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“A Promised Rest”
One of the most important and commonly neglected area of our overall health is rest. Rest is essential to good health. And while it won’t provide immunity from illness and disease, it will thwart and slow down some of the more serious physical, emotional, and spiritual problems we face in our modern, no holds barred, dog-eat-dog world.
Medical science even agrees that those who get regular and adequate rest are more likely not to get sick as compared to those who burn the midnight oil. Maybe we can say that those who burn the candle at both ends aren’t as bright as they think.
A man complained to his doctor that he felt burnt out and tired. The doctor, however, couldn’t find anything medically wrong, and so he asked the man to write down what he might be doing that would contribute to his tiredness.
After listing out five things, the doctor took the list, studied it, and after a few moments wrote out his prescription. He said, “Don’t do these five things,” and listed what the man had written down.
Now, if modern medicine could bottle rest, or put it in pill form, it would be the hottest and most profitable drug on the market.
But if we want to reap the benefits of rest and have a much healthier life and life style, we have to actually slow down and take the time that is needed to rest.
Benefits of Rest
1. Improved Memory and Cognitive Skills
Improved memory and cognitive skills are just one of the many benefits of rest, but a lack proper rest can lead to a lack of concentration and inability to retain information.
Contrary to popular opinion, our minds don’t shut down when we sleep; rather it continues to process the information of the day, which allows us to perform better the following day.
So the saying we have to shut down our minds before we go to sleep is unrealistic. Instead we have to start thinking on those things that will enhance our tomorrows.
The Bible tells us what these things are.
“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:9 NKJV).
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight and Life Style
Adequate sleep and rest releases into the human body hormones that control our appetite, but also when we’re asleep we’re not shoving food into our faces. Further, when we’re overly tired we don’t have the energy to exercise and cook healthy meals. Instead it’s drive through time and our favorite fast food restaurant.
The less sleep we get the hungrier we become and we crave the more high-fat and even higher calorie foods, like ice crème, or chips and dip.
Adequate rest, therefore, will improve a person’s overall health and enhance a healthy and productive life style.
3. Reduce Stress and Increase Heart Health
Being well rested reduces a person’s stress levels, thus improving heart health. Rest brings a person’s blood pressure under control and significantly reducing heart related issues and disease.
Lack of proper rest, however, seriously ups stress levels making a person more susceptible to heart attack and other heart problem. Research favors then greater rest for a healther heart.
Simply put, regular rest will help reduce stress and help the heart function properly and thus again allowing for a longer and more productive life.
4. Fight Emotional Letdowns
Lack of proper rest brings on a greater chance of the dreaded “D’s.” These are, despair, discouragement, disappointment, despondency, disillusionment, distress, disarray, dejection, and the most dreaded “D” of them all, depression.
Getting enough rest helps decrease the wild mood swings that result in overall anxiety. The more rest a person gets the more emotionally stable they become. And while it won’t guarantee a life without problems, it will help us stay more level headed when things don’t go our way.
5. Less Pain
Chronic and acute pain is lessened when someone gets adequate rest and gets enough sleep. Studies have actually shown a relationship between a lack of sleep and lowering a person’s threshold for pain.
And while being in pain makes it harder to get proper rest, research has found that getting a good night sleep can be an effective pain supplement.
To conclude this section on the benefits of rest, I think it’s safe to say that with proper rest we’ll live longer and healthier lives. So instead of ignoring our need to rest, we should embrace it and move toward the life God has set before us.
Now, in all these various studies they have concluded that people need to take a day of rest every week from life’s hectic schedule.
This is something that God said way back in the beginning. It is known as the Sabbath.
Because there is so much going on we quickly find ourselves in the need to catch up, and soon find ourselves out of breath in the attempt.
We live in a 24/7 culture with cellphones and the Internet to help us stay connected and assessable. But even with all our new inventions, timesaving tools, short cuts, and quick fix solutions we always seem to be in a hurry and running out of time. And so we push ourselves even harder, squeezing every second out of our work, play, and family time.
And yet with all these so-called efficiencies, we seem to have less time than ever before. When it comes to life, however, warp speed has a way warping our souls. The thinner we spread ourselves; we’ll soon find that there is nothing left of us at the end of the day.
Burnout has become a major problem. We find ourselves bringing work home only to add to the work that’s already waiting for us. And when we wake up the next morning we’re just as tired as when we went to bed.
To counter this overall feeling of tiredness we pop vitamins and no-doze tablets. We take herbal supplements and drink coffee and high power energy drinks. We do anything and everything to get a boost to see us through the day.
It’s been said that our hectic lifestyles is nothing more than anesthesia to deaden the pain of an empty life.
If we don’t want to fall apart, therefore, we need to then take the time and come apart from all that stresses us out, and rest. God calls it taking the Sabbath.
God established the Sabbath because He knows of our need for rest and worship. He created the Sabbath to be a delight. Therefore, the Sabbath is His word of grace for those who are driven and harassed by stress and anxiety.
The problem, however, is that what God intended to be a blessing, humanity has corrupted. What God has designed to liberate, humanity has limited.
When the Pharisees tried to limit what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27)
The Sabbath was for the health and healing of our body, soul and spirit, but not to make us subject to the day.
The Sabbath’s Purpose
The Sabbath had it’s beginning at Creation. God created the universe in the first six days and then took the seventh day off.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2-3 NKJV).
In the very beginning God established a sacred day of rest every week. This is seen when God made the Sabbath a part of His top ten, that is, His Ten Commandments.
“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11 NKJV).
The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “intermission” or “break,” as well as “to cease, desist, or rest.” And the word, “hallowed,” means that God set this day apart from all the other days.
But what we need to understand is that God didn’t institute the Sabbath because He was tired or overworked. God doesn’t get tired.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired nor weary and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28, NIV).
God didn’t rest because He was tired; He rested because He was finished and satisfied.
Paul said that the Sabbath was meant as a shadow of what was to come. The shadow was Jesus and the work He finished for our redemption on the cross. And it was in this finished work that we can now rest.
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV).
When Jesus’s work for our salvation was finished upon the cross, these are the very words He used, “It is finished.” Jesus was pointing to the finished work of our redemption with God.
God, therefore, instituted this day of rest out of His love for us. God established this day because He knew we needed a stop-what-we-are-doing day. God created us and knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows what’s best for us so that we can operate effectively.
But as important as rest is, this is not the only reason God gave us the Sabbath. This other reason is brought out in the Book of Deuteronomy where God reiterates these Ten Commandments, but when He comes to the Sabbath He expands its meaning.
“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15 NKJV).
If I could summarize, the Lord gives us the Sabbath, not only because we need the rest, but also so that we can take this day and worship Him for our ultimate rest and deliverance though His Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV).
This word “weary” means those who are tired and exhausted. It describes those who come home and collapse on the sofa in front of the TV with remote in hand, and then go to bed exhausted from the trials of life.
There are three forms of weariness or exhaustion that we experience in which Jesus gives us rest.
Somehow what has happened in today’s society is that we’ve confused rest with laziness. We’re a society that always has to be doing something and where everything we do is measured with how much we’ve got done.
And so this whole idea of the Sabbath is considered an outdated model for work efficiency. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Sabbath, taking that needed rest is actually what brings health to our work, because it keeps us from over committing and over extending ourselves leaving us physically tired, exhausted, and fatigued.
Jesus revealed just how important physical rest is to ministry.
“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:31, NIV).
We see this need for physical rest in the King David’s psalms.
In Psalm 127:2 David said, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” And in Psalm 23:2 he said, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
To enter into God’s rest means to cease from ones’ own work as God ceased from his work (Hebrews 4:10). But resting doesn’t mean we don’t labor. To God’s people retirement means to re-tire, that is, to change tires in order to continue the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
Jesus said in John 5:17, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” He also said in John 9:4, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.”
And so this work isn’t something done independently from Jesus. We see this in Jesus call for us to come to Him and put upon our shoulders His yoke (Matthew 11:29-30).
The illustration of the yoke is familiar to an agricultural society. It was what the farmer put upon two oxen in order to plow the field. The farmer would put one half of the yoke upon the older and more experienced ox, and the other half upon a younger and less seasoned ox.
What would happen is that the more mature ox would carry more of the load and in the process help the younger ox learn what he is suppose to do and how it is done.
And so we take up Jesus’s yoke and work, not in our own strength, but rather we can work resting in the strength of Jesus.
Physical exhaustion, however, can lead us down a path of emotional disaster. This brings us to the second rest that is available through the Sabbath, and that is a soul rest, or what we’ll call, emotional rest.
God gave us the Sabbath not just to give us physical rest, but also to bring rest to our souls.
As stated earlier, a lack of proper rest increases the dreaded “D’s” of despair, discouragement, disappointment, despondency, disillusionment, distress, disarray, dejection, and depression.
When we lack stability in our lives because of a lack of rest, our emotions are all over the place. Not only do we find ourselves worrying about what we’re worrying about, but also we worry about what we’re not worrying about.
Corrie Ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows, it empties today of strength!”
Jesus said it like this, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34 NKJV).
We only have a limited amount of emotional strength. And when it get stretched to the point of breaking due to our hectic life style and work ethic, something is going to break.
A Greek proverb states, “You will break the bow if you keep it always bent.”
It’s emotional stress that wears us down! And so our emotions need a Sabbath rest.
But there is one last rest that is promised in our relationship with Jesus.
If rest is important to our physical and emotional wellbeing, then it is even more important to our spiritual wellbeing.
The weight of sin and the struggle to overcome its hold upon our lives can lead to spiritual exhaustion. There is a weariness of spirit when we try to live this life in our own strength and energy.
When the Pharisees complained that the disciples broke the Sabbath by plucking grains of wheat to have something to eat, Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NKJV).
But Jesus didn’t leave it there. Matthew records Jesus saying, “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7 NKJV)
And then Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8 NKJV)
Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and therefore gives rest from the pain and suffering that comes from sin.
We have been given rest in Christ; therefore we no longer need to live our lives in bondage to sin and death because we have been set free (Romans 8:2). But beyond that, because of the rest Jesus gives we no longer need to search for life’s meaning. We no longer need to look to philosophy or religion, because we now have a living loving relationship with the author of life, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).
Further, such a spiritual rest allows us to focus on what is the most important thing.
One day Jesus went over to Martha and Mary’s house for a bite to eat. Martha was busy trying to serve Jesus and the disciples, but Mary rested, sitting at Jesus’s feet taking in everything He had to say. Martha complained asking Jesus to tell her sister to help out, but Jesus said that Mary had chosen the best, which was rest.
“You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42 NKJV)
God knows our need for peace and praise, and so He gives us this commandment to take a day not only to rest in Him but to worship Him as well. But as in all things, we can mess up the blessing God gives.
The Sabbath’s Perversion
What’s interesting, but not surprising, is that the Sabbath was perverted even before God could make it into a commandment. On their way to receive these Ten Commandments, God gave them the principle of the Sabbath.
“This is what the Lord has said: Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning” (Exodus 16:23 NKJV).
God told them to gather enough manna for two days so they wouldn’t have to work on this holy day. And God promised He wouldn’t allow the manna to spoil and get bad.
But some didn’t believe, so they went out that next morning, the Sabbath, to gather more manna, but found none on the ground. The Lord then rebuked their lack of faith (Exodus 16:28-29).
But this wasn’t the only time Israel perverted the Sabbath. Later they reduced the Sabbath to a form with no meaning or substance. And so God said,
“Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:13-14 NKJV).
However, God said that He would delight Himself in those who don’t pervert the Sabbath into something of their own making, but keep it holy day unto Him.
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you will find your joy in the LORD” (Isaiah 58:13-14a NKJV).
Further, Israel failed to keep the Sabbath year. God gave this Sabbath year to rest the land and make it more productive. But because of their disobedience and lack of faith, God sent them into captivity. For 490 years they failed to allow the land to rest on the Sabbath year as outlined in Leviticus 25:1-5.
Now look at what God did.
“Those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” (2 Chronicles 36:20-21 NKJV).
Failure to keep the Sabbath; failure take this day of rest, all boils down to Israel’s lack of faith that God could and would provide. This is why they went out and to gather manna, and why they didn’t keep the Sabbath year. They simply didn’t believe that God would supply.
There it is. The reason we don’t keep the Sabbath is because we don’t believe that God can and will provide.
This is seen in what the writer of Hebrews tells us.
“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: ‘So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest’” (Hebrews 4:2-3 NKJV).
Rest in God begins with having faith, mainly because people have a hard time letting go and letting God do His work. And while there’s a cute phrase that says, “Let go, and let God.” But when it comes to faith and God’s rest it might be better to say, “Let God, and let go.”
While keeping the Sabbath is a command, it’s the principle behind the command that needs exploring and kept as well. So what is the principle that the Sabbath is pointing to?
The Sabbath’s Principle
In a culture that coined words like, “burnout” and “workaholic,” this is important.
While the Sabbath is a commandment, the principles set forth in the Sabbath are to be kept as well. We need time on a weekly basis to restore and refresh ourselves physically, mentality, emotionally, and spiritually.
Especially spiritually, and so we need to set some time apart for God to restore and refresh us through spiritual devotion, instruction, and worship. We need to take time from both work and play to renew our spirits. This is the heart of the Sabbath principle.
If we neglect the Sabbath principle it’s to our own peril, because worship is God’s design to recharge our spiritual batteries.
What happens when we neglect the Sabbath principle is that we try to recharge ourselves through other means, only to end up depleting our spiritual batteries.
The Old Testament specifies the seventh day as the Sabbath, but in the New Testament this has become a principle, not a legalistic requirement.
In the New Testament the church didn’t meet on the seventh day; instead they met on the first day of the week, or Sunday, because that was the day Jesus rose from the dead. But as far as which day we are to keep the Sabbath, listen to the Apostle Paul’s instruction.
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV)
Our Sabbath is found in Jesus Christ. But this doesn’t relieve us from setting apart a day or time to focus on our worship of Him.
The writer of Hebrews confirms this saying,
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
It’d like to conclude our study with the title of the message, “A Promised Rest.”
God has promised to give us rest.
“For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:8-10 NKJV)
But in this promise is the same admonition God gave to Israel, and that was to believe and trust in Him. The writer of Hebrews brings this out earlier.
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:12-15 NKJV)
The writer of Hebrews was quoting Psalm 95, which is sung in churches today.
It says, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95:6-7a NKJV).
But then David gives us this warning.
“Today, if you will hear His voice: do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’” (Psalm 95:7b-11 NKJV)
The point the writer of Hebrews is trying to get across through quoting Psalm 95 is that the rest the Israelites failed to achieve is the rest we can achieve today through Jesus Christ.
This offer of rest is then ours through faith. It is a resting from our works to earn or gain God’s favor when we come to faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work upon the cross. And it is a rest that can have from our attempts to be worthy, because only Jesus is worthy, and it is in His worthiness that we can enter into God’s ultimate rest of heaven.
Let me end our time together then with these words from the writer of Hebrews.
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Hebrews 4:1-2 NKJV)
It all comes down to a matter of faith. Will we trust and believe?
Wednesday Evening Bible Study