Rest in Christ

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28)

(This is the first in a series of devotions drawn from the Old Testament)

God gave the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”   The Hebrew word “Sabbath” literally means “rest”.  Though this commandment emphasizes the Sabbath Day, the seventh month and seventh year were additional occasions for “Sabbath rest” (Lev. 23:24; 25:4). On the Sabbath Day all labor ceased, and during the Sabbath month and Sabbath year certain types of labor were forbidden.

Through Moses God declared, You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. (Ex. 31:13).  From this declaration we realize that when Old Testament believers observed Sabbath rest, this physical rest was an important sign that the Creator sanctified (made holy) His people, ultimately promising to give them eternal rest from their labors.  It is no coincidence that when God’s Old Testament people observed a Sabbath rest, they set aside time to focus on God’s Word, and that Word magnified the coming Christ who is the source of all true rest.

The Old Testament Sabbaths were ultimately signs or shadows of the real Sabbath: Jesus. Saint Paul wrote:  Therefore let no one pass judgment on you…with regard to a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col. 2:16,17).  Unlike the Old Testament Sabbaths which were mere shadows, Christ Jesus is the substance which casts the shadow.  The Sabbath rest for God’s people is now not found by ceasing work on a given day, month or year.  Our Sabbath rest is all about Him. This is why He invites, Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Sabbath).  We no longer need to concentrate on the shadows—the Old Testament Sabbaths—but on Christ who is the substance of their meaning. Through the Word of God we find rest in Jesus, and in Him we are sanctified (made holy) to the utmost. Jesus, our Sabbath, by His perfect life has earned all that our works could not earn, so we realize we need not work to merit God’s favor. On the cross, Jesus carried the sins and miseries of this life—now by faith in Him we find rest from these sins and miseries.  When He perfectly rested within that Sabbath Day tomb Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Sabbath for us.  In Him, uniquely when we die we realize rest from our labors. We find rest in Jesus because He is the beginning of a new—restful—creation, a creation that will realize its ultimate Sabbath expression in heaven.

 Lord Jesus, grant me grace to trust in your perfect rest.   Amen.