Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Created for rest

Noon: Rest From Work (After Millet)  1889-90; Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Augustine, a medieval theologian from North Africa, exclaimed, "O God, our hearts are made for you, and they shall be restless until they rest in you!" (Confessions 1.1.1).

When God "finished" creation, he "rested" (Heb. shabbath, "cease, stop") from all his work" (Gen 2:1-2). Then, in the first act of sanctification recorded in Scripture, "God blessed the seventh day and made it holy" (v. 3). Bruce Waltke notes that observing the Sabbath sanctified Israel by reminding them of three key things:[1]
  1. God would complete his work (see Phil. 1:6).
  2. God was master over everything (Pss 2:4; 89:11; 96:11; 1 Cor 10:26).
  3. God set Israel apart for a special relationship (Exod 31:17)
The old covenant Sabbath, circumcision, and dietary laws maintained a distinction between Jew and Gentile. But God erased the covenantal distinctions between Jew and Gentile (Gal 3:28; Col 2:16). So the early church began to gather on the first day of the week rather than the last, on "the Lord's day" (Rev 1:10). They would break bread and study the Scriptures together (John 20:1, 19-23; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2).

Sabbath Rest on the couch
What is your practice on the Lord's day? Paul noted that Jesus' triumph on the cross meant that no one should judge Christians about Old Testament ceremonial laws like those about food, festivals, or "Sabbath days" (Col 2:15-16). So I won't. But remind yourself that the Sabbath was rooted first in God's "very good" creation order, not just on the Law of Moses. Remind yourself that it was made for you, as a good gift for hard working people. And remember that we should be developing a taste for Sabbath, because final rest is the goal of salvation.

God rooted the provisional rest that he provided in throughout the Old Testament in the idea that he could say, "Very good! I'm done." Our rest comes because Jesus has cried, "It is finished" (John 19:3). On the one hand, "We who have believed enter that rest" (Matt 11:28-30; Heb 4:3). We have it now. On the other hand, "There is a special rest still waiting for the people of God." So God exhorts us, "Make every effort to enter that rest" (Heb 4:8, 11 NLT).

Our preaching should never lay a heavy yoke on a congregation. It should issue Jesus' own invitation: "Come... all you who are weary and burdened." We know where you can find "rest for your souls." We can sing this song:

Hear the blessed Savior calling the oppressed,
"O ye heavy laden, come to me and rest.
Come, no longer tarry, I your load will bear,
Bring me every burden, bring me every care."[2]

1. Bruce K. Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001), 71-73.
2. Come Unto Me


No comments:

Post a Comment