Sabbath Rest

This morning, I awoke with a thought echoing in my mind…

The Lord rested on the Sabbath.

The Lord rested on the Sabbath.

The Lord rested on the Sabbath.

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.

(Exodus 20:11, KJV)
bright skies overlooking the barrens, Columbia, ME

I have learned a lot about the characteristics of the Sabbath over the years.

The Sabbath is on the seventh day, after six days of work. (Not, by the way, after five days of work, and one day of fun. Not, by the way, on Sunday morning, so that you can still squeeze in some me-time before work begins again on Monday. And no matter how busy life gets.)

Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

(Exodus 34:21, KJV)

The Sabbath was made by God for man, and so we know that it is good and necessary, in our fallen condition, to take a Sabbath rest.

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath…

(Mark 2:27, KJV)

It is a day in which, specifically, we are called to take a break from our regular work, whatever that regular work may be…

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…

(Exodus 20:10, KJV)

…and we are to turn our thoughts to our Lord, and not to our own desires and pleasures.

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord…

(Isaiah 58:13-14, KJV)

It is a day in which, specifically, we are called to do good according to God’s will, and so that is the ultimate measure of whether what we do on the Sabbath is right.

…Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

(Matthew 12:12, KJV)

But what was it like when the Lord rested on the Sabbath?

~ the first Sabbath ~

What I realized, suddenly, as I was just beginning to wake, is that since God does all things perfectly, it would be wonderful to contemplate what it might have been like when God rested!

God did not need to rest. But He did rest. This day of rest formed the basis of our earthly rest, the rest that we would need in our mortal lives, because the day would soon come when our flesh would begin to see corruption, and rest would become necessary. He rested as an example to us, and we may follow that example today, by obeying His commands and descriptions regarding when to rest, what to do, and what not do, while resting. But more than that, the example that He set by resting would be an entirely perfect example of rest…And in reflecting upon His rest, what beautiful truths might we learn about our rest, today, and His promised rest, eternally?

~ earthly rest ~

What might God have done on His Sabbath, this very first, perfect, day of rest?

The Bible does not describe God’s activities on this day, and so this contemplation is pure imagination. But we can imagine scripturally, if we imagine with a desire to see more of God’s glory, and if we consider what God’s word teaches us in other places about the nature of rest.

When I think of that first Sabbath day, I imagine all that God had just created, all the wonder and all the beauty, yet in its perfection. And I think about how, today, when I step outside, I enjoy many restful moments simply looking, and looking closely, and looking even more closely, at the things that God has created.

The trees, the bark of the trees, the lichen on the bark of the trees, the veining on the lichen of the bark of the trees, the tiny winged insect peeking out of the lichen on the bark of the trees, the veining on the clear wings of the insect peeking out of the lichen on the bark of the trees…You get the idea!

Any glance at God’s creation can draw us into an inexhaustible supply of demonstrations of the wonder and beauty of life, breathed out by God.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…

(Genesis 1:31, KJV)
seagull passing by, Jonesport, ME

Might God, on His Sabbath day, have spent time in rest by simply considering all the good things that He had made? From His perfect vantage point, with His perfect knowledge and understanding, He might have looked across the sparkling waters and the growing fields, observing the many-and-varied trees bearing abundant fruits, admiring the sleekly-swimming fishes and the swiftly-flying birds, the gentle furry creatures and the graceful grazing creatures and the busy creeping creatures. He might have turned His gaze across the universe, contemplating the charming and expansive and radiant setting encompassing the special jewel of earth. He might, perhaps, have rested in acknowledging all things as good, on this day.

…but such as are upright in their way are his delight.

(Proverbs 11:20, KJV)

Might He not have rested in turning His love and warmth and peace upon each of His creatures in turn, much as we gaze upon our own children, simply delighting in all that they are, these beautiful creations? Certainly, on this first Sabbath day, all things were yet entirely upright in their ways, and so entirely delightful to their Creator!

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…

(Genesis 3:8, KJV)

And what perfect fellowship there must have been on this first Sabbath, when all things had been perfectly created, and none, not one, had yet been separated by temptation and sin! Might God, on this first Sabbath, have walked among His creatures and enjoyed this perfect fellowship? Maybe this is why, for our family, a walk in the forest seems such a natural and agreeable companion to a Sabbath day of rest.

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

(Job 38:7, KJV)

Might there have been singing, on that very first Sabbath? I think there might have been! In these early days, we know that the morning stars sang together, and all of the sons of God lifted their voices in great joy. Maybe this is why songs of praise and worship seem always to have formed an integral part of Sabbath worship.

…are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

(John 7:23, KJV)

Certainly, God would have continued to do good on the Sabbath. He can’t help it – it is simply part of His nature to do good on every Sabbath, as it is to do good absolutely all the time. And on this first Sabbath, all of creation, as well as its Creator, only knew how to do good, only knew how to do all things according to the will of the One Who had just made all things. The first Sabbath would have been a day of perfect obedience, a day perfectly good in all thoughts and words and actions, all day long. How entirely restful!

And so, I imagine God resting on this fist Sabbath. Resting in considering the goodness of all things; resting in delight in His creatures; resting in fellowship among His creatures, and walking throughout His creation; resting in songs of praise; resting in doing good, and in all of creation doing good. This is not doctrine; this is imagination; still, I find it wonderful to contemplate the enormity and perfection of rest, as it might have been demonstrated by our Almighty Father on that very first Sabbath!

But Jesus answered them, “To this very day My Father is at His work, and I too am working.”

(John 5:17, BSB)

After resting on the seventh day after creation, God has not rested again.

Today, only humans rest. But the day will come when we will enter into a new rest, a perfect rest, an eternal rest. Our earthly Sabbath rest, after all, is only a foreshadowing, an imperfect representation of what will be made perfect at the end of all time.

~ eternal rest ~

sunrise over the ocean, Jonesport, ME

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

(Hebrews 4:9, KJV)

In the heavenly city, the Father and the Son and all of God’s people will rest, together, for all time.

Rest will simply be an integral characteristic of the heavenly kingdom, as much as restoration, health, immortality, light, joy, praise, righteousness, holiness, and all the other entire perfections of eternal life.

And so we can imagine that all of the imperfect shadows of earthly rest will become fully developed in eternal rest! The admiring observance of all creation, the delight of all creatures in one another, the perfect fellowship, the songs of praise, the good works, and so much more that I can’t yet imagine, will merge into the simple and constant quality of daily life in this new kingdom. Those characteristics that are disjointed and separated and must be approached individually and in sequence here on earth, will be as natural as breathing when all things are made new.

And if our rest is eternal, it must be a constant part of each day. And if it is constant, we can assume that rest and work are united, because our good work in the service of our Lord is equally eternal!

…and his servants shall serve him…

(Revelation 22:3, KJV)

Imagine, a day in which rest is no longer separated from any other activity, even work…A truly perfect Sabbath rest, in which rest, praise, worship, delight, work, are entirely made one in the presence of the One from Whom they all have their origin!

Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy…And if you can spend an extra minute or two remembering the Sabbath, and considering all that it might suggest to us about our Heavenly Father and His eternal kingdom, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

silvery blue butterfly, Columbia, ME

by Sydney Michalski

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