And on the Seventh Day

This was originally posted on my church’s blog. You can see the original post here.

I’ve always found it interesting in the creation story that God needed the seventh day to rest. In my mind it has always seemed weird that God needed rest after anything. Creating the world is great, and we’d definitely need some rest, but the God of the universe? Come on.

This sticks out even more in today’s culture. Harvard Business Review points out that leisure time used be what was most associated with wealth or success but in today’s world that association has flip-flopped to associate busyness to wealth and success. When every conversation starts of “How are you doing?” “Good, but super busy,” the problem becomes more and more evident. In a culture that lifts up busyness and hustle and hurry, God’s day of rest is even more of a contrast.

Have you heard someone say something to the effect of “the devil doesn’t take a day off, so why should I”? I’ve heard this sentiment more than once, and I think I probably agreed with it most of the time. And when I didn’t, I’d maybe add a sly “Why copy the devil?” but in reality, my actions actually mirrored the sentiment despite my soft objection to the statement. I’ve dug into the scripture and I’ve become convicted at how wrong this sentiment is.

In Job 1, when God is speaking to the devil, the devil says he came from roaming the earth, “going back and forth on it.” In Matthew 12:43, Jesus says that when impure spirits come out of a person, they go to “arid places seeking rest and does not find it.” The devil, or impure spirits, are identified by their inability to find rest. As you dig in and connect the dots, the devil is associated with his inability to rest or break, while God and his people are often differentiated by their rhythm of rest.

If you look through Jesus’ ministry, you see clear rhythms of rest in his ministry.  In Luke 4, immediately after his baptism, Jesus heads to the wilderness where he did nothing but rest, fast, and pray. Sure we associate that with Jesus being tested and tempted in the wilderness and many times we speak of this being a point of weakness. But could it be that the rest, fasting, and prayer is what allowed Jesus to so successfully combat the temptations?

At the end of Luke 4, after performing miracles and before calling his disciples, Luke makes sure to mention that Jesus went off into a solitary place.

You can’t even get halfway through Chapter 5 and you come yet again to verse 16, with Jesus withdrawing to a lonely or quiet place to pray.

Chapter 6 you see it again when in verse 12 Jesus spends the night in prayer right before choosing his apostles.

As I’ve read through the gospels recently, passage after passage jumps out at me, like when shopping for a new car and all of a sudden you see that car everywhere. Before looking and deciding on this car, you’ve never even noticed it on the road, but now every time you turn your head, a new one is right there beside you. In this same way, the rhythms of rest are sprinkled through the narrative of Jesus’ story and quite frankly, I’ve never noticed this before. It almost leaves you wondering what else have I missed?

Jefferson Bethke said, “Jesus was never in a hurry. Jesus was the fully human one. The prototype of all humanity. And I think we can pretty easily see that he was someone actively resisting cultural pressures, on many levels. Hustle isn’t him. And if hustle isn’t him, there’s only one other place it could come from. Hell. The curse. The source of death.”        

Going back to the statement “The devil doesn’t take a day off,” could it be that his inability to take a day off is what makes him the devil? We’ve let the worldly mentality on work and busyness overcome us and become justification for why we don’t need a true Sabbath or day of rest. We ignore rest just as the world ignores it. Jim Elliot once said “I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds… Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.”

Corrie ten Boom said “If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.”

By failing to allow ourselves some silence and rest and Sabbath, we’re playing into the games Satan wants us to play. 

Something has become more clear to me through all this: God puts a very high value on rest. I’m still filtering and working through this and will dig further into what this means in future posts. But one thing I’m sure of: we’ve committed to Sabbath. Sabbath literally means “to stop.” For us this looks like putting away the phones, no outside entertainment, naps, good food, and games. This also means worship and time with our Lord. I don’t know how long this season lasts, but I do know, contrary to what I thought before, that God views this as good.

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

Matthew 11:28-30