Scripture Reading: Exodus 31:12-18
How would it feel if your boss came to you this week and said, “Why don’t you take a day off this week. It’s no problem. You’ve worked hard, just go home and get some rest.” I think that would feel great!
The truth is, that’s what God says to us every week.
Even when God gives us a huge task to do, He still wants us to be sure to take a break every seven days, just like He wanted Moses and the Israelites to take a break when they had a huge task before them.
In the chapters leading up to Exodus 31, God has laid out in detail all the work that the Israelites would need to do to build their house of worship. The work would take many months to complete. But at the end of everything God called them to do, God closed with these words:
“For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested” (Exodus 31:15-18).
God Himself took a break at the end of a long, hard week of creating the universe, and we’ve been on a seven-day calendar ever since. Like so many of God’s laws, the penalty of death wasn’t meant to be mean, but to emphasize just how critical this law would be to our own well-being. God knows how we’re wired. He’s the One who wired us! He knows that we need a rest every seven days, and He’s thrilled to give it to us.
I grew up on a farm in Illinois, and my Dad worked as hard as anyone I knew. But not on Sunday. It didn’t matter if there was still work to be done or not, or whether it was raining or sunny, Dad took off―and we did, too. It was great! (As a side note: the Sabbath for Jews is from sunset on Friday through sunset on Saturday, whereas the early Christians began to celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday, the “Lord’s Day,” which is the day Jesus rose from the dead.)
One Sunday night, my wife Lana began to make a big lasagna dinner for some guests we were having over for dinner on Monday night. I didn’t think it was a very good way for her to spend her “day off.” But when we were talking about it with a friend a few weeks later, our friend asked Lana if making the lasagna dinner brought “rest to her soul.” Lana said it really did, because she was able to enjoy the whole process of making the dinner while I watched the kids.
For Lana, making that lasagna dinner was truly relaxing and restful. I had to wonder if Jesus wasn’t smiling at me and my legalistic view of the Sabbath. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day looked at what He was doing as breaking the Sabbath rules, too, like healing others, or allowing His disciples to gather food from the fields (Matthew 12:1-14). But rather than breaking the law, Jesus was revealing the heart of the law, a law which was designed to bring true “rest to our souls,” a kind of rest which Jesus still offers to all who come to Him as well:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
What about you? What would you do this week that would truly bring rest to your soul? God may be eagerly waiting and hoping you’ll do that very thing, too!
Want to learn more? You can watch a podcast with more discussion about this topic below.