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rest

Why Did God Rest? How Do We Honor Him In Ours?

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Come to me and I will give you rest. -Jesus

Summer is almost over, and many of us are done vacationing (or trying to squeeze in one more before fall hits). So while “vacation season” is winding down, many people are gearing up for the grind of fall. Kids or no, the “new school year” changes the way we feel about the change of season from summer to fall. In the air there’s a sense of time-to-get-back-to-it and okay-the-fun’s-over. We feel like we’re moving out of a season of fun and rest, back to a season of work — even if our work schedule didn't change over the summer!

Enough has been written about work, why we work, and even work as worship. Since we spend so much of our time working, it’s not surprising that we want to know our work counts for something bigger — but what about our rest? What about when we’re not working; does our down-time glorify God, when we’re on vacation, when we’re doing nothing? Is rest worship?

Work and rest do not simply have a rhythm — they are the rhythm. They are the ebb and flow of life, and we find them demonstrated routinely in our days, weeks, and years. We go to work, then come home and rest. We work five or six days, then take a day off. We work for six months, then take a week off for vacation. Work. Rest. Some work more than others; some rest more than others. Some are in more of a routine; some rhythms are more like a scratched record, erratic and unpredictable. But we all work and rest.

God rested because he earned it; his rest was an expression of satisfaction in his work.

We all work and rest because we are created in the image of God. And that’s what God does. In Genesis 2:2-3, God’s activity in creation is referred to as “work” three times. Then he rested. In creating the cosmos, God demonstrated the work-rest rhythm. (“Work-rest rhythm” — say that three times fast!) God worked for six days, then rested on the seventh. Why?

It’s important to understand that God did not rest on the seventh day because his work exhausted him. Our work may make us tired, and we need to rest out of necessity. But this was not God’s reason. Instead, we’re told that God rested because he was finished (Genesis 2:2). He had completed his work, and he saw that it was good. God rested because he earned it; his rest was an expression of satisfaction in his work.

In a similar way, we glorify God when our rest is rooted in a job well done. Our rest is satisfying when it stems from routinely completing the work God has given us to do in our jobs, our families, and our lives. And, rest—which is a physical need for us as we exhaust our bodies—serves as a great reminder that God is in control; everything around us doesn’t depend on us! God will not only govern the universe in a way that satisfies him, but he will also govern our lives in a way that instills confidence in his invitation to find our true rest in him.

Our rest is satisfying when it stems from routinely completing the work God has given us to do in our jobs, our families, and our lives.

REFLECTION

Do you ever feel guilty for resting from work?  Why or why not? (If you do it a lot at work, maybe you should.)

How can you make more time to rest? Or, if you have plenty of time to rest but you never feel refreshed, how can you make better use of your down-time to honor the Lord and let your time do what it was designed to do?

For further reflection, read Matthew 11:28-30.

When A Yoke Is More Than A Farming Tool

Come to me, all 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.  -Jesus

For years I've read these words and imagined two animals attached at the neck or shoulders by an apparatus--a yoke. I see them in a field, plowing or doing some hard work. In other words, I picture the header image above. And you do, too. Not because of the header image, but because that's what we've been taught--that Jesus's yoke is like this. That, just like these two animals, he wants us to yoke ourselves to him. That he wants our lives connected to his in such a way that he is the one working in us and through us. That we can't bear the heavy weight of the Law and sinlessness, but he can. This is widely how it's preached from the pulpit, printed in commentaries, and encouraged by devotionals.

And none of those applications are wrong, but what if they're... incomplete? What if there's another meaning of 'yoke' that gives a much richer, fuller significance to Jesus's words? What if we can have a deeper sense of Jesus's yoke by abandoning the agricultural image?

Remember, Jesus Was A Jewish Rabbi

Years ago, I heard someone teach a pretty hot take on the 'yoke' in this passage. It was one I'd never heard before, and it was profound! So profound, in fact, that I looked for it elsewhere--in books and commentaries, and online in the sermons of some of my favorite preachers. To my disappointment, I couldn't find anyone else teaching it. So I put it in the back of my mind, always remembering it, wanting it to be true, but resigning myself to thinking that, at best, it's an interesting thought. Last week as I began reading Andrew Murray's Abide in Christ, and meditating on the ideas of working, resting, and abiding--I recalled that teaching on yokes:

Rabbis during Jesus’ time selected students...who followed their rabbi in order to learn his interpretations of the Torah and to model his obedience to God’s law. A rabbi’s [disciples] were said to take on the “yoke of Torah,” which meant they committed themselves to obeying Torah as the rabbi interpreted and taught it. -Ray Vander Laan, “Life and Ministry of the Messiah: Study Guide”

To double-check this teaching that I needed to be true now more than ever (as it relates to abiding in Christ, and coming to him for rest), I reached out to a Jewish friend of mine at Chosen People Ministries. I simply emailed him and asked if a yoke is a rabbi's set of teachings about the Torah. "Yes, that is absolutely true!" But it's not only teachings and interpretations; it includes practices and behavior as well.

As the master of master teachers, Jesus certainly knew (perhaps even also intended) the farm analogy of a yoke--but remember, Jesus is a Jewish rabbi! We think about yokes as tools for work, but Jesus was speaking about rest. In other words, Rabbi Jesus has a way that he interprets and teaches the Torah. This rabbi has practices and behaviors that he wants us to model. This rabbi has a yoke--and it's easy! It's not like the yokes of the other rabbis. And if we'll take it and learn from him, we'll find rest. So what is Jesus's yoke? Reread his invitation without the oxen plowing the field: "Take my yoke (my teachings, interpretations, behaviors, and practices) upon you, and learn from me...and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

Love God, Love People

Jesus's yoke is not about working, but about resting. Abiding in him by faith. Learning from his teachings, following his example of loving and serving people. Jesus not only interpreted the Torah, but fulfilled it! And summed it up in one--the greatest--command: Love God, and love people.

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

That is Jesus's yoke! Love God, and love people. Forget the farm animals. Take that yoke upon yourself, and you will find rest.