We are exhausted and it’s an epidemic problem across North American churches. The antidote to the sub-human life of exhaustion is resting and being re-created by God into a new people who experience true recreation through trusting, stopping, and enjoying. Let’s walk through some of the story line Bible to see what trusting, stopping, and enjoying look like for God’s people as they live an entirely different kind of life.
Trust God: Rest in Genesis
Genesis 1:1 God reveals himself as all-power Creator. As the theologians put it, God is omnipotent, which means he has unlimited power. There is nothing God cannot do or create. He has no limits. How different this God is than you and me. God has given us value and life as image bearers, yet we are a far cry from being the all-powerful God. We have inherent limitations; God is the unlimited Creator, we are the limited created. But if God is so above us and he is omnipotent, why does God rest in Genesis 2:1-3?
God’s rest on the seventh day of creation is God speaking on our level. This is not a contradiction in God’s power, but rather a condescension; God stooping to our level, speaking to us in words we can understand, and showing us that we were created for rest. God built rhythms of rest into the fabric of creation and this includes you and me, the masterpiece of his creation. God does not want us to be God, even though our flesh urges us to this desire. Our flesh makes us crazy, begging the world to revolve around us in a rest-less hurricane. Yet when the world starts revolving around us just a little (re: celebrities, politicians, and even celebrity pastors, etc.) we tend to fall apart. God wants us to trust him by resting in him precisely because we are not God.
Rest is our opportunity to say to God, “I trust you with my whole life.” Rest is our opportunity to acknowledge we have limitations but God does not. Rest is our opportunity to ground our hope in who God is, rather than what we do. Rest is our opportunity to proclaim with our lives that God is the good, wise, gracious and all-powerful creator and sustainer of all, and we are simply not.
Stop Working: Creation to Exodus
Fast forward seventy chapters from creation into the book of Exodus. In chapter 20 of Exodus, Moses is summoned to the Mount Sinai Book Store to pick up his first edition copy of the Ten Commandments. God outlines for Moses how the Israelites are to live with God in their midst, discussing everything from portions and priests to tithes and tabernacles. God finishes this meeting by commanding Israel to keep the Sabbath as a sign forever that he made the earth in six days and rested on the seventh. The seventh day of creation is not simply an invitation to rest, it also a declaration that we were created for rest. This means that rest is a fundamental aspect of being human, like eating or even breathing. It’s not something extra, nor burden nor a luxury for the elite. Flip a few books to the right and we see the same story with a slight twist in Deuteronomy 5. When he’s reading the Ten Commandments to Israel, Moses calls the people to spend the seventh day remembering that they were once slaves in Egypt but that God saved them and now commands them to rest. These two accounts show us that not only were we created to rest, but we were also redeemed to rest.
You and I were created to rest with God on the seventh day. Our sin caused us to be expelled from life with God. Instead of living in cycles of rest, we now live in cycles of rush. The Exodus story shows how God single handedly redeems us out of the rush of slavery we had led ourselves into by picking us up, and placing us back into rhythms of rest with God. Rest begins with trusting God and then stopping our works. Refusal to rest is a return to slavery and a fruitless rebellion. The call of the Sabbath is a call to stop.
Created to Rest
Redeemed to Rest
|“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)||“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)|
Enjoy Life: Feasts and Celebrations in Leviticus
Many of us struggle with stopping because we don’t know what to do once we have stopped. I have talked to countless men who fear retirement not because they love their job but because they simply do not know what to do once they have stopped working. Without knowing rest, we simply feel lost without work. God wants us to trust and stop in order to enjoy. In Leviticus 23, God commands Israel to follow SEVEN yearly feasts. There are two purposes in all of these feasts. The first is to set apart Israel from the rest of the world by having them live an entirely different kind of life and the second is to express God’s relationship to his people. Each of the feasts is grounded in 23:3: “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.” These feasts are filled with images of joyful voices, festive music and dancing, and abundant food. They are not simply parties, but celebrations of God’s goodness toward his people. These feasts provide an opportunity to celebrate with one another by remembering the Lord and the wonderful things he has done. Feasting to God and celebrating with God is a part rest. God calls us to rest by enjoying him and so that we might, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” One author rightly points out that the Sabbath is, “not a day off, but a day of celebration and delight.”
The great call of scripture is to be reconciled to God so that we might enjoy him forever. Our busyness causes our focus to narrow and our anxieties to grow. Our busyness makes it hard to see God and when we can’t see him, we forget that he is beautiful. Urs von Balthasar (a theologian no one has ever heard of) once wrote, “God’s beauty is God’s power to attract, to give pleasure, to create desire, to awaken joy and wonder.” When we trust God and stop our compulsive working, we can begin to see the beauty of God. Seeing the beauty of God frees us to from the slavery of busyness, free from the need to create our own futures. Seeing the beauty of God will inevitably lead us to pure, unadulterated delight. God’s call to rest is a call to trust, stop, and ultimately enjoy.
Learning to rest like this is a process, and it isn’t necessarily an easy one. Trusting, stopping, and enjoying are interdependent movements. Try not to get too hung up on the order. Humanity has made a mess of rest, though, and it was not enough for God to simply tell us what to do to fix our mess. He had to come and show us what to do. Remember that, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We were not only created for rest, but we were redeemed for rest. Jesus came because we were helpless. We would have never achieved the rest we were made for had he not come and freed us from sin. There is no pressure to get this right because Jesus has already declared us right through his life, death, and resurrection. Rest is not a requirement we meet to please God. It is instead an invitation we are responding to as people who are already safe, loved, and accepted as a result of God’s grace. So take a deep breath and let’s dive back in to trusting, stopping, and enjoying.
We are in a season here at Sojourn where the last Sunday of each month we are intentionally “Taking Back Sunday” by gathering, unplugging, feasting, connect with one another, and inviting others not just to church, but into a whole new way of life with God. Rest is a huge part of this and we invite you to continue following this blog series as we walk through what it means to rest biblically.
 Exodus 31:13-17
 1. The Sabbath (1-3) 2. The Feast of Passover (4-5) 3. The Feast of Unleavened Bread (6-8) 4. The Feast of Firstfruits (9-14) 5. The feast of Weeks (15-21) 6. The feast of Trumpets (23-25) 7. The Feast of Tabernacles (33-44)
 Leland Ryen, ed., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 278.
 Psalm 34:8
 Dan Allender, Sabbath, 12.
 De Gruchy, Christianity, Art, and Transformation, 111.
 Marva Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, 28.
 2 Corinthians 5:21