The Gift of the Sabbath: On Taking Time to Rest in God

I’m a busy person, you’re a busy person, we’re all busy people. We all seem to have an endless to-do list, and countless commitments. If it isn’t schoolwork or actual work, it’s chores, clubs, organizations, or other commitments. Our days tend to be pretty packed.

It might be crazy to suggest that we take a chunk of time out of our day to simply rest and be with the Lord. It might be even crazier to suggest that we dedicate an entire day of the week to doing just that and nothing else.

But that’s exactly what God told the Israelites to do in Exodus 16.

He told them, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.”

Exodus 16:23 (NLT)

Crazy, right? I don’t about you, but I have something to do every day of the week. I don’t see it as possible for me to set aside an entire day for rest, scrubbing it free of all work and commitments other than those of the Lord.

In our society we focus on doing, doing, doing, feeling accomplished by how much we can do and feeling a constant desire to do more. We live in a very noisy and distracting place, guys.

But God is pulling us out of all the hustle and bustle of everyday, crazy busy life, and whispering to us, “Shh. Let all that go. Just rest and be with Me.”

He’s not doing that to keep us from doing all the great things we’re trying to do. He’s not trying to stress us out even more by making us do more the other six days of the week. He’s not out to get us.

No. The Sabbath day is a gift.

They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you…

Exodus 16:29 (NLT)

It is a gift because what can possibly be better than dedicated time to doing nothing but resting in Him? Surely not that homework assignment or that test we just have to study for.

Psalms 23 and 63 are excellent reminders of the joys of resting in God’s presence. I highly encourage you to go and read those, even if you’ve read them before. I find that they’re a constant reminder of the joy of God’s presence.

It is far too easy for us to lose sight of God in the craziness of our lives. We forget about Him, get stressed about everything that seems to be piling up, and next thing we know, we’re anxious, despairing, and lost.

But God is still whispering to us. He wants us to come to Him. 

We cannot find joy and peace apart from God. Because we were created for Him and by Him, we cannot be satisfied apart from Him. Our worldly pursuits, our material things, that fun thing we just really want to buy or go do, cannot and will not satisfy us. If anything, they’ll simply leave us wanting more.

But God can fill that hole. In fact, He’s pleading with us to let Him do just that.

So why do we constantly refuse to give Him the time that He deserves and that is so life-giving to us? Is it because He feels distant and unknowable? Is it because we don’t think our time with Him is urgent (it is – for more on that, see this post)? Is it because we believe lies about what can satisfy us?

Whatever the reason, I challenge you to examine your heart and determine what’s holding you back from spending dedicated and restful time with God. And then join me in reminding yourself daily to set aside time to return to Him.

Our souls will be all the more joyful for it.

 

 

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Humbled Before Jesus

It’s far too easy for the Gospel to get watered down, especially when you live in the Bible belt. For much of my life, I held nothing more than a watered down view of Jesus. To me, it was common knowledge that Jesus had died on the cross, and that He rose again, bringing salvation to all who believed in Him. It was as good as fact.

But it didn’t prompt me to worship.

I’ve been reading through Exodus recently, and I came across the following passage in Exodus 4:

Then the people of Israel were convinced that the Lord had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

Exodus 4:31 (NLT)

The Israelites are in Egypt, experiencing a lot of hardship. Years ago (I don’t know exactly how long ago it had been, but it was when Moses had been born, and now he was a grown man), the Egyptians subjected the Israelites to harsh slavery and subjugation.

The Israelites have been crying out for help to God, it says in 2:23. And now, when they have realized that God has heard their cries and has sent someone to help them, their immediate response is to bow down and worship. 

The Exodus is the great delivery of the Old Testament, you could say. It’s a fantastic moment displaying God’s care for His people and God deliverance of His people. And it’s rivaled only by Jesus dying on the cross.

If the Israelites, so many years ago, worshiped God for His promise to deliver them from the Egyptians, how much more should we worship God for sending His Son to suffer for our sins and deliver us for eternity? 

But for some reason, many of us almost seem to take the Gospel for granted. At least, I certainly do sometimes.

Why? Why do we do that?

The answer I’ve found, at least to explain my own foolishness, is that I place too much importance on myself and thus diminish God’s holiness.

Let’s just walk through that for a minute.

God created everything in existence. And then He created us. We are nothing more than God’s creation. We exist only because God made us. That right there is enough reason for us to literally owe our entirely lives to Him.

But let’s go even further. He made us in His image, with an eternal soul, and He gave us free will. We took that free will and sinned against Him. Setting off a continuous line of rebellious people who betray God and turn away from Him.

God’s own creation continually rebelled against Him, believing they could manage on their own and essentially calling Him useless. 

Mind you, this is an eternal, perfect, holy, and just God we’re calling useless. It’s crazy, right?

God, perfect and just as He is, had – and still has – every right to punish us. We chose to separate ourselves from Him, we chose to sin against His perfection, and God can’t have imperfection in His holy and perfect domain, that is, heaven. So what is He to do with this little rebel creation of His?

The first option is to forget about them. They chose to rebel against them, so God has every right to let them do their sinful thing and move about His holy eternal life. Naturally, because we have an eternal soul, that would mean condemnation for us. It would mean eternal punishment, hell, separation from God forever.

That is justice. That is us getting what we deserve.

But God didn’t choose that option. Instead, God chose to pursue his little rebel creations and sent His own Son, God in the flesh, to take our punishment for us. Say what?!

God, the King of kings, God of angel armies, Creator of the universe, died a painful death on the cross to take the punishment for a crime he never committed. He took the blame that was never His in the first place. For a closer look at just how unfathomable that is, feel free to read Abigail: A Reflection of the Cross.

And because He lived a perfect, blameless life (He was God – hello!) He conquered the grave and rose again after three days. And now, through His death and resurrection, we have eternal life if we only place our faith and trust in Him.

We, the greatest rebels of all time (well, aside from Satan), have been reunited with our holy and awesome God to live eternally with Him because He chose to pursue us and take our punishment on His shoulders. 

After understanding – and I mean really understanding – the story of the Gospel, how can I dare to think that God was supposed to save me? In other words, how can I possibly feel entitled to salvation? If anything, I’m entitled to condemnation.

I am a dirty, rebellious creation. But it is my imperfection that magnifies the perfect love of God, in that He chose to save me despite my imperfection.

Which is why even the mention of God’s promise of deliverance – the greatest of which is Jesus Christ on the cross – should prompt us to worship. How can we read such promises and nod and forget about it, to simply carry on with our lives, as if nothing huge had just been told to us?

The Israelites had it right. God’s deliverance is no small thing. It’s an incredible, life-giving, undeserved love that pursues us all the days of our lives, as it says in Psalm 23:6.

And it is because of His deliverance that we need not fear death, or worry about anything in life. God loves us, in our dirty, imperfect state, and He will deliver us from all things, in due time.

Jesus said, at the end of a sermon about not worrying:

So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Luke 12:32 (NLT)

So I rejoice and I worship in the notion that the King of kings is given great happiness by giving me the Kingdom.

What’s In A Name

Recently, I’ve been loving the worship songs that are all about the name of Jesus. Songs like “What A Beautiful Name It Is” and “Worthy Of Your Name.” It’s probably because they’re so full of and focused on Jesus that they tend to be some of my go-to worship songs.

But listening to them has got me thinking. They each place an emphasis on Jesus’ name. Might seem a little odd, right? So, I figured it would be fun to dive into the names of Jesus and just how they proclaim his glory.

Savior

The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.

Luke 2:11 (NLT)

What a wonderful  name that is. Savior. The God who saves. Because of Jesus, and his death on the cross, we are redeemed. We are saved. We can’t save ourselves, but Jesus has already saved us. It’s a powerful name, and one which Jesus is fully worthy of.

Son of God

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Matthew 3:17 (NLT)

It is because of Jesus’ fully divine nature and place in the Trinity that he was even able to do all that he did. If he wasn’t fully God, how could he have conquered the grave?

It says here that Jesus, as the Son of God, “brings [God] great joy.” In the gospel of Luke, it is said that Jesus is “the Son of the Most High.” It’s a huge designation. He is powerful, and almighty.

Son of Man

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:10 (NLT)

This is Jesus speaking. He calls himself “Son of Man.” Given the context, I think this particular designation has something to do with his relationship with us. He is fully God, the Son of God, but as the Son of God, his role in the Trinity is to come and save us. It is Jesus who provided the way for us to reach God once again, after sin separated us from him.

Alpha and the Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Revelation 22:13 (NLT)

In other words, Jesus is everything. He is eternal, ever-lasting, and he deserves all glory for all of time. He is everything. What a glorious name that is.

Bread of Life

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

John 6:35 (NLT)

Jesus is the ultimate provider. He is the only one who can satisfy all of our needs, and he tells us right here that if we simply come to him and believe in him, he will satisfy all our needs.

Bridegroom

Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Matthew 9:15 (NLT)

Here, Jesus is referring to himself as the groom, in response to someone questioning why Jesus’ disciples fast. This is a metaphor that appears frequently throughout the Bible, with Jesus as the groom and the church as the bride. He is our groom, and we are going to live with him in his perfect love forever. How awesome is that?

Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11 (NLT)

We are sheep. We’re clueless and helpless on our own. But Jesus is our shepherd, and he watches over us night and day. Here, he even says that he is the good shepherd who sacrifices himself for the sheep. He did sacrifice himself for us. In our wanderings, we sinned, but he sacrificed himself on the cross to bring us back to God. Jesus is the good shepherd.

Messiah

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

John 1:41 (NLT)

“Messiah” means “anointed one.” Jesus, as the Messiah, is the anointed one of God. In the Old Testament, kings were anointed with an expensive concoction to symbolize the Holy Spirit in their lives. They were a representative of God. Now, Jesus has arrived, and he is The Anointed One, as in the ultimate anointed one, the anointed one above all others. The Messiah.

Lord

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)

This collection of verses does a pretty good job at proclaiming the glory that is contained within the name “Lord.” He is Lord above all, to whom all should bow, seated in the place of highest honor. His name is the name above all names. Jesus Christ, the Lord.

See how each and every one of these names holds so much meaning within them? They truly do proclaim God’s glory, each in a unique way. Now, don’t mind me, I’m just going to go listen to “What A Beautiful Name It Is” and “Worthy of Your Name” and revel in how awesome God’s names are.