Whenever I have spent a long day working or traveling or other activity, I become tired and desire to rest. I look forward to a good night’s sleep so that my body can be renewed and I can be ready for the next day of activity. You remember that God created everything in six days and He also rested from His work. Genesis 2:1-3 “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
The seventh day, or the Sabbath, was given to the Israelites as a day of rest. Exodus 31:14-16 “You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” The Sabbath was given to the Israelites as one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11). I do not see that the Sabbath was passed down to us as gentile Christians. The Council of Jerusalem met to decide if gentiles needed to obey the law given by Moses (Acts 15). The conclusion was that gentiles do not need to obey the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders gave the following instruction to gentile Christians in Acts 15:28-29 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” No command is passed on for keeping the Sabbath. Some Christians think that Sunday, the first day of the week, is their Sabbath and they do not do any work on that day. If that is your conscience, then follow your conscience. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). It is not good for people to work seven days a week, every week. God saw that was so and He gave a day of rest to the Israelites. We all need rest, so I believe it is good to have a day of rest.
Jesus offers us rest. Matthew 11:28-30 “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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” The Jews were burdened by all the laws that they were required to keep. Sinners are wearied by the slavery to sin. Sinners are also burdened with their guilt for the wrongs that they have committed. By coming to Jesus, we are freed from the slavery to sin and freed from the guilt we carry when we receive the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus is a loving master who welcomes us and gives us rest. Yes, He has a yoke and a burden, but compared to the yoke and burden of sin, His way is easy and light. By submitting ourselves to Jesus, we can find rest for our souls.
When the Israelites were in Egypt, they were burdened by the labor they were required to do. They were freed from slavery and promised a rest in the Land of Canaan. But when they left Egypt, they hardened their hearts and rebelled against God. Hebrews 3:16-4:1 “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” Because of their rebellion, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years until all of the people who left Egypt died, except Joshua and Caleb. They did not enter God’s rest because of unbelief and disobedience, but there still remains a rest for the people of God. Hebrews 4:8-11 “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
When Jesus returns and is revealed from heaven, He will give us rest. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We will dwell in the heavenly city described in Revelation 21 and 22 where we will rest from our labors here on earth.
I want a rest from my tribulations, trials, and labors here on this earth. I trust that you also want a rest. The writer of Hebrews cautions you not to be like the rebellious Israelites who fell in the wilderness and didn’t receive the promised rest. Hebrews 4:1 “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” The Israelites fell short of their promised land because of unbelief and disobedience. The writer gave the following admonition. Hebrews 4:11 “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” My encouragement to you is to be diligent to enter the rest that God has prepared for the faithful.