of the New Covenant.
He now stands as our Advocate, the Risen One who knows all about what it means to be a human in our wrestling against the world, the flesh, and the devil: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
The most significant part of all of this is that we have an open channel to Him and the throne upon which He sits. This is the most precious element about the rest that He provides. He welcomes us to come to Him in our restlessness. In our need for peace, there is a place to make our peace.
We can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15).
Feeling Anxious? Weary? Defeated? Go to Him and to His throne. Rest in His mercy.
Enjoy the Sabbath that is the gift of grace. There’s nothing more that we can do for Jesus did it all.