by Gami Ortiz
On Monday morning, I got up and went through my typical rhythms. I spent some time in the word and in prayer, did a lifting work-out, then headed out for a run. In the middle of that run, I stepped off a curb and pain shot up my left calf. I immediately stopped. I tried to “walk it off” but it hurt to even walk. Stretching for a bit didn’t help, either. Eventually, I called Cathi to come pick me up, because I didn’t even want to risk hurting it more by walking back home. Several years ago, I would have tried to tough it out and kept trying to run, but I’ve come to realize that I’m not as resilient as I once was, nor do I heal as quickly. Thankfully, there’s no bruising or signs of a tear or more serious injury. It appears I’ve simply strained or pulled a muscle. For the last couple of days, I’ve been limping a bit, but today I can get around much better, praise God. Even so, I’m taking a break from running for a while in order to let this heal properly. Forced rest and recuperation.
In the last sermon I preached, I talked a bit about resting well in order to find joy in our work. I’ll be really honest… I struggle to rest well. I like to work. I like to feel productive. I like to accomplish things. It’s hard for me to be still and feel like nothing is happening, nothing is getting accomplished. But I’ve also learned that when I don’t rest from work, I will tend towards frustration and disappointment – and ironically, less productivity. But there are better reasons for learning to rest well – ones that specifically honor God.
The word Sabbath or Shabbat comes from the Hebrew shavat, which means to rest. But the notion of the Sabbath being given just as a day of rest for weary workers would imply that if one does not feel particularly tired, there would be no need to have a day of rest. However, the Talmud (rabbinic interpretation of the Law) states that “Breaking the Sabbath is like worshipping idols.” This day was of utmost importance to Israel. It wasn’t just listed frequently throughout the Old Testament – it is part of the Ten Commandments!
There are two places in the Torah (books of Moses, Pentateuch) where we find the Ten Commandments. The first is when the Law is given to Israel at Mt. Sinai, in Exodus 20. Verse 11 spells out the reason is found in creation.
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Ex 20:11)
The pattern of the week follows that of creation. Six days to work and one day to rest – not just any rest, but a rest unto the Lord. Israel was commanded to remember the Sabbath – remember God as Creator; remember Him as the Almighty; remember Him as the One who gives life.
The second place we find the Ten Commandments is in Deuteronomy 5. Verse 15 gives the reason of remembering the Exodus, rather than creation.
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deut 5:15)
Israel was to remember their status as slaves (in which there was no rest) and had been brought out by the Lord’s mighty power. They were to remember their deliverance.
Rest and remember.
In resting from our work, we remember God as Creator. That implies we remember that we are not self-sufficient. Only the Lord is self-sufficient. There’s an element of trust in resting. I can rest because I trust that God is my Provider and Sustainer. Did you notice what was at the heart of why I struggle to rest? “I” am at the center – my productivity, my accomplishment… In resting, I remember that the only reason I can be productive and accomplish anything is because of God.
In resting from our work, we also remember God as our Deliverer. The Exodus was a foreshadowing of what Christ would accomplish on the cross. As the Israelites reflected on their physical deliverance from their bondage in Egypt, we need to regularly reflect on our spiritual deliverance from our bondage of sin. We do not work for our salvation, but rest in God’s saving grace and Christ’s finished work on the cross.
There are many ways in which we could put these principles into practice in our lives. Some may enjoy God’s creation by hiking, kayaking, star gazing, or any other number of recreational activities in nature. Some may take the Lord’s Supper together as a family to remember God’s grace and spiritual rest. I’m not saying that we all need to observe a traditional Sabbath. But the principles of Sabbath rest certainly need to have a place in our hearts. What are some ways you and your family could grow in resting well?