You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; [even] during plowing time and harvest you shall rest.
As God is going over The Law with Moses a second time, He reiterates that the Command to rest — Command number four — is not negotiable. Not even during the most labor-intensive parts of the agrarian year.
And that is precisely the time that God calls out in particular: the busiest. He makes special note of plowing time and harvest, times when people in an agrarian society have the most work to get done. These activities had limited windows of opportunity and could not be finished if the time passed and the farmer was not done.
And this is important for me today. Not because I live or work on an agrarian calendar, but because the same temptation is present now as was present when God warned Moses that the Sabbath had to happen even when there seemed like no end to the work. Every profession has its plowing time and harvest; its preparation and fruition. Every profession has bound up in it the temptation to think that I have to get this bit of work done right this moment regardless of whether or not I have taken time to stop and consider all that God has done for in the last seven days.
I read about a study, years ago, that compared the performance of machines that were run continuously to machines that were shut down an equivalent of one out of every seven days. Some were cycled based on hours, but the 6:1 ratio of up time to down time was used as a litmus. The findings were that the machines given down time lasted longer and had fewer unplanned outages for repairs. It may seem unrelated, but I have thought of that often when I read about the Sabbath and connect the behavior of those machines with the biological machine that is my body and mind. My body and mind also need time to rest and reflect. That is one of the reasons sleep is so important, it gives the mind time to sort and file the information it obtained throughout the day.
Jesus said that humanity was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for humanity (Mark 2:27). We were not made specifically for rest, but rest was made for us. Rereading that, I find myself thinking of all those romantic films wherein the protagonist protests that they and their love interest are made for each other. The Sabbath; the time of rest and reflection was, in fact, made for me by God.
The Sabbath is, I think, a call to do with my week what my brain does with the events of the day when I sleep: sift through it and try to understand it. If I pause and reflect on what has gone on in the last few days, I often find that I can see God’s hand at work in my life. Sometimes, I see answers to prayer. Others, I see times when God has steered me around some potential tragedy or another. The first Sabbath on record — God’s resting after the six days of creating the world — begins with the statement that God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Even God paused to reflect on the events that had gone before when He created the first Sabbath by resting.
The application for me is straightforward, but challenging. Stop and reflect and rest.
Stop working. Just for a day. God is not telling me to go on unemployment and pursue some existential angst diet, but to not work for a predetermined period of time so that I might do the other two things.
Reflect on God’s goodness and work in my life throughout the week. I should be looking for God’s hand every moment of every day, but the day of rest is a particular time for reflecting on God’s goodness and what He has taught me and brought me through. The day of rest would be a good time to go over the SOAP entries written the previous week and remind myself of what I think God said to me through His Word throughout the week. With the benefit of hindsight, maybe I will see how the lesson was vital to that day or another that followed. Maybe I will see how God prepared me to know how to address a particular situation by what was revealed in my time with Him.
Rest. Rest in the knowledge that the work will still be there the next day. Rest in the knowledge that nothing is so important that God cannot make sure it can wait one day or give me tools needed to set things in motion to make sure that it gets done on time — I am looking at you, bills. Rest in God’s love for me. Rest. Rest involves trust and trust in God — real, life-changing confidence in the character and ability of God — is in short supply, even and perhaps especially in my own life.
I am commanded: Stop. Reflect. Rest. It is up to me to obey. Even when it looks like the work might not get done in time. Even when deadlines loom. I should be responsible and I should plan and make good use of the other six days, but that seventh needs to be a time when I take my hands off the wheel and let God handle things for a day. He has managed the universe since long before I came along. Can I not trust Him with one out of every seven days of my life?
Father, thank You for the Sabbath; for the command to stop and reflect and rest. Too often, I get wrapped up in the idea that the work has no end, and it may be true, but the work was there before I came along and will probably be there after I am gone. Thank You for commanding me to rest. I will try to obey. Please give grace for those times when I fail and guide me back to what I ought to do.