Sunday, October 28, 2007


By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your ass may have rest, and the son of your bondmaid, and the alien, may be refreshed ... in ploughing time and in harvest you shall rest.

Take heed for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day. You turn your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your business on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of Yahweh honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or pursuing your own callings, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in Yahweh, and will make you ride upon the heights of the earth.

'The Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'

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 rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in their own mind.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you... with regard a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no-one will fall...

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.'

(Genesis 2:2-3, NIV; Exodus 23:12, RSV; Exodus 34:21, RSV; Jeremiah 17:21ff, RSV; Isaiah 58:13-14, RSV; Mark 2:27-28, NIV; Matthew 11:28-30, NIV; Romans 14:5-6, NIV; Colossians 2:16-17, NIV; Hebrews 4:9-11, NIV; Revelation 14:13, NIV)

The Sabbath is, in a sense, a peep-hole into eternity, a glimpse of the good times God has in store for us.

It's a day to let our hair down in honour of God -- a day of sheer surprise. As Andreasen says, 'it's like a bouquet of flowers when there is no anniversary, birthday or Mother's Day.'

It's a day of daring non-doing, when we put a distance between ourselves and our deeds, a day to let the washing wait and leave the phone off the hook. A day of gracious living, a day when we remind ourselves that we rest not on our own laurels but on Christ's, because Jesus is our Sabbath: our relationship with him is our rest.

Some Christians may give practical expression to this one day a week: usually Sunday. Others think it's Saturday. Pastors usually have Monday. Some have parts of every day. Whatever we do, Paul says in Romans 14:5-10 and Colossians 2:16-17 that we're free to do so as long as we remind ourselves of our relationship with Christ.

The Old Testament stresses the role of remembering God's deeds so that like a rower we move forward towards the future by facing backwards and getting our bearings. Times to remember function like a traffic island in the rush of time.

A sabbatical style of life is also a standing protest against the tyranny of things. It can come so far but no further. Five or six days we turn time into things. On the seventh there is a reservation for relationships. Then the rich don't get richer and the poor, poorer. Everyone is theoretically equal in time. The Professor and the student, the boss and the worker can share the same beach or park bench. The Sabbath keeps us in step with [he slow coaches, the old, the handicapped, the children. We can all meet on the level of the lowest common denominator. This is very much in line with the Sabbath's concern for the sojourner, and even the animals and the earth.

The Sabbath -- our rest in Christ -- is both an historical hangover from paradise and a preview of heaven. It is an oasis in the desert of our days, an oasis for time with God, others and ourselves.

The work which has been laid upon man is not his goal. His goal is the eternal rest which has been suggested in the rest of the seventh day.

Claus Westermann, Creation

It is remarkable that the Sabbath, in the Old Testament, is not understood as the day on which some special service of worship is held. We hear nothing of any special religious practices from which the special importance of the Sabbath day might be derived. No, the Sabbath day is the day of rest; for rest it has been appointed and for nothing else... We moderns may well find strange the idea that God can be honoured simply by doing no work. But our ancestors regarded work not as something holy in itself, but rather as something that can set up a wall of separation between even God and humans. We sometimes feel that the duty to work has unchallenged sovereignty over humans; but this rest that is imposed upon us from without denies the exclusive claim that work would sometimes make... But the Sabbath could also be described as the normal day... 'Upon the whole course of the world's history rests like a benediction God's repose of the seventh day of creation, which knows no evening,' says one modern writer. But if we no longer pay attention to this rest, our life falls victim to all manner of slavery.

Gerhard von Rad, Moses

Our first working day will begin only after God's day of rest, with its contemplation of the fullness of creation. Early Christianity showed theological wisdom in decreeing that the first day of the week was to be the day of rest instead of the seventh. For liberated humans who are the receivers of God's gifts, the week does not end with the day of rest; it begins with it. The working days can then take on rather more of the character of play -- even the character of protest against the principle of judging performance by results and against the demand for those results. What can we do more in our work than to see to it that whatever the Creator has prepared for us is rightly harvested and rightly used -- is not spoiled, but is protected from being ruined by our misuse? Without the focus on the work that God has already completed, we cannot find a right relationship either to our own work or to rest.

Was it not precisely this that early Christianity grasped when it associated the day of rest with the resurrection of Jesus Christ? No power, not even the power of death, can conquer our liberator any longer. Because of Jesus' work of redemption, no pressure to produce results is now to torment us, no transgressions are to rise up to accuse us, not even the imperfections and incompletions of a past week.

Hans Walter Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament

Listen to Spurgeon: 'Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body... If we do not rest, we shall break down. Even the earth must lie fallow and have her Sabbaths, and so must we.' Jesus said: 'Come apart and rest awhile.' (If you don't rest awhile, you'll soon come apart!).

Arch Hart, Grid Magazine

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space... It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation.

The Sabbath is an example of the world to come.

Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath

I heard the voice of Jesus say: Come unto Me and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast!

I came to Jesus as I was, Weary, and worn, and sad; I found in Him a resting-place, And He has made me glad.

Horatius Bonar, The Voice of Jesus

0 Sabbath rest by Galilee! 0 calm of hills above, where Jesus knelt to share with thee the silence of eternity, interpreted by love.

John Greenleaf Whittier

My spirit 1ongeth for thee Within my troubled breast; Although I be unworthy Of so divine a Guest. Of so divine a Guest, Unworthy though I be; Yet has my heart no rest, Unless it come from thee. Unless it come from thee, In vain I look around; In all that I can see, No rest is to be found. No rest is to be found, But in thy blessed love; O, let my wish be crowned, And send it from above.

John Byrom, My Spirit Longeth for Thee

The Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush; he makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals, he provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity.

He leads me in the way of efficiency, through calmness of mind; and his guidance is peace.

Even though I have a great many things to accomplish eachay I will not fret, for his presence is here.

His timelessness, his all-importance will keep me in balance. He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of activity, by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquillity; my cup of joyous energy overflows.

Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours and I shall walk in the pace of my Lord, and dwell in his house for ever.

Toki Miyashina, Psalm 23 For Busy People

In this era of conflicts and mountainous problems, we know what it is to labour and be heavy laden. You have called us to go out into all the world and immerse all nations in the gospel of divine love. We have tried, Lord, and have become tattered and tired, despondent, even a bit cynical. We, the heavy-laden, come to you, Lord, needing your rest. As the native hen nests in the clumps of tussocks at the edge of quiet waters; so give us a nesting place in the quiet places of your kingdom, that our hope may be renewed as your mothering Spirit broods over us, protecting us through every dark night of the soul, until morning comes again and we are renewed -- as if born again -to learn from you the holy way that leads to life for all humanity.

Bruce Prewer, Australian Prayers

Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms and give me rest, simple quiet rest. Do I ask too much too soon? I should not worry about that. You will let me know. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Henri Nouwen, in Lion Book of Famous Prayers

Carpenter and easy yoke-maker, we confess that we are restless, chafing under yokes of our making... we admit that like Pharisees we add burdens to the backs of others, sometimes deliberately, sometimes unwittingly... sometimes we carry chips on our shoulders that rub against your yoke and rub other people up the wrong way... Lord forgive us, help us to be and become more like you, release us from feeling we always have to do, and grant us the grace to rest in our relationship with you.

Unhurried God, help us to take time to remember you as we remember the Sabbath day, help us to remember what Eden was like, and grant us a preview of what Paradise will be. On our days off, on our days of rest, in all our days, grant us a glimmer of your glorious New World. Amen.

A Benediction

Now, may the Father who works and rests (and invites us to join him in his work and in his rest), the Son who cried, 'It is finished' and the Spirit who completes his work in us maintain a right rhythm of work and rest in us this day and evermore. Amen.

d Croucher ed., Still Waters Deep Waters (Albratross/Lion), chapter 6

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