I get stressed out when my to-do list reaches double digits. But the to-do list for the Israelites in the Old Testament was 613 items! One of those items was the Sabbath. It started where Genesis 2:21 says that God “rested on the seventh day” (NASB). The word in Hebrew is shabat which means to “repose” or “cessation” from exertion.
The Sabbath was one of 613 laws instituted as a way to help the Hebrew community trust God, to bind the Israelite people together closely, and to keep them separate from the rest of humankind. But we now live in what’s called the “age of grace.” Paul tells us about the grace we receive when he writes, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God,” (Romans 5:1-2). We no longer are bound to the “to-do” list of the 613 laws of the Old Testament.
We enjoy a constant state of Sabbath rest based on grace. Works are not required for this rest we enjoy. Later in Romans Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 6:23). We enjoy the free gift of eternal life because of our faith in Christ, not because of our works. Therefore we have rest from works.
This rest from works is discussed in Hebrews 4:9-10, “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” These two verses don’t tell us we are supposed to take a Sabbath Day rest (but I do believe that is important for us to do). The author of Hebrews uses the Sabbath as an illustration to explain his big idea of the entire book: Christ is better. Throughout the book the author says that Christ is better than the prophets (Hebrews 1:1-4), better than the angels (Hebrews 1:5-2:18), better than Moses (Hebrews 3:1-4:13), better than the Levitical priests (Hebrews 4:14-10:18), and better than the priest Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-8:13).
Just as God ceased from his creative activity on the seventh day (Hebrews 4:4), now believers cease from working for their salvation. This is because believers enter God’s rest through faith. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life,” (John 5:24).
We enjoy rest in Christ because our faith in Him saves us, not our to-do list.
Christopher L. Scott is a pastor living in Exeter. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.