Rest: What a glorious word! Those who’ve labored under a summer sun know the blessing simple rest can bring. Remember that tall glass of iced lemonade under a shaded porch with a gentle breeze blowing? Rest, even in small portions, is glorious indeed!
From Genesis to Revelation, the ever-increasing glory of rest unfolds. God promised Solomon rest from all his enemies, a blessing that enabled him to fulfill his father David’s vision to build a house for the Lord.
Israel missed the opportunity of rest. God delivered them from Egypt, but they failed to lay hold of God’s promises. So He swore in His wrath, “They shall not enter My rest” (Hebrews 3:11). So tragic was this that a whole generation died as wanderers in the desert instead of entering the Promised Land.
Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Christ invites us to “Come to Me, all you who labor . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The final rewards are great, according to the book of Revelation: Though there is no rest for the wicked, there is — praise the Lord — for the righteous (14:11, 13)!
So we see that the concept of rest is not just in the Bible’s beginning; it’s in the middle, it’s in Christ, and it’s in eternity. Given the fact that God rested (Genesis 1:1; 2:2), our rest must be important to Him.
Creation and worship
Imagine the scene: six days of unthinkable, indescribable creation as from God’s word comes forth the universe and all things therein. Breathtaking! Then it is finished — and God rests. In His wisdom, God performs one final act: He blesses the day He rested and sets the seventh apart as sacred (Genesis 2:3). For us, it’s a special day to reflect on creation and to worship its Creator.
How appropriate this day! Creation is not to be rushed over but reflected on. Scripture stresses this. “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works!’” writes the psalmist (66:3). And in Job, “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God” (37:14). Creation without reflection would be like Washington D.C. without memorials, marriage without anniversary, or our Lord’s death with no communion.
The Sabbath helps here. Neither Divine afterthought nor mere filler, the seventh day is perfectly placed for us to pause and consider the wondrous works of God. It’s an invitation to rest, yes, and so much more. Sabbath is our God-moment to see and reflect upon His finished work — to worship and rejoice!
“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). As we reflect upon creation, we see the design, wisdom, and power of the Creator, and worship is birthed — not just here but in heaven: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
Sabbath is special because, unlike the other six days, it is not marked by work. It’s also special because, thanks to God’s blessing in the beginning, it is meant for reflection and worship. In the Divine economy, rest and worship are linked.
Redemption and worship
There’s so much more. God’s blessing of the Sabbath extended it well beyond His Creation. Hebrews 4:10 states, “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” Within this verse is the truth that one who has entered into the rest of God has also ceased from his works — a picture of our salvation in Christ.
The Genesis scene of God’s invitation to rest in His completed work, to keep the sacred Sabbath, and to worship becomes a vivid picture of our rest within the new covenant. Note the parallels between creation rest and redemptive rest:
- As God completed His creation work (Genesis 2:2), so Christ completed His work of atoning for sin, paying its debt, and satisfying God’s wrath against sinners (John 19:30).
- As God invited humanity to rest every seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-10), so Christ invites us to enter into His finished redemptive work and rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30).
- As weekly Sabbath rest opens the door to worship of God as Creator, so rest in Christ opens the door to worship of God as Redeemer. Reflection upon creation elicits worship from us, as does our reflection upon Christ.
If you think God’s creation work was impressive, look to His work at the cross. What glory, what love, what power! Hear heaven’s worship: “Worthy is the Lamb . . . For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood . . .” (Revelation 5:12, 9). Hear Paul’s boast: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). All Paul’s glory was in the Beloved’s finished work upon the cross.
Resting in Christ
As Adam and Eve ceased from their labors to enter Sabbath rest, so believers cease from their works to enter the rest of Christ. At a practical level, this means receiving your position as righteous before the Father by faith, based on Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is letting go of your works as a means to, and a measure of, your righteousness before God.
Only as believers let go of their own works for salvation can they rest in Christ. If justification depends on one’s works, rest will never be found (1 John 1:9). Another source of righteousness is needed: Christ alone, as the great hymn “Rock of Ages” affirms:
Nothing in my hand I bring,/Simply to the cross I cling.
— Augustus M. Toplady
Worship for the Almighty and the Lamb on heaven’s throne flows from two completed works of God: creation and redemption (Revelation 4:11; 5:9). Let the same perfect works be recognized by true worship on earth!
If we fail to rest in Christ’s finished work, then we will miss true worship of our redeeming God. Instead of worshipping, the restless soul will run from God as did Adam and Eve after they sinned. Our rest in Christ is a catalyst to worship indeed, as it opens the floodgates of praise within our hearts for a holy God for the great works He has done!
Sabbath has never been more relevant than it is today. For an ever-restless world, it offers needed physical rest, space and time for reflection upon the incredible works of God. And it paints a timeless picture of our spiritual rest in Christ.
Sabbath is our Divine empowerment, our Divine catalyst and invitation to worship. So let’s rest. Let’s worship!BA