Let’s start at the very beginning. There was a garden…
Gen 2:8 – “Adonai, God, planted a garden toward the east, in Eden, and there he put the person whom he had formed. V15 – Adonai, God, took the person and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.”
“The Hebrew word for ‘work’, avodah, is the same word for ‘manual labor’ and ‘worshipping God’. The picture we see here of the human’s work is that it was also a form of worship.” *
When humans were created there was a purpose. The evil one had already fallen from heaven and was causing chaos, but didn’t yet have ruling rights. The job of the humans was to take the order and beauty of heaven and bring it to the chaos of the world. Bring the Kingdom to earth. Rule this kingdom while preparing it for The Kingdom. There’s a job. Work to do.The garden wasn’t all fun and games. God came and walked with his humans “in the cool of the evening”…implying after the day’s work was done.
When we fell, the work got harder. Ushering in death ushered in exhaustion. Gen 3:19 – “You will eat bread by the sweat of your forehead till you return to the ground…”
When God chose His people, he gave them guidelines to live by. So very often we see these negatively, but that’s not the intention. We think, “I can’t have any fun!” But in reality, God gave us commandments for our protection; they teach us how to LIVE WELL! There are commandments – non-negotiables, and rules to live by – things that help us avoid ugly consequenses. One of the commandments: Sabbath. Take a day off!
But how many of us actually do it? And how many of us understand what it’s really about?
Do we see it as punishment? Rabbinic teaching put all kinds of rules around the rules – to ensure that no one would break the vitally important commandments. They dictated how far a person could walk on the sabbath, what you can and can’t eat, and all kinds of extra restrictions. But God LOVES us! He wants us to stop and refill.
When life is all stress, its much harder for relationships to be happy. If we’re exhausted, we’re easy prey for the enemy who wants to destroy us. If we’re burned out, we stop doing our job – bringing the order and beauty of heaven to the chaos of earth. We don’t make as big a difference to the people around us – we don’t engage in life, we don’t love our neighbor as ourselves, we make unrealistic demands of our spouse, we snap at the kids, we struggle with depression, anxiety, and we don’t eat right. The commandment to take a day off to stop our work and focus on God is to rebalance our lives!
But it’s much more than just stopping for a day…
It’s about refilling our souls.