MADE FOR REST
The fourth commandment tells us to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exod 20:8). There is perhaps no instruction from God we tend to reduce to some kind of rule or misunderstanding more than what the Bible calls the Sabbath. What am I allowed to do on the Sabbath? What am I not allowed to do? What day is it again? The truth is that God ceased from working on the seventh day of creation to highlight the freedom and life we find in Jesus Christ. God made us to live with him and for him forever, in a holy, blessed, and never-ending Sabbath Day. We begin to experience this the moment we believe in Jesus.
For the original recipients of this command, remembering the Sabbath day ensured that the rest of the world would see them as different, as living life for God first and foremost. Israel demonstrated they were God’s people by keeping the Sabbath. Unlike everyone else at the time, they would work only the first six days of the week and then rest from their labor on the seventh day. This demonstrated that God was a holy God who made a total claim on their lives, including their calendars and time. Keeping the Sabbath day was an act of worship and trust, making it clear that all of life, work, worship, and home, was ultimately for God.
Unfortunately, when you read the rest of the Old Testament you quickly discover that Israel didn’t keep the Sabbath like they were supposed to do. A passage like Ezekiel 20:10–26 tells us how not keeping the Sabbath was one of the primary reasons Israel experienced the judgment of God and went into exile. Even in the midst of his judgment, God always sends a message of grace and restoration. The people didn’t keep the Sabbath so God would bring Sabbath blessings to them. Passages like Isaiah 66 speak of a new time with a new king, when people from all the nations of the earth would find rest not just for one day a week, but for eternity.
When Jesus comes to this earth he demonstrates that he is this promised King who brings us the wonderful rest of life with God. He calls on us to come to him to find rest (Matt 11:28). He stakes his claim as Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:8), the one who brings the blessings of the Sabbath to all. He lives a perfect, holy, and blessed life as God before God, fulfilling the Sabbath command on our behalf, so that when we believe in him we can begin to experience that same kind of life (Heb 4:3). He enters God’s rest through his resurrection and shares that same resurrection life with us through faith and repentance (Rom 6:4–5).
So we obey this command today by following Jesus. When we stop our striving and toil, when we turn from our monotony and brokenness, and embrace the rest Jesus has achieved for us, we find the life for which we were made, the life for which we are now saved.