Why God Commands Us to Rest

The Ten Commandments: #4

As we continue looking at the Ten Commandments this week, our hope is that we will find these commandments as a guide and a compass for us during these uncertain and difficult times.

The fourth commandment given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai reads as follows: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Lord continues saying

“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

In modern times most Christians believe that the Sabbath somehow refers to Sunday while only the Jews observe the Saturday as a day of Sabbath rest. While this is sometimes our common practice this practice is almost certainly wrong. If we see the ten commandments as strict and eternal laws given by God we have no choice but to see this commandment as referring to the seventh day of the week which is Saturday. What that means practically is that God wants us to rest from our labors for at least one day a week.

When athletes are training for competition, one of the most important aspects of training that must be remembered is this; rest is what actually builds muscle and improves our performance. The training breaks us down and leaves us weak. That is why the rest is so important. While this is true in the realm of athletics, it seems that it is also true in God’s eyes.

It is also good to remember that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also rested every Sabbath day and that includes Holy Saturday when He was lying in the tomb before the resurrection.

Saturday is a holy day in God’s eyes as well as in the eyes of the Church and that is why we have slightly different rules for fasting on Saturdays and Sundays. One of the best things that we can do to promote the idea that Saturday is holy is to attend Great Vespers. This is a special quiet time of prayer between the Sabbath and the Lord’s day, Sunday, the day of resurrection. If you want to get more out of Sunday morning worship, you start by warming up and focusing on Saturday.

We are reminded that Our Lord is not impressed by those who can simple gain power or wealth through their human efforts. He says

“what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

What a wonderful question. We have so much time to work, but we have a limited time to obey God and enjoy a life that is well-pleasing to Him.

Now, you might be thinking to yourselves “but Father I can’t afford to stop working on Saturdays.” That may be true in a few cases, but lets keep in mind that what is often really happening is that we are building up lives that are unrealistic and out of reach unless we break the commandments. What I mean by this is that we are buying luxurious and expensive or unnecessary things and having to work harder to afford them. In a way that’s like letting the tail wag the dog. Our possessions are controlling us and forcing our hand instead of serving us and allowing us to rest and honor God. We are encouraged to live well within our means, to live moderately.

We are encouraged to rest and remember that we are not meant to simply work without a break. We are meant to do other things such as pray and relax and laugh and enjoy our families. Such activity is not simply good for our spiritual lives but also for our relationships and our physical lives, as it helps us to relax and reduce our tensions and stresses.

The Sabbath is also a time to remember and to thank God for all that He has done for you. It’s not simply a time to stop doing all work though. There is one kind of work that is allowed on the Sabbath. Hint: it is the same work that the Lord Jesus did on the Sabbath…. Helping others. Acts of charity and mercy are always allowed and even encouraged on the Sabbath day.

I encourage each of you to try and slow down on Saturday and take the time to rest. We are all so rushed and so busy.  God commands us to rest because He loves us and He knows what’s best for us! What might happen if we put a little trust in Him?  Let’s be encouraged to show a little faith and find out.

May God give us the strength to rest! And glory be to God forever AMEN.

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