Most have heard the expression, ‘Our arms are too short to box with God.” But it’s equally true that “our arms are too weak to work for God.” Which is why every time we tackle a work for Him in our own strength we become exhausted. Burned out. Both physically and spiritually.
To prevent that problem God gave us the Sabbath. He introduced the concept as a day of physical rest at the end of the week under the Mosaic Law. Six days of work followed by one day of complete inactivity. It was His signature piece of legislation upon which all His other precepts hinged. And He made sure everyone understood its importance by attaching the ultimate penalty for non-compliance. “Therefore you are to observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people." (Ex. 31:14)
But as welcome and God-honoring as that day off was, it was the principle embedded in the commandment Father most wanted us to learn. Our 24-hour rest from physical work was simply a means to teach us about ceasing from unprofitable ‘works of the flesh.’ We became aware of those carnal works when we met the Savior and saw how our best efforts to save ourselves were, to quote Paul, “like dung” (Phil. 3:8 KJV).
But once saved, many believers stop resting in Yeshua’s salvation. They return to living a divided life, seeing their career and family life as secular and separate from their spiritual life. They work as if everything depended upon them. And their spiritual life continues to be understood as participation in religious activities, even full time, without regard to the leading of the Holy Spirit. They do not yet see they have died in Messiah and are risen with him. That we are no longer our own, but are part of Yeshua’s body. And in him we are summoned to rest in his completed work 24/7. “For the one who has entered God’s rest [in him] has himself rested from his works, as God did from His” (Heb. 4:9).
Nor do they consider, that if death was the penalty for violating the Sabbath command given on Mt Sinai, how much more attentive should we be to honor God’s new covenant Sabbath sprinkled with Yeshua’s blood? For those found working their own programs when Yeshua returns, it will be gut-wrenching anguish. “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will say to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness'” (Matt 7:22,23). Lawlessness? Yes, they broke the Sabbath!
How then should we live?
When the disciples asked Yeshua, “what shall we do, so that we may do the works of God?” he responded, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He has sent” (John 4:28,29). In other words, if we want to walk with God, yoke yourself to Yeshua. “I am the vine, you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We are in him now! Exhaustion is the early warning signal we are working apart from him.
To each follower, Yeshua continues to call, “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Yes, rest for our souls. But at the same time, obedience to God’s Sabbath command, as Isaiah declared: “Turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways and seeking your own pleasure” (Isa. 58:13).
I’m convinced we are well into the night of the sixth day. God’s full kingdom rest is about to dawn. Are we learning to rest in Yeshua now so “he may cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?” (Heb. 9:14)