Wednesday, June 3, 2015

One Day in Seven to Rest: Wednesday Devotion

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.

The thoughts and rules about observing a day of rest vary from one extreme to another. There are some who believe that on a rest day, nothing should be done, no cooking, no cleaning, no outside activities. Others see a day of rest as an opportunity for enjoyable activities and adventure. Like so many things I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Why Did God Rest?

It isn't very difficult to imagine that God might need to rest. We get tired and after all we are made in His image. I however do not think that God was exhausted from creation. I believe that He took a day of rest as an example to humanity. If we look at the totality of scripture we see that God never sleeps. 

Psalms 121: 3

3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.

Most of the rituals for gods involved making a lot of noise. Why would this be the case? Well, what if your god was asleep? 

Rules for a Day of Rest

In the beginning the only rule was to rest every seventh day. Like so many things the rule was strengthened over time. At first there were just a few simple rules. As time progressed the rules were strengthened, because that is what rules do. I would like to point out that few of the orthodox Jewish rules for the Sabbath actually appear in the Bible.

According to Jewish tradition there are 39 categories of activities that are prohibited on the Sabbath day. These categories are then further defined.

Planting, plowing, reaping, gathering, threshing, winnowing, sorting/purification, grinding, sifting, kneading, cooking/baking, shearing, carding/combing wool, dyeing, spinning, weaving (including multiple steps), sewing, tying, untying, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, skinning, Smoothing, writing, erasing, cutting, building, construction, demolition, well you get the picture. 

Most of these prohibitions were by interpretation, eventually these restrictions even included how many steps a person could take in a day. When a person was found guilty of breaking any of these prohibitions the punishment was death. Pretty strict don't you think? There were exceptions to the laws. If a fire broke out and it was going to damage property, by law you had to let it burn. But if a person's life were in danger everyone was required to try to put out the blaze. A person's life was more important than the law.

What had started out as a day of rest had turned into a very strict ritual. When Jesus came along there had been thousands of years of adding restrictions. Jesus and his disciples were not very legalistic when it came to the Sabbath. Jesus regularly healed people on the Sabbath, an activity that made the religious leaders hate Him.

Mark 2: 27 NLT

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

That statement was very powerful. God instituted a day of rest for the benefit of mankind, not for an observation of ritual. God knew that our bodies and minds require time to rest for us to be healthy. That was what God intended. God knew that for many of us to really rest, we need to have a full day and we need encouragement to do so. I am the worst at resting. If I think of something that needs to be done, I am going to get up and do it. 

Saturday or Sunday

All of Jewish tradition the day of rest was a Saturday, or to be more correct from Friday night through Saturday at nightfall. A full 24 hours. 

I am not going to get into a theological debate with anyone. Each has their own reasons for how they believe and how they worship. The early Christians kept the Sabbath and went to the synagogue, then on Sunday they had their "Jesus" meetings. The reason the Christian services were on Sunday is because the Bible says that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Sunday became known as the Lord's day. Revelation 1: 10 actually refers to Sunday as the Lord's day.
During the time of Paul the apostle there were Jewish converts that were trying to get Gentile Christians to follow the law. This was a constant battle for Paul and the first Christians.

Romans 3: 28

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the actions prescribed by the Law.
Constantine the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity passed a law that required Christians to worship on Sunday. There are still many that believe the Sabbath is the correct day on which to worship, but thankfully since we are no longer under the law, we don't have the restrictions.
Worship can take many forms. I love my church and I really enjoy good sound doctrinal teaching, but there is something to be said for time in nature. Everything around us proclaims the glory of God. Don't get caught up in legalism. Pray, spend time in God's word and allow Him to guide you.
Take time to rest. Take time to enjoy God's creation... after all He made this world for our enjoyment.

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