We have become a people that do not know how to stop…take it easy…rest. Our forefathers understood the need for a “time out”. Those who tilled the land with walk-behind plows and followed a team of horses or oxen from sunup to sundown—they understood the advantage of resting. It was in “resting” that they could renew their energy…refuel with food or drink…slow down their breathing…cool their bodies. Resting allowed time to contemplate…to dream…imagine…hope.
Life today has become a rat race—an ever-spinning wheel of activity that allows us little time to “smell the roses”…or sit and ponder the meaning of life. We have microwaves to cook our food faster and the drive-thru enables us to literally “eat on the run”. We’ve learned to take ten-minute “power naps”. Our coffee brews as we shower. We take our tablet or laptop into the bedroom. Phone calls are made at stoplights or as we travel down the highway.
Most folks (especially those who are not yet retired) have to literally “carve out” time for family or fun, or God in their busy schedules. And as for us so-called “retirees”…well, like my Dad used to say, “I don’t know how I ever found time to work!”
So it is not surprising that our monthly emphasis in our “Give Us This Day” series for the month of August is on “REST”.
A Long Time Ago
There was a time when Sunday—the Sabbath—WAS a day of rest. Sunday was a day for family gathering after church—a bountiful meal—an afternoon of porch-sitting…ham-mock-swinging…visiting or taking a drive in the country. Sunday evenings revolved around ice cream churning in the summer with the kids chasing fireflies at dusk. In the colder months, families gathered in front of the fire, around the piano in the parlor or around the checker board or card table. It was a slower, quieter time—it was a time for restoring energy…dreaming and planning…simply “being”.
We have lost that Sabbath time as the world has sped up…as we began to move at warp-speed into space. We have lost the ability to rest. It is something we desperately need to rediscover.
The psalmist speaks often of “rest”. This morning’s Scripture from the 62nd Psalm begins in verse one with the simple declaration—MY SOUL FINDS REST IN GOD ALONE;…followed quickly by the assertion in verse 2—I WILL NEVER BE SHAKEN. (Psalm 62:1,2)
The 21st century world was pushed into a “rest” state when Covid-19 hit. Unlike Third World countries who have often faced epidemics of hunger and disease, the US and other industrialized countries found themselves confronting an unknown situation. Beat into submission by an unseen foe, we found ourselves screeching to a halt—literally FORCED into “rest” mode.
Many struggled with the cessation of all outside activities. We fought the confines of the lock down and battled against the whole idea of doing “nothing”. But in the war against the virus, we also found the blessings of “rest”. We rediscovered the meaning and purpose of the “Sabbath rest”.
God Was Busy, Too
The early verses of the book of Genesis record a period of frantic activity. God was busy—VERY busy—with the creation of all that is—
The heavens and the earth. Light and darkness. Water and sky. Dry ground and vegetation. The sun and moon, the stars and planets. All living creatures on land, in the water, and in the sky.(Genesis 1:1-31) Then, He created humankind—male and female.
And then—THEN—what did God do? Genesis 2:2 says—by the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)
It’s taken me a long time to understand the importance of this single verse in the first book of the Bible. Even God—the omniscient, omnipresent Lord of Creation—RESTED. And as I contemplate those five simple words from the second chapter of Genesis– HE RESTED FROM ALL HIS WORK—I find myself confronted by a very disturbing question…
IF GOD RESTED—THEN WHY DO WE THINK WE DON’T NEED TO?
Whatever gave us the idea that we have to continually be in “overdrive”? Why do we think the 40-hour week consists of 60…70…80 hours of non-stop, never-ending keypunching…hammer-wielding…mind-numbing…work??
What makes us think that the world will come to a grinding halt if we aren’t at the office…on the assembly line… behind the wheel…or crunching the numbers?
God RESTED!!! He took a day off…stopped working…kicked back…and rested!! He not only set the example—He gave us an outright command—BE STILL—AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. (Psalm 46:10)
God created the Sabbath—the day of rest—for US. He wanted us to have time to regroup…clear our minds…unload our plates. He wanted us to take time away from the daily grind to rediscover our strength, our hope, our empowerment does not come from constantly “doing”. It comes from “being” in God’s presence—being fully aware of His love, grace, essence.
And that is NOT something we can find if we don’t step back…slow down…and focus on His natural world of creation and His Word of grace and forgiveness—Jesus Christ.
God created us to live in HIS rest. The author of the book of Hebrews makes this observation—
St. Augustine said it so well—“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
Give us this day…REST!