We have been celebrating Sabbath for a little over a month now. I won’t pretend that we have this all figured out, not by a long shot. I think we still have so much to learn. But I am glad we are on the journey. God is teaching us about rest, about the rhythm between working hard for six days, and then taking a 24 hour period from 5:30pm on Saturday evening until 5:30pm on Sunday evening to put aside the regular demands of the week and slow down. To take a deep breath, focus on our Father, and rest.
It is our custom (though admittedly, that sounds a bit strong at just over a month of doing this, but humor me) to begin Sabbath with a special meal. And at that meal, to read a portion of the Scriptures, toast with a special drink of my wife’s making, and allow God to lead us into rest.
Tonight our passage was from Hebrews.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it….For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:1, 8-16; English Standard Version)
Some rough observations from our Sabbath table.
The writer wants us to strive to enter into rest. A seeming paradox that: labor to not labor. Work hard to exit restlessness into a state of restfulness. We recall that Jesus spoke of himself as the ultimate rest, “Come to me, all who labor, and I will give you rest.” So the issue is that we find it difficult sometimes to remember that he is the only one that can provide the rest that our restless souls long for. And the writer is trying to get us to see that. Trying to help us...
“don’t be disobedient. Don’t fall. Don’t turn to other things that will not satisfy, that will not give you the rest you crave. Listen to our Father, for his word is sharp and active, and it will lay you wide open. It will reveal you, and make you so vulnerable you will see all the ways that you have given into unbelief, show you how you’ve bought the lie that there are other ways, other places, other sources of rest; and contentment; and peace.”
That is a hard place to be, isn’t it. Exposed. Unbelief that has lead to disobedience and sin. We went someplace else when we were supposed to run to Jesus. This is hard. No place to hide, naked and exposed to the One to whom we must give account. And not only do we not have the true rest we needed, and deeply longed for, we’ve strayed from the very One who could give it to us, would have given it to us, and now there is a reckoning. The whole thing brings a weariness and weight, the kind of burden we were trying to escape in the first place.
Is there any hope here? The writer isn’t done writing, “Our Rest is also our Great High Priest.”
What’s this!? No condemnation?! What is that he is whispering into our ears, is that…a word of sorrow for our misfortune? Is he expressing…understanding over our weaknesses, that led us away from Rest rather than into Rest? It is. He is proclaiming a word of awareness of our sin, and that he has walked a mile in our shoes, yet without sin, without once ever failing. But listen, that reality doesn’t cause him to understand us less or make him less like us, it makes him more like us. Or better, more than us. For he is the only true human, he is the best of us, everything we were always supposed to be, the True Son, and in that place, he is able to truly help us. Which is exactly what he offers to do.
“Come,” he says again, even now, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, come to the throne of grace, come with boldness, come with confidence, draw near, and find mercy and grace and help and…rest, in your time of need.”
Our Father, we are needy, so needy, please bless us as we enter into your rest, yes and very amen, in the name of Jesus, our Rest.