Rest in the Rest: The New Covenant Sabbath for Man

shutterstock_105116654Psalms 23:1-6  A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  (2)  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  (3)  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  (4)  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  (5)  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  (6)  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

There are three elements in Psalms 23 that should be emphasized. The first is from “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (vs 2) This statement deals with the rest that comes from God. This type “rest” means to “desist from exertion” (see Strong’s Concordance H7673). The second point comes from “He leads me beside still waters” (vs 2). Such waters allow a person’s reflection to be easily seen. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “reflection” as being “the act of throwing back; as the reflection of light or colors. The angle of incidence and the angle of reflection are always equal.” This reflection is an opportunity for a man or a woman to view their life in its proper context. The third point comes from “He restores my soul” (vs 3). God’s restoration speaks of “turning” or “returning” (see Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions H7725). This is the invitation of God’s grace, which allows men and women to return to the image from which they were created. These three terms are conducive with the biblical idea of repenting from one’s own way, and, by faith, turning to walk toward God’s will. Through these we see that, as a shepherd, the Lord leads his sheep to a place of rest, reflection, and restoration. This being the case, it is no surprise that the Psalmist boasted of finding complete satisfaction under the care of this this shepherd – the LORD.

First Account of Rest

Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. (2) And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. (3) And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Rest, reflection, and restoration are three essential elements of the Sabbath. If these are bypassed, the “easy way” and “light burdens” of serving God become overwhelming and exhausting. Also, when a person is out of harmony with their identity in Christ, they are equally out of harmony with their neighbor. Such discord leads to the loss of true peace, thus setting people at odds with themselves, those around them, and ultimately their God.

The Sabbath was made for Man

The first Sabbath was set apart to be a special day. In six days God had finished His creation. He had finished His creation of the first humans, Adam and Eve. Then on the seventh day He made it a day of rest. It was this day that mankind was to remember as the day of rest. Often the Sabbath is thought of as a God-given day off. This often comes from the thinking that God needed a day off after His weeklong job of creating the world. However, God doesn’t get tired, which is why He never sleeps or slumbers (See Psalms 121:4). Besides, the creation of all things was not tiring to God. Think about it. How could the Omnipotent God need to recuperate after simply “speaking” the world into existence (see Psalms 33:6)? So what then does this “rest” mean? The Genesis account uses the word “rest” to mean that God was finished from His work. In other words, once He created all He was to create, God rested from creating anything more. Jesus came to earth as God manifested in flesh (see John 1:13, 14). Part of His ministry was spent explaining the purpose of the Sabbath of rest (see Mark 2:23-28).Jesus explained that the high point of God’s creation was not the Sabbath, but that He made a man and a woman. Jesus therefore explained that the Sabbath was made for man, and not that the other way around (see Mark 2:27). That day was God’s gift to mankind. Every week the Sabbath was to remind mankind of their Father’s perfect and complete work in creating them. Every week that day served as a reminder that the Lord is the provider of everything needed to sustain their life. After six days of work, men and women were to rest from their work, to allow them time to better reflect and enjoy God’s.

The Sabbath in the Commandments

Exodus 20:1-17  And God spake all these words, saying,  (2)  I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  (3)  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  (4)  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:  (5)  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;  (6)  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.  (7)  Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  (8)  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  (9)  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  (10)  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  (11)  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  (12)  Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  (13)  Thou shalt not kill.  (14)  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  (15)  Thou shalt not steal.  (16)  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.  (17)  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

The above verses make up what is commonly called the “10 Commandments.” Many time these verses are some of the first a person impresses to their memory. It is interesting that the Sabbath rest is sandwiched between the commands on how man relates to God (Commandments 1-3) and how man relates to man (Commandments 5-10). However, the focus of this study is on the fourth commandment, which speaks of the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath teaches us that the center of religious life is the home. Here are a few lessons we can glean from that event:

  • The home is considered a little sanctuary, and the table is considered an altar.
  • On this day you were to spend time with your family, and all of you were to spend time with God.
    • Many churches today separate families at the door. They have them go to various seats, classes, and etc. But the biblical plan is for the family to come together as one to worship and praise their God. Such togetherness strengthens the individuals with their God, and brings strength, stability, structure, purpose, and peace to a home.
  • The Passover Seder meal is a time when the dining table becomes an altar. The priest officiating over this gathering is commonly the husband/father of the home. This helps establish the headship of the home, thus giving the family structure. As the entire family gathers they bless each other and to talk and sing together about the things of God.
  • Some say the Jews “keep Sabbath,” but in reality the Sabbath kept the Jew for it helped secure them within their unique identity.

There are absolutely no scriptures that say the Sabbath observance is ever required for a Gentile. Also, nowhere does the Bible say the observance should be kept after Jesus Christ nullified the Old Covenant. The New Testament only mentions nine of the 10 Commandments being taught by Jesus and His apostles. Here is a listing of many of these:

It’s important to mention here that the Bible says Jesus never  broke any of the Commandments. As a matter of fact, Jesus was so perfect at keeping the Commandments that those who wanted Him crucified had to hire false witnesses to accuse Him of breaking God’s Law. The Bible also says that Jesus spoke against the traditions that man added to God’s Word. Some of these traditions were also added to the Sabbath. These points must be remembered during any study of God’s rest. Of course the message these commandments convey are important, which begs us to ask why the 4th Commandment is missing in the New Testament. Or is it missing at all?

Rest Only in Christ

Hebrews 4:1-11  Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.  (2)  For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.  (3)  For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.  (4)  For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.  (5)  And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.  (6)  Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:  (7)  Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.  (8)  For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.  (9)  There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.  (10)  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.  (11)  Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

In accordance with this question; the “rest” mentioned in this verse is the Greek word “sabbatismos.” Sabbatismos means “a Sabbath rest.” Hebrews 4:9 is the only place in the New Testament where sabbatismos is found. When referring to the day of Sabbath, or to the observance of Sabbath, the common Greek word used is “sabbaton.” Sabbaton means “to keep the Sabbath.”

In context, Hebrews 4:9 is not talking about a day to rest, but instead the source of true rest. The writer of Hebrews said that Joshua did not lead the children of Israel into the promised “rest.” He indicated that there yet remained a rest for them to inherit. The land in which they were to find this “rest” was the Promised Land of Israel. The Bible states Jesus is the true Israel of God, and consequently, He is this promised rest. Remember, Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Nowhere do we see ‘it is man’s duty to keep the Sabbath’ mentioned in the New Testament. This lack of scriptural evidence applies to all New Covenant Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles, alike. The only mention of this type rest in the New Testament proclaims Jesus to be mankind’s rest (see Matthew 11:28-30; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Revelation 14:13).

God’s true rest is not about resting from physical work or even from mental or emotional strains; when Jesus said, “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), He also said, “You will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). This rest spoke of the true rest, which involves mankind resting from his efforts to ‘save himself,’ and instead entering into the rest found in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Several years ago I saw something while in prayer that has made a lasting impact on me. In this vision I saw a farmer plowing his field with ox pulled plow. He then walked this field broadcasting his seeds. Afterward he walked to the edge and turned facing the field. He has a complete look of calm expectation. Jesus then asked me, “Do you know what the farmer is doing?” I answered, “No Lord.” “He is resting in the rest,” was the Lord’s answer. “I don’t understand,” said I. “What do you mean?” The Lord then told me: “The farmer is resting in the fact that because he has done his part, I will do the rest. Therefore, ‘rest in the rest.’” I have shared this vision’s “rest in the rest” with several people over the years. Many of these men and women said then that this message helped them. Several of these folks in later years have told me that they still remind themselves to “rest in the rest.”

The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus fulfilled everything necessary to save men and women from their sins. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. His blood purchased for us His righteousness. His finished work gives us rest and allows us to experience life where Jesus’ righteousness rules and reigns in our mortal bodies. Christ began the work. We allow Him to finish it by spiritually maturing into His image. This is what “living saved” is all about. The Sabbath rest is a relevant type and shadow of the promised finished work of the Messiah, Jesus. Because of Jesus, we do not look for a physical day of rest, but instead the promised spiritual eternal rest in Christ. Man looks for rest from his troubled life. Such rest only comes by seeking first the kingdom God and the righteousness found in Jesus Christ!

The Bible states that there are neither Jews nor Greeks today. Jesus’ New Covenant salvation is said to be for Jew, Samaritan, and the Greek. This means that the same rest for one person applies to all. Jesus is no respecter of persons. He invited all men to come unto Him for rest. Such an invite could never be applied to a day or an ordinance; it can only be fulfilled through Jesus. Remember, Jesus said to search the scriptures, for in them YOU THINK you have everlasting life, but these are they that TESTIFY of ME” (see John 5:39). The entire Bible is about Jesus; this would therefore also include the Sabbath rest.

Jesus is the correct reflection by which all men and women can view their life in its proper context. Jesus restores our souls by making a way for His redeemed to return to a place of innocence in God.  And all of this is available like David foretold: through the “Good Shepherd,” Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who allows His people to rest from working to achieve their salvation in God. Therefore, you do what Jesus requires of you and then rest in the faith that He will take care of the rest. The New Covenant rest is not reserved for only one day a week, but is instead—through Jesus—available for every day from here to eternity.

Copyright © 2009 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.