Friday, January 20, 2006

Entering Rest

This is what the LORD said to me: "Go and stand at the gate of the people, through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem. Say to them, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerusalem who come through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers.

Jeremiah 17:11-22

The text above first sounds intruding; our initial reaction might be "What if I have business to do on the Sabbath. Should I just not do it then? And why the specifications on 'heavy loads'?" After listening to the text, many times over, I remembered Jesus saying, "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 11:28-29). In this light God's command for his people to rest is less fire and brimstone then it is a compassionate plea that his people not be burdened; "be careful not to carry a heavy load on the Sabbath day." When we carry heavy loads, when we burden our minds or hearts with pounds of stress we reject the light load of Jesus. Rather than heed Jesus' plea to lay down our burdens we turn inward, telling ourselves that we must accomplish "X" or we will be failures. This whole way of thinking is founded on human effort, human accomplishment, human progress.

In God's command for Israel to observe the Sabbath we hear him tell us to turn away from the grotesque spirit that drives us forward like clockwork. Again his command to Jerusalem is no different from Jesus' "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." The truth of the matter is that it is only his load that is light and his yoke that is easy.

The author of the book of Hebrews writes, " anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:10). The rest that Hebrews talks about is the very rest that we hear about in Jeremiah and Matthew, that of Sabbath rest. In Christ we have the ability to partake of that rest continually, rather than bracketing it off to a day, by realizing that only the Lord is sovereign and that the method of worldly accomplishment is counter to the cry of Christ, "all who are weary, and burdened and I will give you rest."


mrteague said...

Good stuff, Maynard

Bill said...

If my memory is perfectly intact John Eldredge wrote "Men think they were made for the sabbath, when God had made it for man"