I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
I am tired. We are inching closer to our move date, and I am tired. My whole family is tired really. There is a lot on our schedule, and it seems like every time we turn around we find more that needs to get done. I often think to myself that this is just a phase and it will pass. However, I have found that in reality life just gets busier. I know this to be true for me, and just from the anecdotal evidence I have of friends, I know that I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed with busyness.
When I get into these moments in life, Jesus' words, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28) are brought to mind. I cling to that promise. Yet, in the midst of life, my experience can dictate whether I believe that verse to be true or not. When my life is flooded with tasks to complete, the rest that Jesus promises seems to be elusive. I cling to the promise but can often think that it is hollow or just pointing to a time in the eschaton where I will have eternal rest. Yet, Jesus is not lying when he made this promise. What are we to do in the midst of a world that inundates us with demands? What are we to do when we feel the burden of life weighing us down?
The fourth commandment is the answer to these questions. You see the fourth commandment calls us to remember. Here is what it says:
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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Every commandment up to this point has been a command of what we are not to do. This is the first command that calls us to something. We are called to remember the Sabbath. We are called to work for six days and to rest on the seventh. We are to rest from our labors. Not just that we are also called to hallow that day. That is to say, we are to set this day aside for worship. Thus, this day is not just resting from our labors, but also celebrating the work of God.
This, however, seems to be hard. Calvin makes note of the difficulty for us. When he says:
Strange and monstrous indeed is the license of our pride! The Lord demands nothing stricter than for us to observe his Sabbath most scrupulously, that is, by resting from our labors. Yet there is nothing that we are more unwilling to do than to bid farewell to our own labors and to give God's works their rightful place.
This is dilemma in which we find ourselves. In our pride we find it difficult to set aside our work. We find our work so important that we will not obey God and rest. We are a prideful people at the core. Though we deny it, in reality we love being busy. However, the Lord institutes his Sabbath to give us rest and that we may worship him. Bavinck hits the nail on the head when he tells us that God gave us six days to work and the seventh that he hallowed
so that humans could rest from their labors and make heaven rather than earth the final goal of their work. Together with all creatures humans are called to find their rest in fellowship with God.
On the Sabbath, the Lord promises us rest. He tells us that as we come together corporately to worship our hearts are turned toward heaven. We are reminded that our earthly labors are not that which are eternal. On Sunday, as we gather with the saints, we find that our restless hearts find their rest in Christ.
I am tired, and that's why I love the fourth commandment. The Lord has given us the Sabbath. It is a blessing. God has given this day to us to celebrate and rejoice, to worship and rest. I look forward to Sunday all week long because I know on it, I will rest. However, the Lord's Day requires faith. It requires faith because I walk into that day trusting that all the work I need to get done will get done. Nevertheless, it builds my faith because I see every week that the Lord provides for me when I cease from my labors.
In Matthew 11 Jesus was looking on a people that were weighed down by the demands of the Law. They could not fulfill them. Into this context Jesus looks at the people and calls them to come to him. Everyone who is weary with life's affliction, weary with the work of life, weary because the rest world promises has proven false Jesus calls to come to him and he will give rest. The very next passage in chapter 12 Jesus discusses the Sabbath. This is no accident. Life is exhausting and running to Jesus we find our rest. Yet in life, we can become weary again and thus we need the Sabbath rest that has been promised to us. We need the day to put down our labors and celebrate the work of our Lord.
Life is overwhelming. We each have afflictions of many kind. Sunday, the Sabbath, the Lord's Day comes, and we are given a taste of the rest that will be ours. However, it is a real taste. It is a real rest that is promised to us that day.
The business of week-days makes us forgetful of God and our souls: the Sabbath brings him back to our remembrance. When the falling dust of the world has clogged the wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God, the Sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections, and they move swiftly on. God has appointed the Sabbath for this end. On this day the thoughts rise to heaven, the tongue speaks of God, and is as the pen of a ready writer, the eyes drop tears, and the soul burns in love. The heart, which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word. The Sabbath is a friend to religion; it files off the rust of our graces; it is a spiritual jubilee, wherein the soul is set to converse with its Maker. — Thomas Watson
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