Day of Rest

Ever wonder where our seven-day week comes from?

After the sixth day of creation, the book of Genesis says, “[O]n the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation” (2:2-3, ESV). God established the twenty-four hour day and the seven-day week when He created the universe. And He didn’t rest on the seventh day because He was so tired from all that creating. He rested on the seventh day to show His people that this day was unique, something to be set aside.

When God gave the Commandments, He said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8-10). Why was it important to rest on the Sabbath day (Saturday)? And what made that day so blessed and holy? “Holy” meant that the LORD was setting it aside for His purposes. This was the main day for the people to hear His holy Word. He wanted them to remember the consequences of sin, so that they would continuously repent and trust the promise first made to Adam and Eve, the promise that a Savior was coming to redeem all sinners from death.

This coming Messiah would fulfill the law of God in a way that no one else could. He kept it not just outwardly, but even from the depths of His heart and mind. Jesus perfectly listened to the Word of His Father, and He followed that Word to the cross of shame and death for all people. Just before His death, Jesus clearly stated that His work to save sinful humanity was complete. “It is finished!” He said (John 19:30). Then He was buried, and since there was no more work to do for the redemption of sinners, He rested in the tomb the entire Sabbath day, rising again in victory the morning of Easter Sunday.

Still, we tell ourselves there is something we need to do to earn this salvation. God must expect some effort from us if He is going to let us into heaven. It sounds reasonable, but it’s not what the Bible teaches. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10). This says you have to do as much work to get to heaven as God did on the seventh day of creation. And how much work was that? Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada (see also Ephesians 2:8-9). That holy rest is yours when you give up trusting in your own imperfect efforts to keep God’s law. You and I are not good enough to save ourselves. The burden of God’s holy law is too heavy.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” says Jesus, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus kept the law perfectly for you and earned your salvation by His death. There is no work left for you to do. By faith in Jesus, every day (not just Labor Day!) is a day of rest.

– Rev. Peter Faugstad