I love rest. So much so that I am heading to the white sandy beaches of Florida for a few days next week. Our culture loves rest too. Although Americans tend to take less vacation days than other cultures, we also love our rest. We trumpet in the weekends with pomp and circumstance when they arrive and dread the evil Monday morning as much. Is it because we rarely feel completely rested?
Growing up in church there was a word that we used for rest: Sabbath. I love the word “Sabbath” mostly because it means “rest.” The Old Testament calls for a Sabbath day where you were to honor the Lord. God initiated “Sabbath” in the very first story of the Bible resting after completing creation. Then in Leviticus, God charges his people, the Israelites, to take a Sabbath each week:
There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord. (Lev.23:3)
So Israel obeyed and celebrated Sabbath on Saturday. That was day they did not work, but rested, holding a holy assembly to the Lord. And because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, we Christians celebrate our “Sabbath” on Sunday.
My dad is a pastor so I was practically born in a church. We always attended church, honoring the Sabbath day. We even found local churches on our vacations. Sabbath day, Sunday, meant we were to be at church.
For many Christians, and non-believers, today still believe that is what Sabbath is about. And to some degree it is. But that’s not all that Sabbath is about.
Many things in the Old Testament such as the festivals, the dietary laws, and the sacrificial system were what the New Testament calls “shadows” (Colossians 2:16-17). But shadows of what?
A shadow, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is an imperfect or faint representation of something. So, when Paul refers to the Sabbath as a “shadow” in Colossians 2:17 what does that mean?
Paul is saying that a Sabbath Day is an imperfect representation of something; namely an imperfect representation of rest.
The Sabbath was established by God as a shadow of rest. Resting on the Sabbath in the Old Testament was not the end goal. It was a foretaste; a shadow. All throughout the story of God in the Old Testament God is offering rest for his people. He offers it through a Sabbath day of worship. He offers it conditionally within the Promised Land so long as Israel didn’t rebel and seek to do things their way. Yet, even entering the Promised Land, by obedience to Joshua, Israel still did not find the culmination of rest they longed for.
We long for rest too. We feel so down trodden by life and it’s worries and cares. We are a highly stressed-out society. We wrestle with fear, insecurity, and loneliness. We struggle with sense of meaninglessness and depression. We work hard for validation. We work hard for our own quasi-salvation to prove that we are valuable and worthy of recognition. We are like hamsters running on a hamster wheel hoping to reach a place where have “made it” only to realize we aren’t getting anywhere. We are just wearing ourselves out and finishing right where we started: feeling unvalidated, tired and weary.
Jesus Offers You Rest
The good news is that God is offering you rest. Not a day of rest or a month of rest. Not a vacation in the mountains or by the sea for a week. He is offering a rest that changes how you work. In fact, he offers a rest that ends your work.
The Sabbath was a pointer that rest was to be had, for sure. But the rest that God offers is an internal rest. Our striving for validation and salvation is misplaced because those things are only found in one place.
In the Scriptures, Jesus told a massive crowd of people something that still rings true and touches the yearning spots of our hearts. His audience was a group of people who felt restless and broken. The weight of the laws and traditions were weighing them down. He responded to their need with this statement:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
That offer stands for you today. You don’t have to work for validation. You don’t have to work for salvation. The truth is you will never make it. But the promise of the gospel (for more information about the gospel see the link at the top of the page “What is the gospel”) is that Jesus offers you rest from your work. He is your validation; he is your salvation.
This is good news:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)
So next Sunday remember this: Sabbath is a day to worship Jesus because he has brought you REAL SABBATH rest for everyday and for eternity if you trust him.