We sat down with Nick Ertel, Pastor & Director of theExperience College Internship, to get his thoughts on the importance of rest and Sabbath in the life of every believer.

“As I talk to guys who have had success in ministry and in their careers, one of the questions I like to ask them is what’s the key to longevity, and success in ministry? And honestly, every time I ask this question, the guys that are so much further along than myself always just go back to the basics. For people like us, that seems just so simple – we think to ourselves ‘there’s gotta be some other special formula’- but there really isn’t. It’s just about focusing on the basics. My thoughts on the Sabbath are not revolutionary. It’s just going back to the basics of what God has asked of us and most of these thoughts are stirred up by a lot of what these wiser guys have had to say to me.”

Deuteronomy 5 – The Original Command

In the spirit of going back to the basics, Nick pulled out Deuteronomy 5 where the Ten Commandments are listed and he pointed some pretty interesting notes about the passage.

The Sabbath command reads like this,

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Nick chose to point out the difference between the typical one liners in the rest of the Ten Commandments in contrast to the Sabbath command.

“Out of all the Ten Commandments, the one God chooses to expound on the most is the one about the Sabbath. God doesn’t waste words, so it’s interesting He would use that many to talk about it’s importance. I think in our day and age, amid hustle and bustle of our society, we think it’s noble to stay busy all the time. The value of work ethic is great, and we need to have a high work ethic, but not at the expense of denying what God has commanded us to do. This isn’t a suggestion – this command is right next to ‘do not murder’- he commands us to Sabbath. It’s so easy for us to not take that one as serious.”

In the New Testament, this same idea of Sabbath is emphasized with a slightly new perspective.

Hebrews 4:9-11 reads:

9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

“So on this idea of Sabbath, the writer of Hebrews is now using the term rest. Now keep in mind, Jesus is the Prince of Peace – He’s the Man of rest. And so this rest is more than just doing nothing – it’s more than just an absence of work – it’s about engaging with the Man of rest. Basically, the writer of Hebrews is saying that the point of Sabbath is about resting in who God is. It’s part of the whole John 15 idea of ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.’”

“In the New Testament, we see that the Jews would take the Sabbath pretty literally but I think they lost the heart of it…. There’s an example in the gospels of Jesus and his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. One of the religious leaders comes out and scolds them for supposedly disrespecting the Sabbath. Jesus then responds and says ‘the Sabbath was made for man, man wasn’t made for the Sabbath.’ Essentially what Jesus is highlighting there is that the purpose of the Sabbath was to help us, not for us to serve it. In other words, this idea of Sabbath is a  commandment, but it also was created for our best interest. So when we think of Sabbath, we can sometimes think of it only as a relief from work, and we think to ourselves ‘well I’m okay, I’m not that tired. I’m just gonna work through it.’ But we have to remember that it’s a command. The other position we could take is by observing the command, but going to the utmost degree, meanwhile totally missing the point and not resting in who God is.”

The point of the Sabbath is not to be stagnant. It’s simply a time to step back from the frenzy of life and allow a moment of recognition for who God is, in order to rest in who He is.

Matthew 11:28-30 reads

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus invites us to rest in him, and promises to give us rest when we turn to Him; not just rest from our work, but rest for our souls. This idea of Sabbath and rest also serves as a heart check – it keeps us from falling into the trap of self-reliance.

“When we get caught up in the idea that ‘ I don’t have time to withdraw because these people need me,’  then we take on this messiah complex that says ‘I’m the only one that can do this. Success rides on me.’ Then you start to operate (maybe not even consciously) like you’re Jesus. The thing is… it takes more faith to Sabbath than it does to not. There still might be stuff that needs to get done, but when you Sabbath, you’re saying, ‘Lord, I’m observing your command and trusting that you’re going to help me, because you’re God and I am not.’ It serves as a reposturing of your heart.”

“ Sabbath is about gauging whether you are self-reliant or if you’re willing to rest.  God is all powerful, He is eternal, He was before the beginning, and yet He rested on the seventh day. Not for His sake – He didn’t need to rest – the only reason He rested was to demonstrate a pattern for us to follow.”

How do we apply the Sabbath principle practically in our lives? First off, it’s important to aim for the heart of it; its not about being letter of the law, but it’s also not an excuse for casually ignoring it’s command. Nick adds that a state of Sabbath or rest can look different for different people. There are certain activities or environments that put people at rest that do not for others. The point is to find whatever puts you at rest, and taking the day to do it. Often times it looks like time spent with family or enjoying hobbies. Whatever you personally identify that brings rest to your soul, channel it on your Sabbath. Sabbaths also create an opportunity to take more time than normal to reflect and meditate on what God is speaking to us daily through His Word and His Presence.The benefits of a Sabbath bring life and perspective to our walk with God. With all that said, lets trust God by beginning a habit of Sabbath in our lives, and having the faith to rest in Him when He asks us to.

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