Sometimes life can get so busy, the demands on your time and schedule can become so overwhelming, that you just want to getaway and take a vacation. Or maybe you’re doing what you love to do and then, like I’ve been guilty of at times, you forget to take one. Have you every been there? Well, life has a funny way of getting your attention and letting you know, “Hey, you’re not a machine! For the sake of your health, career, family, mental and spiritual state, you need to stop and take a break!”
Well that’s where Deedre and I got in 2014, which was before we had kids, and decided to take an 8 day cruise to Bermuda. Yes, we survived the Bermuda Triangle! It was like a second honeymoon. As we sailed on the beautiful, deep navy blue waters of the Atlantic ocean, our main priorities were to eat, sleep and relax in each others company. We ate to our hearts content in “the Wind Jammer”, which was the main restaurant on the ship with an amazing view of the ocean. While eating we’d occasionally see dolphins swimming by the ship. As soon as we neared Bermuda, we became immediately aware of this, because the navy blue ocean water, in sharp contrast, gave way to crystal clear water with beige sand reflecting from the bottom. The Island itself was like a Paradise, one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. We snorkeled in a cove by the beach and saw fish in many different colors swimming past us. The people were friendly, the weather was perfect and the beautiful scenes of nature were breathtaking. The cares, anxieties and busyness of life were all forgotten as we took time to deepen our relationship in this beautiful place.
When life gets crazy, have you ever noticed that most people desire to escape to a place like this, full of the beauty, peace and wonder of nature? So what is it in our hearts that yearns for this kind of environment… this kind of time for relationships… this kind of peaceful experience? I believe our hearts are yearning for the rest of Eden.
It’s the Garden Paradise, at the dawn of creation, where we first experienced rest; a rest that somewhere in our hearts, feels like home. Our hearts yearn for the rest of Eden, because its pointing us to a deeper rest that every human heart is yearning for. So what is this rest that we so desperately need and are being called into?
I want to invite you to come with me back to the beginning, back to the end of the first weekly cycle, back to when God, out of a heart of immense love, had just completed the crowning act of all His creation… making humanity in His image. We pick up the story in Genesis 2:2…
God rested, not because He was tired, but because He was done. And on the evening of this Friday, on which He looked at everything He just made and called it “very good”, God stops… He pauses… as in to just take it all in with deep satisfaction. It was a “Good Friday”, in which He could now say, “It is Finished.” Then He literally weaves into the next 24 hour space of time His own holiness and blessing, thus perpetually setting apart this day as special, unique and sacred from all the rest. After God gives Adam and Eve an orientation to His creation and their purpose in it, as soon as they entered into that first 24-hour Rest day, they nor any of their descendants thereafter, could point to anything as their contribution to creation. It was all God’s completed work that He now calls them into, a 24-hour period to enjoy. God is in the mood to celebrate and is therefore modeling creation and rest as a gift of grace. This is why our hearts are called into the weekly rhythm of Sabbath rest, because it reveals that…
God gives rest as a gift of grace for all.
Not just for a select group of people. There are no Israelites or Jews at this point. All humanity would come through Adam and Eve, therefore the gift is for all. We didn’t earn it or contribute to anything it commemorates. We are simply given it as a gift of grace, called to enter into it and enjoy it.
It’s like if you got a new job and after Human Resources gives you an orientation to the company and your purpose within it, they inform you that your first day on the job will be the beginning of a two week paid vacation! You’ll still get the rest of your vacation days, however they’re just giving you this time off as a gift. You didn’t earn it. It’s just a gift to be enjoyed. They want you to rest before you work within their company, so you can work from a place of rest!
This is what Jesus was saying as He addressed the legalistic Pharisees in Mark 2:27, “…The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27. It was made for man. In other words the Sabbath was always intended to be a gift of grace for all people. Let’s envision that first Sabbath in Eden for a moment. It would be very different than today. There were no church buildings, hymnals, dresses or suites to dress in your Sabbath best, no devices constantly calling for your attention, etc. It’s just you and God taking a breathtaking tour of the beauty of His creation. Your relationship with Him and us with each other deepens as we are overcome by the pleasant sights, smells, tastes, sounds and touches. This was to be the experience of every person on the planet, but after we fell into sin, humanity soon began to forget about their God and His gift of weekly rest.
In the wake of His covenant promises to eventually save humanity through Christ, God would eventually call the descendants of Abraham to preserve the truth about Him and His gift of rest for all. By the time God delivers them out of slavery in Egypt through Moses, He even has to reintroduce them to Sabbath rest, which most of humanity had forgotten and Pharaoh certainly didn’t allow them to experience for 400 years! Listen to His words to Israel in Exodus 16:23, “Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord…” Exodus 16:23. Then He emphasizes the weekly seventh day rhythm given at creation in verse 26. “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.” Exodus 16:26 Now don’t miss what God says in verse 28, because He says this before giving them the 10 commandments! At this point they are still on the way to Mt. Sinai! “And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath…” Exodus 16:28-29. This is clear evidence that the weekly cycle of the seventh-day Sabbath rest had always been in place since creation and He wanted Israel to fully embrace it in order to reintroduce it to the world, because it was always intended to be a gift for all!
Can you hear the call to receive the gift; to enter into the rhythm of His weekly rest? Receive it as a gift of grace and not of dead works to somehow earn points with God out of obligation.
However, I told you that this weekly Sabbath rest is pointing us to a deeper rest that every heart is yearning for. As the story unfolds we get closer to what this deeper rest is. For now the LORD, Yahweh, brings His people to Mt. Sinai to enter into a covenant relationship with Him, very much like a wedding. He gives them His Law of Love, which are somewhat like wedding vows. And the context for them are found in the first sentence in Exodus 20:1-2, “ And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Exodus 20:1-2. Yahweh, the LORD, reintroduces Himself to His people as the One who just saved them, because grace is always the context for faithfulness to God’s 10 principles of love. Now that I’ve saved you, I promise that you will…” Let us now zero in on the 4 commandment in Exodus 20:8…
Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Pastor, Author.