Rest

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27-28

Did you know the Sabbath is mentioned in 36 different verses in the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) alone?

Besides those, 20 additional verses do not expressly use the term Sabbath but speak of a seventh day of rest, making an average of 11 mentions per book. In a written tradition using repetition for emphasis, this commandment is underscored with greater intensity than the one prohibiting murder.

Let that sink in a moment.

On this year’s trip through the Bible, I’ve been drawn to the numerable mentions of Sabbath and have been prayerfully meditating on why. By God’s grace, I think I’m beginning to see glimpses of a few reasons.

There’s too much for a blog post, really, but I wanted to look at one facet: Have you ever wondered why God would command us to rest when rest is not only something we all need, but also a wonderful gift?

I think in part, this is so we would see the rebelliousness of our own stubborn hearts.

Sabbath – one day in every 7 to rest – is really an enormous benefit to our mental, physical, and spiritual health. But of course, we humans have an incorrigible contrariness about us when it comes to God and His commands. We tend to want to do things our way, decide we know what’s best – even decide for ourselves what is right and wrong.

And we’ve decided Sabbath isn’t all that important. Especially today in our 24/7, fast-paced world, rest is something we would much rather complain we can’t find. A glance at the mental health statistics in my country suggests how well this is working for us.

Maybe that’s what is going on now with COVID-19. Maybe, just maybe, this is a kind of Sabbath thrust upon a people who refused it otherwise.

In America, we often talk about how busy we are, how we never have time to stop. Some of us even claim we find it a struggle to read our Bibles every day.

Well now we have time. What are we going to do with it?

Isaiah advises:

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 58:13-14

What if we rested? Physically, yes, but also embracing the full idea of Sabbath as God meant it to be. Keeping it holy. Dedicating it to Him. Taking delight in Him, in His Word, in worship of Him.

What if we took this time – these next few days or weeks or whatever it turns out to be – and really dove in deep to Bible study, to prayer, to searching our hearts, and repenting of sin?

What if we really pondered the Word of God and spent time talking through it with its Author?

What if we pressed into obedience and taking every thought captive to obey Christ and honestly loving God with all our hearts and souls and minds?

What if we did this openly with our families, praying together, reading together, talking about the greatness of God together?

What kind of peace and joy might that bring?

This time of quarantine and social distancing could be lonely, frightening, and difficult. Or it could be the greatest blessing we’ve ever received.

So? What are you going to do with it?

Fountain

Thanks to the flu (which I have so far evaded) hitting my home, I’ve little time to engage on social media this week. So here’s an oldie from 2014 that I needed to re-read today! ❤

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:12-13

We do not like to hear difficult news. It isn’t much fun, I have to admit, especially when said news involves an uncomfortably close look at my own behavior. My pride doesn’t enjoy the buffeting that comes from a confrontation of my sin.

However, the longer I have walked with God, the more I see the absolute necessity of these moments. If I cannot humbly ask God to search my heart and know my thoughts, well… I am not drinking deep from the Fount of living water but trusting in the cracked and leaky vessel of my silly and rather vain human pride, either by trusting in my own effort or ability or by accepting a cultural standard that is man-made and fleeting. This brief passage in Jeremiah has given me pause for both personal reflection and for a close look at my expectations as a part of the Church at large.

Lately I have been wondering how much of our modern church services are driven by such cultural expectations and efforts. Have we allowed the show to upstage the Almighty?

I love some stirring music as much as the next gal, but I do sometimes fear that what passes for “worship” in many churches today is not actually the unadorned worship of the Father. I fear it isn’t fueled by a hunger for His Word and His presence and marked by repentance and obedience, but by something far inferior. I fear that it is nothing more and nothing less than emotional response.

The plain fact is, we do not need music or color-coordination or conducive environments to worship. Worship just happens, and it happens from a recognition of the majesty and worthiness of God. Worship cannot be manufactured: it is the natural response to our mighty King.

Just the other day as I read Jeremiah 2 to my kids, I pondered it in light of the current church trends. When we, the Church, allow human expectations to define our worship services, are we then trusting in the Fountain of Living Water? Or have we hewn out cisterns for ourselves, cisterns that we expend enormous energy trying vainly to fill only to watch our efforts drain away while we sit by, exhausted and helpless to stop the leak?

I do not claim to know the answers; it is just something I have been contemplating. I do know, however, that many people are out there searching, searching for just the right worship environment rather than simply seeking the limitless Fountain which will, without fail, well up to an overflow.

I have experienced that worship can happen in the midst of intense pain as well as in the midst of beautiful and stirring music. True worship is really a reflexive response to the work of the Holy Spirit and cannot be conjured by any amount of human effort or will. I hope to see a return to sincere worship in our churches in my lifetime. I pray to see it in my own heart, as well.

God has made me realize lately just how deeply I, too, have based my ideologies and standards upon these fractured and fragile, man-hewn cisterns. You see, I tend to view my life–my use of time and other resources, how busy I am, my assessment of my own spiritual condition–not by God’s standards but by measuring them against my peers.

This is an area in which God has been dealing with me lately, pointing to the leaks and flaws in the cisterns I am pouring my energy into and beckoning me to sit by His Fountain and be filled.

I spent years striving ceaselessly to keep my spiritual life “full,” but for years I neglected to begin with humility, repentance and surrender. I have tried to be “good,” but in the end my best efforts are no better than filthy rags. What I need is to abide–to be a part of the living Vine, to trust entirely in the Fountain of Living Water and allow His life, power, and love to suffuse every element of my being until I am utterly eclipsed by it. May He increase and I decrease.

My prayer today, Father, is that I will no longer commit these two evils. Teach me to forsake my flawed human understanding and surrender entirely to Your perfect will. May Your Living Water well up within me to an overflow, for the glory of Your Kingdom and of Your name.

Let it be Your power that others see in me–power over sin and over the cares of this world. I ask for Your forgiveness for my arrogance in carving out my own, leaky vessels. I pray, too, for Your forgiveness for our churches. I pray that we, as Your Bride, would humble ourselves completely and listen to Your will for us. Help us to let go of all expectations that we have created and heaped upon ourselves and open our hearts to pure and sincere worship of You, our King.

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls…

Jeremiah 6:16