The topic of rest and a day off was just discussed a few short months ago in our small group. It is amazing to me how many people loved the concept of taking a longer more initial break and then as a whole everyone everywhere was forced to do so!
In our season of social distancing this topic took on a much more deeper focus. I struggled to stay mentality out of fear when things went on longer than just a week. To stay above the crashing waves of negativity and horrific news every day I took a deep dive into the meaning of “Sabbath”.
Ironically, our family focus this year was a deliberate focus of “simple intentionality and splendor”. Fascinating how we said this and then we were pushed to this motto even further.
The word “Sabbath” from the Hebrew verb Shabbat, means “to rest from labor,” The day of rest. Genesis 2:1-3, is where God worked for six days then rested on the seventh day. What is fascinating is that our first day alive was considered a day for rest! It was a reminder for me, that I function better when I start off from a state of rest and joy.
This is not about a day of eliminating everything while we sit and twiddle our thumbs; bored. It recharging! I found out that most individuals in Jesus’ time were not allowed to travel on the sabbath, could not go shopping or buy things, and the focus was on reading and family time. Yet, this was not considered constricting but a pleasure!
“Rest is the regular rhythm of taking a break from the usual demands and stresses of life and ministry. Rest includes all of these components: mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical. Ideal rest would be restful in each area, but that’s difficult to find in our American pace of life…”-Heather Nelson
All of a sudden, my American paced life came to a stand still. The running around, the events, the obligations, the appointments, and even the people dropped down to just my four walls and a grocery store run. My son lost his birthday celebrations, we lost three of our vacation trips and most of all some of our financial security. As life stood still for longer than a couple extra days for the entire world, I took a deeper dive into the “old fashioned” and traditional periods of rest. Could I create joy and make this season about recharging? A look at the traditional feasts in the Bible (that went for days and weeks) and a glance at the term “sabbaticals” helped ground me during an odd time for us all.
Most of the festivals and feasts in the Bible only run one to three days but there are a few that ran longer. The Feast of Tabernacles, for example, is last in the festival’s of the Old Testament and lasts an entire week . This feast, I found out, is meant to reenact the Israelites wandering and journey in the wilderness. Israelites are expected to not work for seven days but also… to camp out! I felt some relatability with this. I was walking in the wilderness of the modern world. Grocery stores missing common staples, places of business shut down, and people walking six to 10 feet away felt very much like a type of wilderness. What is fascinating about this is that the Promise Land was also known as the Land of Rest. A confirmation that it symbolized a trusting state of mind in which God’s providence would dominate life. Can you imagine trying to teach the Hebrew slave how to take a day off! Exodus 12:40 says they had been in Egypt for 430 years! 430 years of a mindset!
Why We Need Rest:
Americans are among the worst offenders when it comes to not resting enough and properly. According to the Institute for Work and Families, fewer than half U.S. employees take all their vacation days. Is it possible our mindsets need to shift too? The freedom to explore beyond the bounds of our normal routine is essential if we are to see what is next in our life.
We trace the origins of both sabbatical and Sabbath to the Greek word sabbaton. Sabbaton itself traces to the Hebrew word shabbāth, meaning “rest.” The Old Testament refers to God’s “day of rest” most famously in Genesis, but Sabbath referring to an entire year of rest is mentioned in Leviticus (25:3-5); where the people are told to take the seventh year off and give themselves and the land time off. A complete and whole year! I heard people grumbling they didn’t know what to do on day four of being off…
Heading back to the Israelites, let us think about this. They were being taught for 40 years how to rest. However this would not be the last time they had to learn this lesson. When we learn how to have true rest, we are blessed. In Genesis, God rested and then He blessed the day!
It is stated that it took 215 years for Israel to arrive in Egypt. 215 years plus 71 years to the death of Joseph is 286 years. Fascinating because if you take and divide that number by 7. (Every seventh year was suppose to be a rest year) – you get just over 40 years. Could be that the wondering in the wilderness were the years they had chosen not to obey the commands of rest and now were being forced to? There have been studies that state it would have actually only taken 11 days to walk to the promised land, yet instead they were roaming for 40! We don’t know all the details but we do know those 40 years in the desert were years for proper preparation and trust. It was for a group of people that disobeyed and feared at every turn. Sound familiar? This was a season for them to learn lessons in obedience and God’s reliability. So that they might enter completely and fully ready for the Land of Rest. Some of them would never see it.
Joshua 23 says, after entering the Land (1-5), conquering the Land (6-12), and dividing the Land (13-22), Joshua calls Israel to rest in the Land (23-24). But they didn’t do it completely, and so after 490 years they were taken from the land. The babylonians conquered them and in slaved them once again. They didn’t give the land or themselves the resting years that it required and so God forced the rest. You ever feel like you have been forced to rest? When I am not feeling well and am forced to stay in bed and not eat and My body shuts down for hours I think about this. I have physically run myself down and my body is forcing me to give back the vitality rest gives me.
2 Chronicles 36:21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.
God gave back the land it’s years of stolen rest. 70 years divided out into seven year stints (every seventh year was a rest year) is 490. You can only go so far without rest. People have tried and it doesn’t work. Yet, we push back when we are given the opportunity. We give ourselves the bare minimums in sleep, entertainment over true rest, and we push activity into every minute that we have.
It takes extreme effort to create a pattern and a lifestyle of rest. Especially for those of us who are slaves to the modern world’s idea’s of “to live is to produce” and “monetary gain takes priority”. This rhythm of sabbath, is paramount for us to learn if we are to live our best! The sabbath was given to us even before the fall of man! This is not about structures and bondage, or rules, but about freedom, blessings, and life-giving renewal.
- Do you have years of stolen rest? How can you recover it?
- What activities are considered restful for you?
- What brings you Joy and creates space and peace?
- How are you spending time with the Prince of Peace and the Author of Rest?
How I Am Implementing :
- I am off my phone every single Sunday from waking up until after lunch.
- I have timers set to eliminate work after certain hours.
- I have chosen to fast. Every Wednesday for lent I skip food and shopping, to rest my body and my finances.
- I am reading books and doing a Bible study on rest.
- Every Friday we have an evening of rest with family.
- A date night with my husband is scheduled every week so that I can rest in our relationship versus our productivity.
- I have eliminated my phone by my bed and gone back to a standard clock.
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”