This is a most wonderful feast of the Lord. Keeping it is a Divine commandment. We know that it echoes God’s own behaviour, for He rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2) Himself. It looks forward to the great millennial reign of Jesus and it therefore speaks of the end of the six thousand years, looking to the end of all misrule on earth, to the time of return and triumph of the Messiah.
As we look forward to a day of rest and peace, so all creation is in travail waiting for that day of release when the Prince of Peace shall reign from Jerusalem. And so too there will have been a rest, an “unbroken eternal repose in those mansions of unfading light and unalloyed blessedness where labour and sorrow can never enter. Blessed prospect!” (C.H. Mackintosh, ‘Genesis to Deuteronomy’).
It is very important to realise how far from keeping a day special many Christians really are. Sunday is often full with meetings and fellowship. But it is not a day of stillness, rest, relaxation. Jesus clearly taught that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Without the benefit of a break from normal routine and a break from the frequent tyranny of chores, the restoration of body and soul which God intended simply cannot occur. And without learning to enjoy peace and relaxation together, whole families will suffer from these times of stress (2 Timothy 3:1).
Jesus Himself is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). Indeed He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He makes the link between our external observation of a day of rest and that internal peace which comes with His Lordship and with yieldedness and obedience to Him. For there cannot be any external, however worthwhile, which can create internal peace, like the Holy Spirit can as He works from within. Now how can man rest or worship freely unless there is inner peace? We are told to strive to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:11). We need His peace.
Whereas in the nation of Israel a national day of rest was of course required, in pagan countries it is quite unrealistic to expect there to be obedience to God’s commandments, alas! So it is all the more important that those who do take seriously the Bible as the word of God ensure they do have a day of peace and rest. And also that they see that that internal peace given by Jesus be allowed to rule. For it is no longer a national reflection of the God of Israel, except perhaps in the consciousness of Israelis. It is however, wonderfully, the gift of God to any who believe and receive.
Without a clear witness to the peace of God then the Good News has some elements of Divine promises simply missing. Rest and peace and relaxation are crucial testimony to the life of Jesus. They are part and parcel of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and allow such fruit to grow. For the Sabbath is itself a testimony to God’s foreknowledge, perfect planning and desire for families to enjoy peace and rest. Few parents minister that peace these days, and few enjoy it. So it will speak. It may draw people. They may come to that oasis to drink.
So the Lord of the Sabbath must be allowed to bring that inner rest and there must be that spirit of the Sabbath pervading lives and homes and churches. For then too there will be a pointer to that great day which alone will usher in international peace, for a thousand years. And a witness to the Prince of Peace. His reign in hearts reminds us of His further reign. One peace speaks of another.
(Reprinted from Tishrei Vol2, No 1, The Feasts, Autumn 1993)