Christianity 201

February 26, 2022

Making Rest an Act of Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Today a new writer to introduce, but with a twist. Shannon Birney is actually someone who lives locally to us, and with whom I’ve had a number of personal interactions. (We’re even friends on Facebook, where I first read today’s thoughts.) She describes herself, “I’m just a twenty-something who loves God and wants to share what I’m learning and what He’s teaching me during my time on earth!” She writes occasionally at Simply Shannon. You can also get there by clicking the link in the header below.

The Worship of Rest

“God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them. 

 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.

I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.

And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”

Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
[Exodus 6:2-9]

As I was reading this I was struck by verse 9 – They did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.”

It really must have seemed too good to be true, that God might deliver on His promises – in the previous chapter Moses had gone to pharaoh and though the Israelites were already slaves they were suddenly being worked even harder and life had become truly exhausting.

They didn’t have the energy to consider listening, it was one more thing on top of the ‘daily grind’.

I don’t blame them, I’ve had days and weeks like that myself – where I’m just too tired physically, mentally or emotionally to be in a position to want to hear from God.

And so it’s especially beautiful that after God has lead them up out of Egypt and given Moses the 10 commandments that He makes one of those commandments to have a sabbath day – right after the first three commandments [To not have any gods before him, make idols, or misuse the name of God] He asks His people to make sure they have a day of rest.

God knows if his people don’t have time for rest – freedom/respite from their labor – they won’t have the time or energy to listen to God – just as when they were in Egypt.

And so rest has become an act of worship! 

By the time of Jesus’s ministry in Israel the Pharisee’s had turned the sabbath day into a regimented day of restrictions (which doesn’t sound very relaxing), they had lost the heart of the sabbath day and condemned Jesus for healing on that day [Matthew 12:11-12]. 

To be able to take a break, and just make time to enjoy and delight in the presence of God – that is the point of worship.  This example comes to mind from the New Testament:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 

 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” 

[Luke 10:38-41]

Martha’s preparations and work were an act of worship (not necessarily a bad thing) – although Mary chose better – she took a break to sit at Jesus’s feet and just listen – her resting was an act of worship, and what was really needed.

Not only did God make rest to be an act of worship but it was something God himself did, after he made the heavens and earth He rested [Genesis 2:2-3].

It’s something people are made to feel almost guilty about in Western culture especially, to hustle until we crash and burn is not something God intended.

The heart of the fourth commandment still stands: Have a sabbath day – it might not be Sunday, and it might look different for everyone.

Some may take it quite literally and have a nap, it might be a walk out in nature, enjoying a book, spending some time laughing with friends, painting something beautiful, playing around on the guitar, baking or gardening – while none of these are particularly spiritual practices in themselves they are refreshing to the soul and activities in which God can be invited into and space to hear from Him what He wants to speak to you.

That’s the worship of rest; and the rest of worship follows when we are refreshed and ready to listen. 

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