Daily Archives: November 25, 2009

Sabbath Rest

Hebrews 4:3-4 (ESV)

For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall not enter my rest,’ “

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. [4] For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”

The writer takes what seems to be a giant leap of logic here. He has been using the Israelites in the desert as an example of unbelief and disobedience. They were refused to enter into the Promised Land because of their rebellion and their faithlessness. The Promised Land meant rest from their wilderness wanderings. If they defeat the enemies who are currently in the land they will have rest from war. They will be at home and as long as they hold on to their faith and live in obedience to God they will prosper and know rest. They disobeyed so God said “they shall never enter my rest”.

Then in 4:4 the writer does a very strange thing. He starts talking about God resting on the seventh day when He made the universe. Well, outside of the word “rest” what has that got to do with the Israelites entering the rest of the Promised Land and Christians entering the rest of Christ and of eternal glory? Just this: God rested on the seventh day to direct us to Christ, our eternal rest.

Rest is a picture of faith in Christ. We can do nothing to earn our salvation. We rest in Him. He is our Sabbath rest (verse 9). God did not need to rest when He made the world. In fact, if He were not constantly working the world would cease to exist (Colossians 1:15-18).

So what is the point of the creation Sabbath rest? Is it just to demonstrate a day of rest so that the people of God may worship? No. It is to point us to Christ. The Sabbath is a picture of the rest that true believers find in Christ. The Sabbath was celebrated to remember that God rested and that we are to rest as well.

Should we celebrate a literal Sabbath? Should we observe a day of rest as a rule to be obeyed in the same way that we keep the other commandments of God? It is a long and complicated issue. But we settle here for now. As the land was a picture of the rest that believers have in Christ, so is the day of rest a picture of the rest that we find in Him.

God does the work (He created the world in six days) and when He rested He was telling us that we are in Him only through His rest. At creation God did all the work and put us on the planet for worship and enjoyment of fellowship with Him. The fall destroyed that rest but it can be restored in Christ, our Sabbath rest.

Just as there is no longer a literal land this side of the second coming for the believer to dwell in, there is no longer a literal day that we are required to observe except as a reminder of the work of Christ done for us in which we rest in Him. The Sabbath, before it is anything else, is a creation of God to draw us to Christ.

Rest from your work. Trust Christ.