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NIV is used unless otherwise noted.

Rest: Day 3

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…on it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.   Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Here is probably the least understood--example of rest in Scripture, the Sabbath rest of Israel. When the rabbis got hold of fourth commandment, it morphed into a list of “don’ts”: Don’t cook, don’t work, don’t travel. Then, in the Talmudic commentaries, each prohibition splintered into a thousand pieces, each with a thousand legalistic edges. When Jesus’ disciples picked and ate wheat from the grainfields on a Sabbath, the Pharisees were indignant. In reply, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).

There are four ways that the Sabbath-rest was “made for man”; four great purposes God intended to be woven into the fabric of His people through its observance; four great benefits that would come to His covenant people their obedience to it.

First, it was a replication of the rhythm through which God created the universe. As He worked for six days, then rested, so would they. As His labors would find purpose and completion in cessation, so would theirs.

Second, it was a reminder of their covenant relationship with God that was initiated and maintained unilaterally by Him (Gen. 15:12). On the Sabbath, they were to meditate on His proven provision and special care for them, extended even to their servants and livestock. What a witness to their unbelieving neighbors.   

Third, it gave a lesson in physical and mental rest and renewal. Man was made a whole person and, through the rest, God communicated His knowledge of and concern for the physical health and well-being of His people.

Fourth, it was to serve as a reminder of the great event of their nation, the exodus from Egypt. They were enslaved by mightiest nation on earth, yet God rescued them. Their grumblings and faithlessness didn’t negate the reality of their deliverance. How could they not rest in Him?

Nancy S.

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