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 ESV]
Persecution is designed to cause terror, to distract and upset the normal life of work and rest and relationship. Yet, God states we are to work and rest and know Him and this the world hates.
In this fourth statement, God moves back to the purpose of why He created man. We were created in His image to do His work as He would want it done. When He finished His work of creation He rested. God does not exist in space-time creation. He exists in eternity. We do not have the right to lower Him into our history, or constrain Him by the same laws He created to sustain the universe. I am not interested in debating young versus old-earth theology. We are speaking about God, who holds the universe in His hand, sees the beginning of history from the end, and every moment and molecule contained therein. Before we see man as the crown of His creation we hear Him speak about what He had accomplished.
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. 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. [Genesis 1:31-2:3 ESV]
God explains one of the reasons why He created man in His image. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it” [Genesis 2:15 ESV]. Just as God works and keeps the universe man works and keeps the garden. As God is to the universe so man is to the garden. Man was His authority and is His mouthpiece over the garden. He made man higher than all other creation but He did not make man god. There can be no other god, and man does not have the right to make creation a god, nor to attribute to anything other than God what He has done and does. Keeping the Sabbath is a recognition of who we are before Him, that we are His not He ours.
When Jesus and His disciples walked through a grain-field on the Sabbath and harvested the grain with their hands because they were hungry they were attacked by the Pharisees for “working on the Sabbath” which is “unlawful.” Jesus’ response is quick and sure. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” [Mark 2:27-28 ESV]. God did not rest because He had to. He is not constrained by law. Nor does man keep the Sabbath because he has to. God tells us to keep that which is a natural part of the image of God in man. If we do not keep His Sabbath it is because of our rebellion against Him.
The writer of Hebrews drives home this point (see Hebrews 4:9-12). We are counseled to not rebel, to not harden our hearts as Israel did during the exodus, and refused to believe and trust God. It is the Sabbath which teaches us to rest in Him. We work, for that is one of the given purposes of God. But we work for Him. We rest, because that is one of the given purposes of God. But we rest in Him. Those who rebel, who refuse to work for Him, will never rest in Him.
God’s rest is eternal, just as He is eternal. His Sabbath’s rest is eternal rest. Our temporal rest of every seventh day is a looking forward to His eternal rest, with Him. As is true with each of these ten statements this one points to our rebellion against the God who created us, who sustains us, who governs us, and who gives us purpose. A Sabbath rest is a matter of the heart, the being of each person, and reveals the intimacy, or lack of intimacy, of the relationship we have with the only One who created us.
Those who would bring suffering on the righteous would steal away the peace and rest we have in God, breaking our relationship. Since our relationship is founded on God and His work and promise none can sever it, though they bring upon us the harshest treatment. Their lack of rest and peace is evident by the treatment they show toward those who are God’s. Our trust in God’s promise, His eternal being, is a witness to the world of God’s presence and power.