Origins of… Rest

Genesis 2:1-3

Whilst these verses appear at the start of chapter 2, they belong with chapter 1 and are the culmination of the events described in that chapter. Having made the heavens and the earth, and created humans in his image with a divine mandate to work, God then rested from his work of creation and enjoyed what he had made.

This is significant because it tells us something about God. It is also significant because the Bible frequently refers back to God’s rest as a pattern for how humans are designed to function. The idea of Sabbath is hard wired into humanity, and when we ignore this and adopt a pattern of all work and no rest, we do not function as we should and it often leads to burnout. We suffer, those around us suffer, even our work suffers.

This sermon is firstly a call to see the importance of rest and to build in healthy practices. Secondly it explores what Sabbath means. Biblical rest is more than simply stopping working (although it is not less than that), but true Sabbath rest is found in the presence of God himself.

Some Key Points:

  • Rest is something God himself does. Taking time to enjoy his relationship with his creation is a priority for him.
  • God chooses to bless and consecrate the seventh day. This is a gift that he has given to humanity to rest from work and to enjoy time with him.
  • In Old Testament times, this was rigidly enforced as the seventh day (‘The Sabbath’). The New Covenant is much less prescriptive over a particular day, though the principle of taking days off work for rest and worship is still important.

Following the Threads:

  • Exodus 20:8-11 is part of the Ten Commandments, where keeping the Sabbath is instructed, with God’s own rest after creation being given as the reason for this command.
  • Mark 2:23-28 is one of many passages in the gospels where there was contention between Jesus and the Pharisees around the Sabbath. The Pharisees took a legalistic stance, seeing the Sabbath as an obligation on people, whereas Jesus saw it as a gift from God that was designed for our benefit.
  • Matthew 11:28-30 is a promise of rest to all who are weary and heavy-laden. This rest is found in Christ himself. Much more than simply getting a correct work/life balance, true rest for our souls is only found in relationship with Jesus. When we do take time off work, the purpose is much more than binge-watching TV – it is drawing close to the Lord and finding rest in him!
  • Hebrews 4:1-11 speaks of a Sabbath rest to come. Our earthly rest is good, but it is just a shadow of the promised rest that we will have in the New Creation, where work will no longer be toil and where we will be forever delighting in the presence of the Lord.

Potential Applications:

  • Sabbath as Rest – A discussion of the working patterns we have (remembering that work is much more than just our paid employment) and a challenge of how much time we take off. If even God can rest from his work, then we should have the humility to do so too.
  • Sabbath as Worship – In both the Old and New Testaments, the Sabbath is seen as more than simply a day of not-working, but it was a day to devote to worship. There is a challenge to build unhurried times of seeking God into our routines – on a daily, weekly and yearly basis (in different forms) and a promise that as we do so and draw close to God, then he will draw close to us.
  • Sabbath as Hope – For many who are weary and tired in life, whether that be physically, emotionally or spiritually, the promise of rest in Jesus is exactly what they need. There is an offer of rest right now and into eternity. This would be a great moment to invite people to take up his offer that as they come to him they will find rest for their souls.