Built into each of us is a need for rest. A lack of rest can be hard on the body and result in some pretty devastating circumstances in life.
A pastor friend of mine told me about he and his wife driving home to Pennsylvania when he attended Winebrenner Seminary in Findlay, Ohio. They had both been pushing themselves hard: she working and putting him through seminary, he studying hard and possibly working part time. They were taking turns driving. He said at one point in the trip he was sleeping while his wife was driving and he woke up to find the car drifting across the center line. He called her by name and said “the car’s drifting across the center line. He said this sleepy voice answered him saying “I . ..know…but…I…just…can’t…get…it…over”
He said at that point he decided he had better take the wheel for the rest of the trip.
My favorite professor in seminary warned us about the necessity of taking time off, telling us that when he was a young pastor he thought he couldn’t. And in his words “The Lord had to teach me a lesson, so I got sick.”
It’s not only in the physical realm that rest is necessary. There is a need to rest the brain as well. We are all aware of people, many of them brilliant, who set such a grueling pace of study for them selves that eventually they “burned out” or “had a nervous breakdown” or something of this nature.
This apparently was recognized even in ancient times. During one of Paul’s trials as he related his conversion experience and the claims of Christ one of the officials present burst out saying “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” another version puts it: “Paul, you are out of your mind! Too much study has driven you crazy!”
God, in His Word, has given us a formula for work and rest. We know it as the Sabbath principle. Exodus 20 says:
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
That time of rest is a gift from God. Remember what Jesus said? “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” We have a need for rest and God provided it for us as a gift. With all of God’s gifts, the greater the gift the worse the consequence of misuse. That is not necessarily God bringing direct and personal judgment, it is often simply a natural consequence.
That’s for human beings individually. What about society? Is there a need for societal rest as well. Scripture seems to indicate that there is. Leviticus 25 says:
The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying,
2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord.
3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop,
4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.
5 Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.
6 All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you.
7 Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.
There was also a special fiftieth year Sabbath. Exodus 25 continues:
8 ‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years.
9 You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land.
10 You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.
11 You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines.
12 For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.
God also indicates that there would be consequences if His sabbath decree was not heeded. After outlining various methods He would use to punish the Israelites and attempt to turn them from their disobedience in this matter the Lord said:
27 ‘Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me,
28 then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins.
30 I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you.
31 I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas.
32 I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it.
33 You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.
34 ‘Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.
35 All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.
We need to at least consider the question: Could our current situation be the result of our ignoring the Sabbath law and principle? Could we be reaping the consequences of what we have sown? Are our bodies weak and susceptible to viruses and germs because of the way we push them and deny them the rest and refreshment that they need to regenerate and recuperate. We need the rest and quietness of the Sabbath.
In Isaiah chapter 30 God tells us
15 For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:
In Psalm 46 God invites us:
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
God through Isaiah (chapter 32) says:
Because the palace has been abandoned, the populated city forsaken.
Hill and watch-tower have become caves forever,
A delight for wild donkeys, a pasture for flocks;
15 Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fertile field,
And the fertile field is considered as a forest.
16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness
And righteousness will abide in the fertile field.
17 And the work of righteousness will be peace,
And the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.
18 Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation,
And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places;
God is giving us a chance to rest & reorganize our priorities. While we would not wish this situation to have happened, we need to remember that we serve a God who can and does cause all things to work together for good for His people and who can bring good out of evil and adversity. May His blessing be upon us as we claim and participate in that which He promised when He said
13 If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.