tired_womanOne of the main ways we see in today’s society that we have made an idol out of work is in our inability to take a off day to rest. And yet God has knitted the idea of rest into the fabric of the universe.

Genesis 2:1-2

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Now notice what is repeated here three times. It is the idea of the seventh day.[1] God connected this seventh day with rest and then commanded his people to take this day as a day of rest.  So rest for us is not an optional extra. It is not something we have only when our diaries can allow. Because in the beginning God has made us to not only need rest but, in the beginning, God set up the week to have six days of work and one of rest. But this rest is not just connected to the way God has created the rhythm of the world, the rhythm that mankind is meant to find it’s groove in. It is also connected to your freedom. It is connected to the gospel! Have a look at Moses’ words to Israel:

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:6-12

In Deuteronomy 5 the Sabbath is re-enactment of the Exodus from Egypt. It is a reminder of God’s saving them from slavery. It is saying to them “You are no longer slaves but free!” So when an Israelite rested from all their work it was, for them, a practical reminder of their freedom. It is the same with us, taking a Sabbath is a “declaration of your freedom.”[2] When you rest you are saying to your work, your school’s demands, your family and even your own insecurity that I am not your slave I am free. If you cannot rest you are a slave you aren’t free because “a person is only free when they can limit their activities.”[3]

Therefore when you rest God is preaching the gospel to you. He is reminding you that you are free in every sense that matters. When you take time to sit on the couch and watch an episode of your favourite TV show or you  kick a ball with your kids or you take your spouse out on a date (without your phone) you are declaring to the world and yourself that you are not a slave to your work. You are declaring your freedom! Your freedom to not be defined by your work subtly hints at your freedom in the gospel. Because in the gospel you are truly free, free from sin, guilt, shame, condemnation and even death! So when you rest there is a sense in which you  are preaching the gospel to yourself! But the flip side is true. If we can’t rest we are really saying we are slaves. Some of us are slaves to our work, other are slaves to our extended families or our friends who we can’t say no to. If you have not had a day off for a while, if you are always busy and you never rest you are actually living as a slave and Jesus, in his death has freed you from the most oppressive form of slavery, the slavery to sin, why are you then living in a lower form of slavery?

[1] Kenneth A. Matthews, The New American Commentary: Genesis 1- 11:26 (New American Commentary), 177

[2] Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, 236

[3] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics the Doctrine of Creation: The Work of Creation (Church Dogmatics) III.1, 215

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