Devotional Series: Unwrapping God’s Gift of Rest

Calling the Sabbath a Delight

Sometimes we think of sabbath keeping as a burden, as something demanded of people by a demanding God. Through the prophet Isaiah, God offers a different perspective. The sabbath is not meant to be a burden, but a delight. When we learn to delight in sabbath, we are able also to delight in the Lord.

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God’s Call and Promise to All People

Biblical passages like Isaiah 56 show us that the gift of sabbath is not something God intends only for the Jewish people. Though it is central to their particular covenant with the Lord, sabbath is something God intends for all human beings. Moreover, Isaiah 56 adds something that we have not seen before, the connection between sabbath-keeping and happiness or joy (56:2, 7).

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When God Hates Our Sabbaths

Sabbath matters to God, to be sure. But it is only part of what it means for us to live in right relationship with God and people. For God to be honored in our resting, we must also seek God’s kingdom and justice in all that we do.

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A man walking through a warehouse

Using Your Authority to Help Others to Rest

Scripture makes it clear that regular rest isn’t only for the privileged and powerful. God wants all people to experience sabbath. Those of us with authority and influence have the chance – indeed, the obligation – to make sure others in our lives have the opportunity to rest well. In this way we embody God’s grace and justice.

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The stained pants legs and work boots of a blue-collar worker

Sabbath and Slavery

In Deuteronomy 5 we come upon a significant connection between sabbath and slavery. Through Moses, God makes it clear that the sabbath is to be for all people, including slaves. It is not just a privilege for the elite and the powerful. Moreover, God’s people are to keep the sabbath in remembrance of how God saved them from slavery in Egypt. For us, remembering how God has saved us from sin and death motivates us to receive God’s gift of sabbath and to make sure those who work for us are free to rest as well. 

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Women preparing sandwiches at a Five Guys restaurant

Who Gets to Rest from Working?

In Exodus 20, God says that sabbath rest is for everyone, including “you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.” Each of us must take seriously the implications of this commandment for ourselves. And if we have authority over others in the workplace, we must make sure they have the opportunity to rest and refresh on a regular basis.

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An older couple sitting on a bench overlooking a beach

The Command to Work and Rest

The way we experience work and rest will vary with our situation and season in life. But no matter our context or age, we will honor God’s design and desire if we live according to a faithful and wise pattern of work and rest. 

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A father and child playing at the beach

The First “Holiday”

The word “holiday” comes from the older English phrase, “holy day.” The first holiday, therefore, was the day when God stopped working and “made holy” the seventh day. Scripture says we are to keep the sabbath holy in response to and in imitation of what God did on the seventh day. We keep the sabbath holy by ceasing from work and receiving God’s gift of rest. 

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Finishing Your Work by Resting

If you are not quite sure what to do on a day of rest from work, God’s example of finishing the work by resting offers pertinent guidance. Find a time when you are resting to reflect on the work you have done recently. Take a delight in its goodness. Recognize ways in which your work is also part of a fallen world. Offer your work to the Lord in worship. Remember that God is sovereign even over your work.

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Why Did God Rest?

According to Genesis 2:1-3, on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Genesis doesn’t tell us exactly why God rested. But the fact that God also blessed and hallowed the seventh day strongly suggests that God rested for our benefit. God wanted us to know just how important rest is for our lives. 

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Unexpected and Foundational Rest

After creating the universe in six days, God set aside a day for rest. God’s action on the seventh day—or, better yet, God’s decision to cease working—is foundational for our understanding and practice of rest. If God rested, then surely those of us created in God’s image should also rest. But God’s example creates a compelling case for the importance and even the necessity of rest. 

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A birthday gift wrapped in bright pink paper

Unwrapping the Gift of Sabbath

Jesus said that the sabbath “was made for humankind.” God created the sabbath as a gift for us. Some of us have unwrapped this gift and delight in it. Others of us have still to unwrap it. Scripture will show us how to embrace the sabbath for God’s glory and our good. 

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A hammock at sunset time

Is This a Season for Rest?

The New Testament offers us freedom when it comes to things like the foods we eat or the days set apart for rest. Yet this freedom is not freedom from rest . . . regular, intentional, delightful, restorative, worshipful rest. God created us as beings who need rest. God’s directives in Scripture call us to rest. And God’s own example dramatically underscores these instructions. Rest is a gift from God for our well-being as well as God’s glory. 

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