Taking it easy now Christmas is over? Catching up on some rest? Or is Boxing Day “shop ’til you drop?”
What is rest for you? Laughing with family after a meal? Time to yourself? Watching a movie? Savouring a good book? Playing golf? Walking on the beach? Falling asleep?
I’m not suggesting we observe the Sabbath. Legislated rest seems a bit like “Hurry up and relax!” The Ten Commandments were laws God gave Israel. Nowhere were the nations commanded to take Sabbath rest. But are we missing out?
Imagine Pharaoh’s slaves escaping from tyranny. “Lazy!” he called them when they wanted time off (Exodus 5:8, 17). Their new king is such a contrast! Enshrined in the foundational laws for their nation, their new sovereign says, “Have a day off every week. Everybody: men, women, children, animals, visitors” (Exodus 20:10).
Life is meant to have rhythms of work and rest. Daily, weekly, seasonally, annually, the rhythms of life sustain us. On the International Space Station, the health of the astronauts suffers without these natural rhythms.
But this isn’t just about looking after yourself by getting some regular rest. The Jewish Sabbath was far more: it was coordinated rest, communal rest, everyone stopping at the same time, to enjoy each other. Visit a Jewish home on Friday afternoon, and you’ll find people wrapping up the week’s activities, preparing the meals, working towards coordinated rest. Even the candle is lit before sundown so there’s nothing to do when the Sabbath arrives. When the sun goes down, they all stop, sit, eat, talk, and enjoy each other.
We used to have a thing called weekends. The shops closed, so people weren’t working. Nurses and those in essential services were awarded penalty rates to compensate them for missing out on time with family. But this didn’t stack up economically. Commercial interests lose 14% of their sales opportunities if the doors are closed one day a week. Maximizing profits requires the erosion of weekends, work hours, and penalty rates. The merchants weep when no one buys their cargoes (Revelation 18:11).
God never designed a world where we need to work seven days a week. He designed a world where he (and we) could rest (Genesis 1:2). But the world is not at rest. Brothers harm each other and families fight. The Bible narrative is not one of God resting while we suffer. As our sovereign, God is at work to sort out the mess. Even on his rest day (John 5:18-19).
Then there came a day when God rested again. On the Sabbath. In a tomb (John 19:31-42).
Rising out of death, he launched a new week (John 20:1). It was a new-creation moment, a moment where the Man and the woman meet in a garden, and she mistook him for the gardener (20:15). But Jesus wasn’t the man who brought death. That day he restored life: restoring humans as brothers, reconciled with our Father (20:17). On the first day of a new creation (20:19), our king came to us and spoke Shalom (20:19).
We don’t yet see the whole creation at rest, but it’s coming (Hebrews 4:9). King Jesus is restoring all things. Noah’s promise will be fulfilled (Genesis 5:29).The world will be at rest in him.
So how do we embody the shalom of God’s Anointed? We could take a rest from shopping and make life about something other than the commercial pressure to consume. We could sit together and talk through our differences. We could extend forgiveness — treating the offender as more than the offence. We need to be at rest with each other if we are to enjoy God’s rest (Matthew 6:15).
Reconciling isn’t easy, but it is the path to peace. In our time of need, we can approach the throne of the benevolent king who gives rest to his people (Hebrews 5:9-16).
What are you doing for the rest of the day?