When we think about the Ten Commandments, our minds tend to go towards the “thou shalts.” I’m sure that a few of those decrees are coming to your mind such as don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet, have no other gods, etc. For the most part, I think that we try to do our best in upholding those rules. We put a lot of emphasis on these and rightfully so. This list was created for the Jews (and passed down to Christians) to live in accordance with God’s will and peaceably amongst others. In fact, breaking one of these will often bring significant shame and judgment upon the wrongdoer. However, we are all habitual criminals against one of the commandments in particular, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:9).
This was perhaps the law on which the Jews placed the most esteem. There are very few instructions in scripture as to what to do on the Sabbath besides don’t work. Nevertheless, the religious leaders added a lot of more Sabbath rules as a way to define what is considered “work.” This goes as far as to not cooking, cleaning, and exactly how many steps that you can take on the holy day. I saw this in action a few years ago when I visited Israel. The hotel that my group stayed in had what was called a “Sabbath elevator.” It was set to automatically stop on each floor. This was done so that the Jews who were observing the Sabbath would not have to push the button to call for the elevator because that was considered work. This commandment has always been of the utmost importance to the Jews.
My reason for writing this today is not to actually talk about following rules on the Sabbath. Instead, I want to discuss the reasoning for the Sabbath, rest. We are terrible at resting. I’m convinced that God’s knowledge of this is why he created the Sabbath in the first place.
We like to make ourselves busy. We are always running from one thing to the next and only occasionally taking the time to breathe. We take an odd pride in having a packed schedule. We equate activity with accomplishment, although the two do not always correlate. We read Jesus performing miracles on the Sabbath as permission for us to eschew our need to slow down for a while. This isn’t good for our physical, mental, or spiritual health. We are not just candles burning at both ends, but candles that have been tossed into a roaring fire. Aren’t you tired of always feeling tired?
God is not impressed with you being overloaded. Instead, he implores us to lay our burdens down. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all 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.” Does that sound like the Savior is asking us to work ourselves to death? Then why are we so intent on doing so? We all need to take time and stop. Simply stop and put away the demands of this world for a while. Don’t worry, they will still be there whenever you’re ready to pick them back up.
We will always make time for that which is most important to us. Where does rest fall on your priority list? You need it. God knows that, and you know that. Schedule out some time that you can get away from all that is asked of you by this world and do what is asked of you by your creator. I once had a mentor that said to me, “Sometimes the best spiritual act that you can do is to take a nap.” We see Jesus doing just that in Mark 4:38. After all, we are supposed to imitate him, aren’t we?