Exodus 20:8-11. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 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. 11 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.
Work and rest. Rest and work. The fourth commandment is a command to do both. It sounds so simple. Do your work and then take a rest. But boy can we get these two basic human activities messed up.
Work has always been a precious gift from God. Even before the fall of man in Genesis 3 there was the gift of work. We were graciously placed in he garden to tend and keep it (Gen. 2:15). But after sin entered the world, work became toilsome and difficult. It also became a source of pride and idolatry (think Tower of Babel, Gen. 11). By time we get to Exodus God’s good gift of work has become completely twisted into slavery – work as oppression.
In the Ten Commandments God is restoring the dignity of work and the position of rest to humanity. Why? Because working and resting are two of the most important ways that we image and worship God. In fact both are required for true worship. Only work and you lose faith. Only rest and you lose faith.
For God, sabbath started right after the work of creation was finished. On the seventh day God rested. And interestingly the seventh day in Genesis 2 has no end. Every other day had a “morning and an evening.” But the seventh day places God in an ongoing state of rest.
Genesis 2:2-3. 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.
What this shows us is that God now is working FROM rest. His creation work is done. God is satisfied with his work. Now his sustaining work continues, but it continues from the position of rest.
This working from rest is an extremely important gospel principle. On the cross, God’s salvation work was completed. Jesus cried out “It is finished!” Now Jesus SITS (rests) at the right hand of God. God is still working out his salvation plan in our lives (Phil. 2:13), but he is doing it from a position of rest.
Hopefully you’re starting to see the implications for us in Christ. In Christ we are in a position of rest. Jesus Christ is our Sabbath. In him we learn to rest from our work and to work from our rest. Both are faith.
Rest from your work – Christ has done it all. No “works of righteousness” can save us from our sin. No striving can produce holiness in us. We are saved and sanctified by grace through faith and not by works so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9). There is absolutely no work, apart from Christ’s work on the cross, that can earn us standing with our holy God.
Hebrews 4:9-10. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Work from your rest – In Christ our effortless salvation, however, produces all kinds of effort. Not to earn grace but from grace. Not to earn righteousness but from righteousness. We are saved out of “dead works” and into a life of “good works.” Our efforts for Christ now are able to actually be true acts of worship without selfish motivation.
Hebrews 4:11. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
The Hebrews of Exodus are a example for us. They were saved out of slavery to Pharaoh’s deadly work. Work done only to the glory of man. Work without rest. Work without faith. And they were saved into sabbath rest. They were saved into a life of faith and freedom. Keeping the Sabbath is both. It takes faith to rest. It takes freedom to rest. It takes being so satisfied with God and so trusting of his provision that I know I can choose the better thing and sit at Jesus feet for awhile.
“To live is Christ” has granted to us the position of spiritual rest that we all need in order to live in the faith and freedom that is required to rest from our work and work from our rest. It is in union with Christ that we can be satisfied with God alone and freely trust his salvation, thus allowing me to work from grace, not from fear. It is in Christ that we can image God in his resting and working. Living free from the idol of work, and finding freedom in our resting in Christ alone.