ENTER HIS REST: The Experience of the Sabbath Part 1

Watch this for an example of what I experienced, especially starting *00:04:35.

Before the sun could set, I could hear the songs of celebration filling the air as men, women and children of all ages sang and danced together with all their might in holy joy. As those who were with me approached the scene, our professor, who was guiding us into this experience, encouraged us to not merely observe, but to join in the joyful celebration. However, I must confess that most of us seminary students who had grown up keeping the Sabbath most of our lives, didn’t quit know how to celebrate the Sabbath like these joyful Jews at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and just stood by sheepishly or walking closely behind our professor. Seeing our timidity, our professor started to move quickly through the crowd at such a pace that most of us couldn’t keep up and soon we started to get dispersed into little groups among the celebration. I soon found myself with one other seminarian looking at a group of Jewish men singing joyfully and dancing in a circle as the sun was setting. The sheer joy and passion they had was contagious. We looked at each other like what are we doing just sitting on the sidelines. At this same time some of the men, with bright smiles on their faces, as if to say, “Yes, you, come join us”, pulled us into the circle of singing and dancing. I welcomed in the Sabbath like I had never done before. We all worshipped Yahweh Elohim, the LORD God, together; Jew and Gentile, Orthodox Jew, Ultra Orthodox Jew, Liberal Jew, all in celebration of Shabbat Shalom, Sabbath Peace. And all the while I knew that I was not only worshipping Him as Creator, but as Redeemer. I’ve never forgotten this experience of worshipping at the Western Wall with the Jews that Sabbath, because I honestly felt rebuked, though I had an amazing time. How could I claim to truly keep the Sabbath, especially as someone who knows Jesus and is resting in Him for salvation, but my weekly Sabbath experience be lacking such joy and holy celebration? 

Celebrate is something we like to do during holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do you know why? Because we want to set aside special time to remember, honor and memorialize a significant event that took place in the past. Just think of the things most national holidays have in common: time off from work, eating good food, time to rest, coming together to spend time with friends and family, retelling the story or engaging in experiences that celebrate the event the holiday commemorates. These holidays are special and we would be upset if, like a birthday or anniversary, they come around and there is no recognition of it or no time off from work to enjoy it. This is because the root word for holiday is holy day. And the first Holy Day in human history, from which all other holidays are patterned after, is the seventh-day Sabbath. It is holy which means that it is special, unique and different from all the rest; a time for relationships, with God and each other. So how do we get the most out of this experience we’re called to enter into every week? I believe Jesus shows us where to start in Matthew 11:28-29…

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. 
— Matthew 11:28-29 NKJV

Jesus says to come to Him and He will give us rest. The word for “rest” in verse 28 is Sabbath! Then He says at the end of verse 29, that in Him we “…will find rest for our souls.” Jesus wants to give us soul rest or as Dr. Elizabeth Talbot from Jesus 101 puts it, Jesus wants to give us a “Sabbath-ed soul.” Jesus is intentionally linking the experience of the weekly Sabbath rest and the daily soul rest He gives you. In other words, in order for you to truly enter into the full experience of the weekly Sabbath rest, you need to be resting in Jesus everyday! This is critical to understand as we continue! This rest only comes when you daily trust that Jesus has saved you by grace through faith and therefore you’re in a daily relationship with Him.

Jesus continues to show us how to enter into the weekly rhythm of Sabbath rest through the experience of the children of Israel, who have just been delivered from Egypt and are now on their way to Mt. Sinai, in Exodus 16:23, 26 & 29…

Then he said to them, “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.’ ”

 “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”

“See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days.”
— Exodus 16:23, 26 & 29 NKJV

God was miraculously providing bread or manna from heaven to feed the children of Israel everyday. However on the sixth day or Friday, He gave them twice as much bread, so they could prepare food for both Friday and Sabbath, in order for them to be free to fully enjoy the day without worrying about food preparation. This reveals that…

 Preparation is Needed in Order to Truly Enter the Experience of Sabbath Rest.

It’s like when you’re preparing to go on a date with someone special. You prepare your home, your clothes, maybe even a dinner reservation, all for the arrival of that special someone you’ve set aside time to be with, free of distraction. Well, think of the Sabbath as a weekly date day with Jesus. It takes preparation of clothes, food, cleaning the house, etc., in order to be free to meet with and experience Jesus on the Sabbath, without having to worry about those other things. You prepare in order to experience rest in its fullness!

CJ at Arise 1.jpg

CJ Cousins

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Pastor, Author.

This blog series is from the “Enter His Rest” Fall Sermon Series at Vienna SDA Church preached by Pastor CJ Cousins.

This blog series is from the “Enter His Rest” Fall Sermon Series at Vienna SDA Church preached by Pastor CJ Cousins.