Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 23 Number 4 April 2021
Page 11

What the Bible Teaches about Rest

Hiram Kemp

Hiram kempWe live in a world where work is important. There is nothing wrong with work. Before sin entered the world, God gave Adam a job to do (Genesis 2:15). We are told to do all of our work as if we are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24) and to do our work with all of our might, giving it our absolute best (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The Bible places a responsibility on us to work if we want to survive. Far too many people simply want a handout. Yet, for all that the Bible says about work, it says as much about the value of rest. While none of us should want to rust out from inactivity, we should be careful not to burn out from overdoing it. Notice the theme of rest as it runs throughout the Scriptures.

God Rested and Israel’s Sabbath

The creation week was a busy week for God. In six days, God created everything in the heavens and the earth, and it was all very good (Genesis 1:31). On the seventh day, God rested from His created work (Genesis 2:1-2). The seventh day was blessed and sanctified because God chose to rest on the seventh day. This set a pattern to be followed later by the Israelites. God was not tired or worn out from creating the world, but He did stop creating (Psalm 121:3). God could have kept creating if He wanted to, but He chose to stop. God was not losing power or running out of ideas. He had accomplished all that He wanted to at this point. He was satisfied with what He had done, and this allowed Him to step away.

God later commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath Day as a part of the Law of Moses. This command was given on two separate occasions, and a different reason was given each time. The first time Moses gave the command to keep the Sabbath, he said the reason for the command was because God created the world in six days and rested the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11). God’s choice to rest on the seventh day was to be followed by His people as they prepared to enter the land of Canaan.

The next time Moses gave the command to keep the Sabbath, he said it should be done because they were slaves in Egypt but were now free people (Deuteronomy 5:13-15). God had freed Israel from servitude under Pharaoh. They were not to become slaves to their work. The entire land of Israel was to enjoy a Sabbath rest every seven years (Leviticus 25:1-7). The reasons for these breaks and rest in the workweek of Israel was designed to build trust in their God. Israel needed to know that if they stopped working for a day, the world would not collapse since God upholds the world by His power, not by the work of humanity (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). As with much of the rest of the law, Israel failed to keep the Sabbath, and the nation was led into captivity as a consequence of their defiance (Jeremiah 17:19-27; 25:7-11). The Sabbath has been nailed to the cross with the rest of the Old Testament law, and Christians are not bound to keep the Sabbath (Colossians 2:14). However, the principle of rest and trusting God is still one we need to practice.

Jesus Rested

There has never been anyone who has accomplished as much as Jesus did in His life on earth as quickly as He did it. Read the Gospel of Mark and get a glimpse of how fast-paced Jesus’ life was. He was always busy healing, preaching, praying or helping someone in need. He did many things and did all of them well (Mark 7:37). Jesus was serious about making the most of the time before Him and doing the work His Heavenly Father assigned Him (John 4:34; 9:4). Still, He knew how to stop and rest.

Resting Today

I hope we all take our role as disciples of Jesus seriously. Nevertheless, I hope we also take what the Bible teaches concerning the need for rest seriously as well. Allow yourself time away from your work. Get away from the crowds. It is healthy to take a day off where we can pray, read Scripture, enjoy family and all of the blessings God gives us (James 1:17). We cannot do everything all of the time, and we must set boundaries for ourselves lest we shorten our years of service to the Lord through overexertion. The key is to be balanced in our work. Take vacations when you can, take days off (and really allow it to be a day off), refuse to be on call all the time. There is only one who needs to be available to everyone all the time: God (Psalm 50:15; 55:17).

Sometimes our inability to shut down our bodies and our brains is evidence that we think we are responsible for more than we are. We are not God; God is God all by Himself (Isaiah 44:6). God delights in our work for Him, but if and when we rest, His work will still continue. Be busy for the Lord but not too busy to take a break; it’s biblical (Genesis 2:1-3)!

Jesus would get away from the crowds and be alone when He needed time to Himself (Mark 1:35). He took a nap on a boat as He traveled to do more of His work (Mark 4:38). After Jesus fed the 5,000, He sent everyone away and was by Himself alone (Matthew 14:22-23). Sometimes He came into a town and did not want anyone to know He was there (Mark 7:24).

Perhaps the most memorable words of Jesus on the subject of rest are found in a conversation He had with His apostles. “And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31 ESV). Jesus told them to come away and rest because they had been unable to stop for a meal. Jesus knew they were doing important work, but He also knew they could only be successful if they could get a break and have their strength replenished. Sometimes Christians do not feel comfortable taking time for rest. The line of reasoning may be, “The devil never takes a break, so neither can I.” Remember, we are trying to be like God and not like the devil. God rested after creation, and He also rested when He came in the flesh.

Heavenly Rest

For Christians, there is a heavenly rest to anticipate (Hebrews 4:9). When we get to Heaven, we will rest from our labors and our works will follow us there (Revelation 14:13). The rest in Heaven will not mean we will never do anything else. When the Bible speaks of us resting in eternity, it means there is a certain type of striving and working that will no longer be necessary. We are always to abound in the work of the Lord here (1 Corinthians 15:58), but in Heaven, we will be in the Lord’s presence. We will not have to labor in Heaven like we did on earth. Jesus promised a rest to those who come to Him (Matthew 11:28). There is a rest we enjoy right now in Christ, but there is also an eternal rest to which we look forward in the future.

Because You May Live

Cecil May, Jr.

Cecil May, Jr.Because of the uncertainty of life, people are frequently exhorted to be baptized “because you may die.” Death can come at any time, to the old or to the young. We must be ready when death comes.

On the other hand, the Christian life is an “abundant life” (John 10:10). The fellowship of fellow Christians – brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers in the Lord, people who will help you when you need them – is ours in Christ (Mark 10:29-30).

Real joy is found in loving your neighbor – in feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, mowing the lawn of the infirm, helping others anonymously, being good even to our enemies – as Jesus commanded. Even if there were no Heaven, the Christian life is still the best life to live.

So, become a Christian or be more faithful because you may live!

[Editor’s Note: Allurements to be baptized because the baptistry water is warm or because this is a convenient time, etc. are not valid reasons for being baptized. Rather, conviction ought to be the factor that leads to conversion. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]

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