The Ah-someness of God
Have you ever judged a speaker before a word was uttered?
I once attended a worship service with some friends where there was a guest speaker invited to speak. As I looked up there was a man slumping in one of the chairs on the platform, severely listing to one side, he held his Bible on his lap and his head was bowed as if he was utterly exhausted. After the introduction this man slowly rose to his feet and shuffled towards the podium, I stifled my laughter as I had flashbacks of Tim Conway’s rendition of the oldest man on the Carol Burnett show playing in my mind.
I still remember the core of his sermon being on what it means to “rest” in God. Every time he got to the word rest he encouraged all of us to take a deep breath and express “Ahhhhhhh”, as if we were settling into something very comfortable.
We’re going to be exploring the idea of God’s rest, on the seventh day, and what that means for you and I today. So let’s begin with prayer.
Sovereign comforting, protecting, Creator, God - as we gather this morning here in this space we confess we need your comfort, we need your protection, we need to be re-created again in your image. We need to understand what it means to truly rest in you. Speak Lord through your Holy Word. We ask this in Jesus name, AMEN
Last week we ended with the 6th day. On that day humankind was created, and God’s final words to us in Genesis 1 read:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Our passage for this morning comes from Genesis 2:1-3, let’s look at it together:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on 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.
Let’s pull it a part a bit.
The first thing we notice is that there is no introduction of “Then God said...”
There is no closing refrain of “there was evening and there was morning” to indicate it’s end.
The seventh day is the only day blessed and consecrated by God.
The days number is repeated again, and again. Three times, five if you count the pronoun “it”.
God’s Word - “the heavens and the earth were finished, all the host of them” - the seventh day “God finished his work that he had done, and he rested...”
Think about it, the first mode in which humanity experienced God was in rest. I think that is an important point. Yes, there is value to work, God has demonstrated that throughout the Creation narrative thus far, but there is also value in rest.
In our culture today we often look at rest as something we need to apologize for, or that we don’t want to admit to. Someone calls us and we’ve just settled into our recliner after cleaning the house all day and when asked what we’re doing our response is, “nothing.”
When you’ve been working on a project and you finally finish it, do you ever just want to stop and enjoy it, simply enjoy it for what it is and enjoy what you have done. That is what God is doing - no need for apology.
Rest is connected to refreshment, given by our Jehovah God to those who trust in Him. Rest is connected to Peace the fullest expansion of life through the covenant relationship we have with God. Rest is security, the cessation of war.
Rest is a good thing, yet to seek too quickly to grasp hold of God’s rest for oneself in pious quietism is as much a faithless act as to complain about the boredom of rest. In so doing we glorify unrest and struggle.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Some translations in place of the word “labor” use the word “weary” such as the NIV
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
The reality is what burdens us too often is what we take on, not what God gives us. If we read the remainder of Jesus statement in Matthew we read:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Notice what he says in verse 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.
It is not take on all the world gives you, or all that you imagine you should do...
“Take my yoke upon you...”
God has given us what we are to do, and we don’t need to keep piling all the world’s issues or our friends issues, or trying to solve everything on our own. It’s a call to learn from Jesus and reminds us he is humble and gives us a promise.
“…you will find rest for your souls.” True rest in the arms of God. That true sense of Ahhhhhh.
Rest in the Bible is more than having a rest. It is rest after completing one’s work, it means completion. It means the peace of God.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
That last verse of our passage this morning is so key:
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.
The 7th day is blessed and made holy - the word that is used there for rest is Shabath, where we get the word Sabbath - a holy day of Rest.
God commands us in the 4th commandment:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
And Jesus reminds us:
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Truly the idea of rest is for us. It is to remind us who it is that we worship, not ourselves, not our work, not the creation, but the CREATOR God.
God hallows the day of God’s rest for all whose heart is restless until it finds its rest in God’s rest.
During this Lenten season I really want to challenge you to take one day, be it Sunday, Tuesday, Friday…whatever, but one day where you are intentionally focused not on your labors, but on REST, Soul reviving rest. And the one place you’re going to find that is in God.
So how do we do that -
Rest from your labors. Don’t plan 100 things to do, use it to be quiet, to reconnect with God.
Plan ahead - what are you doing that is you doing it and is not really part of God’s yoke that is easy and the burden is light? Focus on your calling - what have you been called to do? This will make taking that rest easier.
Lastly - spend time in quiet and solitude regularly. Pray, but listen intentionally. I find this very grounding. I use a centering prayer - I begin with here I am Lord, your servant is listening, and then I shut up and listen. I breathe deeply and when my mind begins to wander I return to focus on God letting go of what is distracting me.
I pray all of us can truly experience Sabbath this Lenten season. May the Lord bless us as we seek to do so.