by Mary Alice McGinnis
Rest. What comes to mind when you hear this word? Is taking time to rest easy or hard for you?
Do you have someone in your life who seldom seems satisfied? They are never happy or pleased with anything? Have you had a parent, a teacher, a boss, a coach, or another loved one that seemed to find fault with everything? Living up to their expectations seemed exhausting and impossible. Just being in their presence causes anxiety and stress. In the presence of such individuals, we can never rest. It is impossible to have a deeply intimate relationship. If we are honest, it is not because of their expectations, but because deep down we know we are flawed. Their voice often confirms the thought we already have in our heads.
So, what do we do? We relentlessly look to either defend ourselves or hide away. We either armor up like a warrior to protect and defend, or we run and hide like a fugitive fearful of being found out.
Neither a warrior in the heat of a battle, nor a fugitive in hiding will ever be at rest.
I find it interesting that after the giving of the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial laws, civil laws, and laws of justice and mercy, and all the instructions on how to set up the Tabernacle and the priesthood, God now commands the people to Sabbath rest.
How can we possibly rest? We know we don't measure up. We know we are not perfect. And as a result, how could we ever have a relationship with an Almighty, Holy God? How could we ever rest in His presence?
We have trouble resting because we are striving to either measure up or hide. But I want you to notice something different about why God rested.
"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." (Exodus 20:11)
God did not need rest because He was tired. He did not feel weary. He was not exhausted by His work of creation. He rested because He work was completed.
Remember Jesus' words from the cross? As the day before the Sabbath day was coming to an end on that Good Friday, He declared: “It is finished.”
All the requirements of the law, all the things necessary to please the Heavenly Father, every righteous requirement had been fulfilled. God's plan was to redeem the world, and Jesus’ work of redemption for us was finished. Jesus rested in the grave on that holy Saturday, and then on Easter Sunday declared His victory.
This verse from today's reading jumped out at me:
"You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy."
Jesus did for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We could never make ourselves pure enough. But we no longer need to defend ourselves. We no longer need to run and hide.
We have the freedom to rest in the presence of the Almighty, Holy God who has made us holy, washing us clean and pure in His sight.
Thank You, Jesus, that you declared - It is finished.
Thank You that You invite us, “Come all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When I am feeling anxious or worried or tired, help me find my rest in Your unchanging grace!