Scripture: He told them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord” (Exodus 16:23).
Read: Exodus 16:16-30
When an international scholar visited a seminary in the US, he was surprised to see an American colleague gardening on Sunday. For him, that activity wasn’t appropriate for the day of rest he observed on Sunday, whereas his colleague found the experience of planting, sowing, and digging to be restful, providing enjoyment and a bit of mental relief. Although the two men interpreted the Sabbath principle differently, they both agreed on the importance of seeking to rest each week.
In the Old Testament, God instituted a day of rest. The day was for the sake of His people, even if the Israelites didn’t always understand this. God gave clear instructions for how to celebrate the day—on the sixth day they were to gather enough food for two days so that on the Sabbath day they could enjoy “complete rest” on a day dedicated to God (Exodus 16:23). But not all of them listened, much to His consternation. “The Lord asked Moses, ‘How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions?’ ” (Exodus 16:28).
God longed for His people to trust Him enough to rest. After all, He never intended for us to function like machines. He created the idea of a day for rest, knowing that we’d need time to turn from our work in order to regenerate our bodies, minds, and souls. When we let go of our own efforts, we acknowledge our lives are upheld by God, not by our own labor.
How do you interpret God’s command to rest? If you’ve perceived the Sabbath negatively in the past, how does seeing it as an expression of God’s love for you reshape your understanding? God longs for us to trust Him completely—enough to put aside our work and rest in Him.