NO NAP? The Sabbath Rest that Isn’t

Woman sleeping with Bible in arms

One of the many myths held by Christians that cry out for busting is the myth that the Sabbath is mankind’s day of rest. This belief presupposes that because the Sabbath is God’s day of rest, when the end of the week arrives to find a believer of God tired, it is perfectly acceptable to avoid church and to sleep in. This absence from a worship service is also quite self-serving because it is a belief anchored solidly on a foundation of personal convenience. And, it is a concept that no doubt finds its origins in the creation narrative of Genesis 2:2 where we learn, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

There is no disputing the fact that at the end of creation week, God rested on the seventh day. However, there is before us a two-fold question: 1. Why did God rest? 2. What was the nature of His rest? To reach an erroneous conclusion to either question would lead us straight to, well, bed.

The Pulpit Commentary on the book of Genesis reminds us that God cannot be conceived of either resting, or being in need of rest because of exhaustion or fatigue. The nature of the rest was connected to God’s creative genius. He rested merely as a cessation from His activities of creation as described earlier in the Genesis passage (p. 35).

As far as God is concerned, the weekly Sabbath was not designed as a day of lazing around the house, or recovering from the toil of the week. Indeed, there is no mystery as to the purpose served by the weekly Sabbath. In Ezekiel 20:20, God admonishes His people to “hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” From God’s perspective, the Sabbath is a sign He has given to mankind to demonstrate that humanity owes its existence, not to some evolutionary accident, but rather to the creative majesty of a Sovereign God. To embrace the Sabbath is to embrace God as our Creator.
Interestingly, the word “Sabbath” simply means rest. Thus, on the surface there would seem to be a connection between the Sabbath and getting additional sleep. So then, how do we know the Sabbath was not intended as a day for getting more sleep?

The thinking seems to be that since the seventh day is viewed as God’s day of rest, it is logical to assume that it is a day of rest for His children as well.

For starters, 1 Peter 2:21 helps us to remember that Jesus is our perfect example. Therefore an examination of His life and ministry should bring understanding. The Bible provides a treasure trove of the activities of Jesus on the Sabbath day, and, we find no evidence that He used the Sabbath to catch up on sleep. What we do find is evidence that for Jesus, the Sabbath was a time for engaging in the work of building the Kingdom of God through active ministry. According to Luke 4:16 it was the custom, or habit of Jesus to be in a worship service on the Sabbath. The same passage informs us that Jesus preached on the Sabbath day. The Gospel of Luke 13 is just one of many passages where we find Jesus using the Sabbath as a time for teaching and healing.
Of the myriad verses that outline for us how Jesus related to the Sabbath day, Matthew 12:12 is perhaps most significant because it reminds us of the lawfulness of doing “good” on the Sabbath day. What we learn through examining the Sabbath practices of Jesus is how to experience the refreshing benefits of Sabbath rest by shifting our focus away from self. Repeatedly, we see Jesus, on the Sabbath day, directing His attention to the worship of God, and helping others improve the quality of their lives through active ministry.

Curiously, we do not find any Biblical evidence of the Sabbath being a time that Jesus used to slip in some extra rest. God has given the Sabbath to all as a sign of His creative genius. It is a reminder that He is our God, and we are His people. The sons and daughters of God do well when we utilize the Sabbath as a day for the worship of God, as well as for active ministries.

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