Monday, September 5, 2016

Why Did God Rest: Managing your Time through the Sabbath

At 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church, I am beginning to lead a new Sunday School class on managing our time through the Sabbath. Each week I’ll be posting a summary of the class discussion for people who were unable to attend.

There are five goals for the class: 
     1. To know why God rested.
     2. To know how legalism and Antinomianism creeps into our Sabbath.
     3. To process “redeeming the time” through keeping the Sabbath.
     4. To perceive the Sabbath as the reference point for how we use our time.
     5. To prepare our hearts and minds for worship.

This week we looked at, “why God rested on the Sabbath” and how that relates to our daily lives.

Your position on the Sabbath is inevitable. Automatically we decide how to use our time on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to us by God and inevitably we use it. In her book, Receiving the Day, Dorothy C. Bass quotes sociologist Edward T. Hall:
Time talks… It speaks more plainly then words. The message it conveys comes through loud and clear. Because it is manipulated less consciously, it is subject to less distortion than the spoken language. It can shout the truth where words lie. (xi)
Similar to money, how we spend our times says a lot about who we are and what we value.

Also, God wants us to use our timely wise, as Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (5:15-16) The King James phrases it as as “redeeming the time.” We all are given a certain amount of time in our lives and some day, like the servants in Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-20), we will have to answer for how we have spent our time.

Why did God Rest? 

God commands all people to keep the Sabbath day holy. This command stems from when God created the world, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3) But this raises an interesting question, God has no need to rest, so why did God rest?

Joseph Pipa in his book, The Lord’s Day (28-31) offers three reasons for why God rested:

1. To Declare his Work as Creator was Completed

All the work that God had done in the first six days was complete, and so, God came to the seventh day with no additional work that needed to be done. Certainly, God had work. Jesus says in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” Resting on the Sabbath does not mean the mere ceasing of all work.

2. To Express Delight in Creation

God enjoyed the Sabbath. It was a day of refreshment for him. All His weekly work was complete and He was able to relish in it Exodus 31:17 goes as far to say that God was “refreshed.”

3. To Picture the Rest He Provides for Humanity

There is an eternal rest for all of humanity found in Christ Jesus. The writer of Hebrews says, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:10) Christ’s resurrection, which we celebrate on the first day of the week, is not the end or fulfilment but is the beginning of life eternal, of the abundant blessed rest in Jesus. Sunday is a taste of the saints’ experience in heaven.

In light of these ideas about why God rested on the seventh day, what does this say about us and the Sabbath?

How God's Rest Relates to Us

1. Come to the Sabbath with your Work Completed

It important to recognize that this is not a command of Scripture but a sign of what is going on in our lives. A sign is a mark or signal of the presence of something else.

When you find yourself at the end of the week wishing you could work on the Sabbath then you have a sign of something deeper going on in your heart. It is a sign that something is beginning to take the place of God in your life. That your desires are being turned away from God and to something that God created. The Sabbath is a good litmus test to see what idols we have in our lives.

2. Enjoy the Day

Judith Shulevitz in her article "Bringing Back the Sabbath:
Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction. 
A part of having “rules” about Sabbath keeping comes from a desire of being able to enjoy a day of rest and refreshment. In Deuteronomy, God reminds the Israelites that when they were enslaved in Egypt, they had no rest. The Sabbath was given to them to remind them that “God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” Because they were free from slavery, God wanted them to work hard at creating a day of rest.

It takes work to enjoy the Sabbath. You have to be mindful that what you commit to doing on Monday influences whether you’ll come to Saturday night ready for a day of rest. Without careful prep, it is difficult to rest.

3. Remember What the LORD has Done

Christ calls “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He is saying that those who are burdened with their sin can come to Him and he will ease their burden. The Sabbath is a special day to remember what Christ has done and then to live it out in our lives. We can take off the toil of work and relish in what Christ has done.


God calls all people to rest. It is a day he intended to be full of rest and relief. Yet, to get to this point of resting, it takes work during the week to prepare for the Sabbath. Next week we’ll be looking at the purpose for the Sabbath in the Old Testament.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What are we to remember specifically on the Sabbath day? Also, what are practical consequences for how we are to go about remembering
  2. If an infinite being would rest, why can’t you? 
  3. Do work, hobbies and activities during the week hurt your ability to rest on the Sabbath, why? 

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