Good Morning Brothers…
On the way home the other day, I passed a whole bunch of ducks swimming around in this wetland area off the highway. Getting off the highway and on to the back roads which lead to my home, I passed a winter wheat field filled up with turkey’s. The next field over was covered with Canadian geese and white-tail deer were feeding along the tree row. My eyes caught a flash in the ditch ahead of me and I watched a wily coyote sneak along the field’s edge. Shortly after that I was pulling mail out of my post office box thinking about how awesome it is to live here…in Kansas. This state has an abundance of wild game and the opportunities are all around us. This is what I think ‘Sabbath’ means. Sabbath is the method to the abundance promised to us by Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.“
The key to understanding how Jesus is our Sabbath rest is the Hebrew word shabbat, which means “to rest or stop or cease from work.” The origin of the Sabbath goes back to Creation. After creating the heavens and the earth in six days, God “rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made”. This doesn’t mean that God was tired and needed a rest. God used the example of His resting on the seventh day of Creation to establish the principle of the Sabbath day rest for His people. They were to “remember” the Sabbath day and “keep it holy.” The Sabbath day was established, so the people would rest from their labors, only to begin again after a one-day rest. The various elements of the Sabbath symbolized the coming of the Messiah, who would provide a permanent rest for His people.
Once again the example of resting from our labors comes into play. With the establishment of the Old Testament Law, the Jews were constantly “laboring” to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included trying to obey a myriad of do’s and don’ts of the ceremonial law, the Temple law, the civil law, etc. Of course they couldn’t possibly keep all those laws, so God provided an array of sin offerings and sacrifices so they could come to Him for forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him, but only temporarily. Just as they began their physical labors after a one-day rest, so, too, did they have to continue to offer sacrifices. Hebrews 10:1 tells us that the law, “can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” But these sacrifices were offered in anticipation of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, who “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right of God” (recorded in Hebrews 10:12). Just as He rested after performing the ultimate sacrifice, He sat down and rested—ceased from His labor of atonement because there was nothing more to be done, ever…by us, or Him.
Another element of the Sabbath day rest which God instituted as a foreshadowing of our complete rest in Christ is that He blessed it, sanctified it, and made it holy. Here again we see the symbol of Christ as our Sabbath rest—the holy, perfect Son of God who sanctifies and makes holy all who believe in Him. God sanctified Christ, just as He sanctified the Sabbath day, and sent Him into the world to be our sacrifice for sin. In Him we find complete rest from the labors of our self-effort, because He alone is holy and righteous. Jesus says in Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” As God incarnate, He decides the true meaning of the Sabbath because He created it, and He is our Sabbath rest in the flesh. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God’s favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.
Hebrews 4 is the definitive passage regarding Jesus as our Sabbath rest. It is to long to post here, however, READ IT…it will help put some of the connections between physical and spiritual things together. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers to “enter in” to the Sabbath rest provided by Christ. After three chapters of telling them that Jesus is superior to the angels and that He is our Apostle and High Priest, he pleads with them to not harden their hearts against Him, as their fathers hardened their hearts against Jehovah in the wilderness. Because of their unbelief, God denied that generation access to the holy land, saying, “They shall not enter into My rest” (that’s in Hebrews 3:11). In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews begs them—and us—not to make the same mistake by rejecting God’s Sabbath rest in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:9-11 does a nice job of summing all of this up, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience”.
There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God’s plan for us to cease from the labor of our own works. In short, our Sabbath rest is faith an obedience in Jesus Christ. Now I know the ping-pong balls are bouncing out there. I know there are lots of questions. Send them my way and stay tuned for next week when we tackle this question:
“Does the 4th commandment not apply to Christians?”