Week 1 – Rest
Fences serve an important purpose in our lives. They are for our benefit. They provide boundaries that are designed to protect us and keep us safe. Fences are often placed around homes, properties, playgrounds, and things that are valuable.
In this series we are going to discover the important role certain fences can play in our personal lives. Some are placed by God, and others are up to us to build. We place FENCES around things that are VALUABLE or important to us (Indy Race Cars – Corvette Museum – Mona Lisa – The Declaration of Independence, etc.). Some people have a fence around their house or yard.
FENCES keep BAD things OUT and GOOD things IN. And even if you don’t have a literal fence around the place where you live, you do have a boundary that is like a fence. Walls and doors serve the same purpose. Fences provide a barrier to keep intruders from coming in. Fences can keep the kids from getting out or running into the street.
In this series I want to talk about some of the fences that we all need in our lives. Fences provide a distinct boundary around spaces that are worth protecting. The things we want to keep safe our kept within the fence. And we push out everything that does not belong in that space.
Fences were God’s idea. The first fence goes back to the very first book of the Bible. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” – Genesis 2:2–3 (NIV)
The Fence of REST is for our protection.
1. God placed a fence around TIME.
HOLY means to be set apart for a special purpose. You would think the first thing God would do is create a holy place. He didn’t. The first thing He set apart as holy was time. For six days God created, and He called it good. Then on the seventh day He rested. He set a day apart and He called it Holy. There are six good days and one holy day. There is one day that is set apart for a special purpose. That is what holy means. God didn’t place a boundary around work time. He placed the fence around holy time, a time for rest.
Sabbath means to cease, to abstain, to end, to stop. The Creator of all that there is decided to stop. He put a fence around the seventh day. He ended all His creative work.
He pushed everything out. He said this time is sacred. It is special. It is separate. This day is not like all the other days. This time is not like all other time.
Some of us have had this work ethic pounded into our mind and it is ingrained so deeply that we have forgotten what it means to honor the Sabbath. This may be part of the reason why we are so driven. We keep pressing ahead. We have to get the trophy. We want to pursue the prize. We work hard for the promotion. We’re trying to get it all done. We can’t seem to stop. We can’t quit. We won’t give up.
God knows. He gets it. There are always more sales to be made. The kids always have more stuff to do. There is always more money to be made. There is no end to the work that needs to be done. Jesus had to deal with this himself. There were always more people waiting to be healed. The wok of ministry was never done. There is no end to it.
I think most of us know how to work. What we need to learn, is how to rest. And that doesn’t mean on the beach someplace once a year. God wants us to learn to rest His way. The Word of God has clear instruction about work, but it provides clear instruction about rest. God set aside a day when we are to stop and push out everything that should not be inside that space.
Rest is worth PROTECTING.
In fact, God commands us to rest. This is such a big deal that it made His top ten list. It is the fourth of the 10 Commandments. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” – Exodus 20:8-11 NIV This leads us to the second truth about…A Fence of Rest
2. God gave us the GIFT of a DAY.
The GIFT of a DAY is the sabbath. God created an oasis for all of us every single week. He created a built-in weekly vacation for you and me. We shouldn’t give it away or allow anyone to take it away. Think about it. We get a gift every week, where we are to stop for a day. We are to cease and desist. We push out everything that does not belong inside the fence, and we protect what belongs there, and we rest.
Why do we do that? We do it because God did. He rested on the seventh day, and He declared it holy. He commands us to do the same. This is the rhythm He established. You work for six days, then you stop. You observe a Sabbath. God gives us the gift of time. It is an opportunity to recharge, realign, and recalibrate our lives.
Maybe a failure to observe God’s Sabbath is how so many of us have gotten in trouble with our physical or mental health. Maybe this is where so much of the stress and pressure in our lives comes from. I am not sure when or how we decided that Sabbath keeping is the one commandment that is optional, but that is how we often treat it.
We know we should have no others God’s before Him. We know better than to lie, cheat, or steal. Nobody is going to try to deny what God said about lust or adultery. We know that to violate these commandments would be sinful.
Sabbath breaking is a SIN that has consequences.
We live by grace, but breaking God’s law still has consequences. We are conditioned to go as fast as we can, as hard as we can, for as long as we can. We are so addicted to adrenaline, and we are so panic ridden. We are overcome with anxiety. We are overloaded and overwhelmed. Do any of us believe this is the life God has called us to live?
We need to protect the fence that God placed around the sabbath and say no to the habits, practices, and demands of this world. They are not welcome inside the fence of rest. The sabbath is a 24-hour reprieve from work ever week! God is the One who said it. And I think He means it.
God taught the Israelites this principle when He provided the manna in the dessert. Remember how He told them to gather twice as much on the sixth day and then they were to gather nothing on the seventh day? In essence, He was saying, I have given you enough in six days, now you can trust me with the seventh day. After they settled into the promised land, they were told they not only needed a sabbath every seventh day themselves, but they were to let the land rest every seven years. It takes even more faith to take a year off than it does to take a day a week.
Here is the problem. The people didn’t do it for 490 years. They missed 70 sabbaths for the land. The Babylonians showed up. They invaded and conquered the nation of Israel. The entire nation was taken into captivity. “The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the SEVENTY YEARS were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.” – 2 Chronicles 36:21 (NLT) It appears that those missed/forgotten/stolen sabbaths had been accumulating.
If you do something for 490 years, you probably think you are getting away with it.
But those missed sabbaths were apparently not evaporating. They were accumulating. And eventually, they were called in. Have you noticed how the same thing can happen in your personal life? You may not feel like you can take a day off, but suddenly, due to a health crisis, you are forced to take not only a day, but maybe a week, or a month or more off. You can get away without a fence for a while, but there is a price to pay. It will catch up with you.
It did for me in 2006. I refer to it as my meltdown. I had been running too hard, and too fast, for too long. I was not taking care of myself. My body, mind, and spirit were not getting nourished or being replenished as needed. It was beginning to wear me down and I didn’t realize it. I needed boundaries. What I needed was a fence around my sabbath. To be honest, this has been a continual battle for me.
Without a fence the sabbath God command gets swallowed up in the day-to-day pressures associated with the living of life. In many ways, sabbath keeping is about stewardship. We were not made to live like under the gun 24-7-365.
The Sabbath is a day to pray and play. To rest, restore, and be renewed. We all need that. We know we need it. I think we desire it. The Sabbath is not your day off. It is not the day to exchange your work to do list with your home to do list. That is why you go back to work on Monday, and you are just as tired as when you left on Friday. You didn’t get any rest.
True sabbath is resting with purpose. It is about…“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” – Colossians 3:15 (NIV) On the sabbath, you enter a day you did not make. And you admit that nothing you do will keep the world spinning. Somehow, the world will go on, even if you don’t. God created us to create, then look back after six days and ask, was it good? If it was, then celebrate it. If it wasn’t, then change it.
We were not created to get on the treadmill and run and run until we die. But that is what so many people do, and they are putting off life by saying things like…One of these days, things will be different – Someday, somewhere out on the horizon someday things will change – I’ll just keep doing this for one more year – but the finish line keeps moving.
How do we regain control on a life and a schedule that are out of control anyway? I think the answer is found in a single word – SABBATH. Maybe that is why God put a fence around every seventh day. He gave us time to reflect, review, renew, and restore. Ask yourself this question:
If I lived the next six years like I lived the last six days, where would I be?
How would it change things in your life to ask every seven days, am I drawing closer to God, or drifting further from Him? Am I growing and thriving in my spiritual life, or am I withering and dying? Have I been the spouse, parent, or friend that I want to be? In the past week, have I taken time to pray and play?
Some people don’t know how to play. What does that look like for you? What brings you joy? What feeds you soul? What brings renewal into your life? Whatever it is, do it. Without guilt. In all likelihood, if you work with your mind, you rest with your hands. If you work with your hands, you might rest with your mind. What makes your heart sing? What if you were to turn off the computer, put down your phone and live?
The reason we should play is because we are no longer slaves. “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.” – Deuteronomy 5:15 (NIV) We’ve been set free but too many of us are still living as slaves.
When was the last time you answered a work email, or a work phone call on what should have been your sabbath? In many ways, isn’t that living like a slave? Slaves can’t play. Slaves don’t get a day off.
Sabbath reminds us that our life is more significant than our WORK.
We are no longer slaves. We have been set free. It is time to live like it. If your boss won’t give you a day off, that is their fault, but it is also your fault. Are you allowing him or her to take God’s place in your life? We shouldn’t allow people to violate our fences. What they say is not more powerful or more important than what God says. We need to set some boundaries. God told us where to place this fence.
If you can’t get all your work done in five days, you have day 6. Biblically there was a six-day work week. They didn’t know anything about a day off or a long weekend. We spread our work over the sixth and seventh day and it is like we are always working. What if you were strategic and intentional about getting all that you need to get done in five or six days, so that, you can dedicate day 7 completely to rest?
I have a feeling, that for some, that sounds too good to be true. Don’t you think God has given us enough time to do all that He expects us to do without violating the sabbath that He has called us to keep? I don’t believe God’s idea of sabbath was a day where you squeeze in a service at church between running errands and getting ready for the work week. He had something better and more meaningful in mind.
The sabbath is not the day we use running to every ball tournament and all these activities that drain and deplete us even more. The sabbath is the gift of a day that s set apart. It is sacred. It is holy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Sunday. You just need a day. It is the day I intentionally choose not to do the things we feel like we need to do. It is the day we do what is truly needed.
Unfortunately, we don’t feel the need to rest, like we will feel the need to work. Can you just imagine a day with no email, no phone, no social media? Does that appeal to anyone other than me?
I believe the Lord wants to lead us through green pasture and beside still waters, but we can’t enjoy it because we are so busy trying to get the perfect selfie in front of them. The sabbath is the day to remember you can do more in six days with God than you can seven on your own.
It is the same idea as tithing. I believe I can do more with 90% of my income with God, than 100% without Him. The sabbath is the day to remember we can do more in six days with God than we can 7 on our own. Steve, how do you know that? Chick Fil A. 😊
The sabbath is the day I stop working on and working in the world, so that God can work on, and God can work in me. There is no doubt about it, you will have to fight to protect the sabbath. That is why you need to put a fence around it and push everything out. You will have to take control, or it won’t happen.
Jesus said you were not created for the sabbath, the sabbath was created for you. So, don’t be legalistic about it. We are to enjoy it. It is a gift. It is for our good. It is like the first day of vacation, or retirement, or sabbatical. It is such a good thing. And every week you get to step into it if you will.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV) Sabbath is when I exchange being yoked to whatever I have been yoked to, for being yoked to Jesus.
A yoke keeps me going in the same direction, and at the same pace, as the one I am yoked with. Is it any wonder some of us are so frazzled and worn out? We have been yoked to a world, and to a system that is relentlessly running us in the ground. If we are truly yoked to Jesus on the level we should be, I doubt that word burnout will even be a part of our vocabulary. That is because I am going in His direction, and I am learning to go at His pace.
When was the last time you paused and said, “Stop! This day is set apart. This day is holy. I will push out the things that don’t belong here to protect what needs to stay? Who knows what might be waiting out there when I begin a new week by opening the door, turning on the laptop, or picking up the phone? But right now, that is not my concern. I will connect with the One who made me. I will stop, I will listen, I will wait, and I will spend time with Him.
Have you been feeling anxious, tired, or tempted? Are you wondering how you will hold it all together? When you build a fence around the space called sabbath and allow your BODY, MIND, and SPIRIT to be renewed and filled with the peace of Jesus.