“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV).
“It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.” This quote from the great jazz trumpet player Miles Davis is a reminder that good music includes strategic times of rest. Without rests in music, songs are nothing more than a jumble of sound.
Just like music, God created us with a need for rest.
Throughout the Bible—even in the story of creation—we see the need to pull away from the jumbled noise of the world around us and find times to refresh (see Genesis 2:2-3). Jesus extends an invitation to those who follow Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).
Rest that is centered in intentionally worshiping God, experiencing His presence, and re-evaluating our priorities should set the rhythm for our week. Too often, the tasks on our “to do” list set the tone for our week. We exhaust ourselves and rest only when it is absolutely necessary.
Perhaps it is time to recapture the discipline of rest—the discipline of the Sabbath. The God who has no physical need for rest intentionally rested from His work of creation in order to set an example for His people.
Although Sabbath rest can help us become more productive, we do not set aside a Sabbath simply to make ourselves more productive. We intentionally rest, so we can hear the still, small voice of God, which is difficult to hear when we are constantly consumed by tasks. We hear God in a unique way when we set aside our work and focus ourselves on experiencing the presence of God through prayer, praise, family time, leisure, and relaxation.
God is always near us, of course; however, we risk missing key aspects of our relationship with God when we fail to honor His call to consistent times of intentional rest.
We may have to be creative in how we enter such a rest. It is said that Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles (and many other children), would sit in corner and pull her apron up over her head, transforming it into her “prayer closet.” Some of us may have to designate certain places for Sabbath rest. We may have to block time from our calendar and designate this time as “Sabbath.”
Whatever it takes, in our overly demanding world that drains so much from us, we cannot afford to disregard the principle of Sabbath that God Himself built into the very fabric of our being and into all of creation. This week, let us learn to rest and to enjoy the gift of the Sabbath.
Prayer for the Week:
Grant me grace this day to rest and remember that there is nothing I have to do, nothing I have to buy or sell, nothing I have to produce or consume in order to become who I already am: Your beloved creation.
May Your overworked creation and those who cannot rest today come to know the liberation of your Sabbath. Through Christ our Lord, Amen. (A Sabbath prayer by, Sam Hamilton-Poore)
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today