Trust, Rest, and Praise

H – Highlight

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 2:1-3 – 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

E – Explain

Genesis 1:1-2:3 is the first account of creation in Scripture. These introduce us to God who creates all things out of nothing.

Genesis 1:1 declares to us the simple fact that God created everything. Genesis 2:1-3 show us that, at a moment in time, God was finished with the work of creation and rested. We know that God did not rest from fatigue. But God made the seventh day, the day when he did not work, a special day, a holy day.

A – Apply

There are a few truths to apply here. First is that God created everything and, in doing so, proved his existence and his power. We should take confidence from the fact that the God we served created this universe. We should see that this God is our Lord, as he made us by his power and for his purposes.

The fact that God rested and called the seventh day holy should remind us that rest is good. Rest involves trusting the Lord to fulfill his purpose in creation. Rest reminds us that our constant work is not required to keep God on his throne or to see his kingdom built.

The rest on the seventh day also points us to Jesus. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that we enter into the true Sabbath rest when we place our trust, not in our work and obedience, but in Christ and his finished work. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is the natural fulfillment of the Sabbath command. This is not to say that resting a day in the week is not a good and God-honoring practice. But it is not a New Testament legal requirement.

R – Respond

I think the biggest responses for me from this text are trust, rest, and praise. God created the universe without my help. He does not need my wisdom to fix it. God rested, and he clearly designed me to trust him enough to rest too. And there is a response of praise for Jesus, as he is my Sabbath rest.

If I’m going to do this rightly, I will have to intentionally take time to rest this week in trust of the Lord, even in a chaotic and stressful time.

Prayer: Lord, I worship you, Maker of heaven and earth. You are almighty and glorious. I pray you will forgive me for the times I have forgotten to trust you, the one who is powerful enough to create the universe from nothing. I pray that you will help me to rest in Christ for my standing before you. I truly praise you and thank you for Jesus, whose finished work is my only hope. I pray that you will help me to rest physically, knowing that you do not need me to keep the universe going.

Sabbath and Faith

The call of God to have the people of Israel observe the Sabbath is an amazing call to faith and a glorious pointer to Christ. Resting one day out of seven is something that requires discipline and faith. And the Sabbath command for the land is even greater.

Leviticus 25:1-4 – 1 The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”

God called on the people of Israel not only to rest one day out of seven, he called the nation to let the land rest one year out of seven. God promised a harvest in year 6 that would be so great that it would sustain the people for years to come.

I’m sure you know that many Christians debate with one another as to whether or not we are legally required to keep a Sabbath day. Some folks do. Some others do not, but believe the Sabbath command to be a pointer to the ultimate rest we receive in Christ.

Hebrews 4:9–11 – 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

I am one who believes that the binding ordinance of Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ. But I also know that it is good for the people of God to take a day, focus on the Lord, and rest from their worldly labors. But this is not what I want to write about.

What grabbed my attention in this read through Leviticus and in thinking about the Sabbath commands is just how much faith the Sabbath required. The week-to-week Sabbath required faith. People had to believe God, that he would provide for them if they worked only 6 out of 7 days. If you look at our world, at businesses open 24/7, you know that it requires faith to believe that you can sustain life without constant labor. And if you take that further, if you consider the nation’s call to let the land rest for a full year, you know that would have required incredible faith. In fact, as far as I know, the people of Israel never once obeyed that command.

But, dear friends, that faith, that impossible faith, that stunning faith is what points us so greatly to Jesus. It takes faith to let a day go by without working. It takes faith to let a year go by without farming. And it takes faith, genuine faith, to believe that the holy God of the universe will welcome you without you performing a single religious ritual to earn your way to him. IT takes faith to believe that you can be forgiven without a special gift, a special sacred item, a special sacred incantation, a special object or word of power. But the Lord tells us that such is the case. There is no way for you to be made right with God other than by you letting go of sin and self and fully entrusting your soul to the person and the finished work of Jesus.

The author of Hebrews tells us to enter into the Sabbath rest of Jesus. He tells us to turn from the ideas that we do things to gain God’s favor. He instead tells us to fully rely on Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation. This is not him saying that there is no obedience to God that follows salvation. But it is to say that, as counter-cultural as the Sabbath felt to all who did not understand it, so too does it seem crazy to all other worldviews that a holy and just God would accept us based entirely on God’s own choice and God’s own work in Christ. Salvation by grace through faith requires a faith that is depicted for us in the crazy faith required to keep the Sabbath day and the Sabbath years.

No, I do not believe that the Sabbath regulation is a binding regulation on the modern Christian. Instead, I believe that the Sabbath regulation is a shadow that points to the finished work of Christ and our salvation by grace through faith. But I do believe it is good for Christians to shape our lives with work, with rest, and with worship on a regular cycle in the week so that we can, in our lives, show the world that we are resting in Jesus rather than trusting in our labor.

Sunday, Singing, and Living Differently

Christians are to be different. Do any of us really think otherwise? Our lives are to be marked by morals, beliefs, ceremonies, and patterns that are simply not the same as the rest of the world. Christianity has never been a thing to simply add on to a normal and worldly life. Christianity brings a transformative salvation that changes us from our hearts outward.

We are going to be different in many ways. This has been true from Old to New Testament. And one of the clearest differences for the people of God was found in the Sabbath command. Unlike the nations around Israel, the people of God were to take Saturday off work. While neighboring nations pressed on, Israel would rest and honor the Lord. Israel would rest and lovingly allow her servants to rest. Israel would rest, and would depict the coming rest from man-centered attempts to earn our way to God that is fulfilled in the salvation completed for us in Christ.

I’m not a Sabbatarian. I do not believe that the Christian is required to fulfill a particular type of Sabbath regulation. Yet, I do understand that the Lord’s Day, that Sunday, is a day that is special in the Christian world. Our Sundays should make us look different from the world. This is not so much because we are required to follow a particular rule (though forsaking assembly is a sin), but because we love our Lord and center our lives around his glory.

Why the Sabbath talk? Interestingly, it hit me from the superscription of Psalm 92. Take a look at that and the first couple verses.

Psalm 92:1
A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.
1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.

This Psalm declares itself to be a psalm, a teaching and worshipful song or prayer, that is particularly appropriate for use on the Sabbath. And so we have to imagine the Hebrew family, on a Friday night or Saturday morning, after family work has shut down for the day, singing this psalm and learning from it what to do. No more work and no more worldly worries are allowed at this point. It is time to focus on the Lord. It is time to rest. It is time to sing.

Singing the praise of God is good. Remembering how the Lord has cared for his own and how he does justice in all things is important. Singing of the future promises of God matters. Singing of the perfections of God is right. Singing of the goodness of God is obvious. These are things that the Hebrews were to do on the Sabbath.

In the Christian world, the New Testament culture, these are good words for us too. There ought to be in our week a day that is different. There ought to be a time that is sacred. There ought to be an embrace of songs of truth and glory. There ought to be time set aside for us to stop chasing after money and fearing for provision. Instead, there ought to be a time when we gather together with the people of God, hear the word of God, participate in acts of worship like Lord’s Supper, and, yes, sing.

What does doing things like this do? When we take that time away to gather, pray, fellowship, worship, learn, and sing, when we stop everything and make worship a priority, we demonstrate a pattern in our lives that is focused on God and his glory. Yes, we pattern a life of six days at work and one day off just as God did in creation. Even more, we pattern a trust in the Lord that he will take care of us even if we do not force ourselves into the office for 7 days without rest. When we gather to sing, we look weird to the world. Nobody else other than the religious stop life to get together and have a sing-along every week. There is something different about who we are and what we do. There is something that ought to make our neighbors think our life choices are weird. When people get out of bed on their day off, dress their kids, and then take their families to a place where an hour or two are spent in contemplation of an ancient text, they look odd. When they stand side-by-side with people of different skin colors, different personalities, different economic levels, different ages, and somehow still all sing the same songs of the God who made us and whose Son rescued us by dying for our sins, we are doing something utterly radical.

Psalm 92 reminds us that it is good to stop life and sing of the glory of God. It reminds us that, when we stop life and worship, we can recall the faithfulness of God. It reminds us that we live for more than what the rest of the world lives for from Monday to Saturday. It reminds us that stopping life and praising God is good and a proper mark of the lives of all who truly know the Lord.