“Remember the Day of Rest, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you will do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a Day of Rest to the Lord your God. You, your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, or the traveler who stays with you, must not do any work on this day. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them. And He rested on the seventh day. So the Lord gave honor to the Day of Rest and made it holy. Ex 20:8-11
Along the back roads in early spring in Northern New York I enjoyed seeing stands of maple trees all linked together with plastic tubing and buckets as my neighbors harvested sap to make syrup. Just remembering those days makes my mouth water for the taste of that real maple syrup and maple candy.
Each fall, the sap drained back down to the base of the tree; the leaves turned colors and fell off in preparation for the winter season – a season of rest for the tree. Without that rest, the tree couldn’t survive the long, harsh, northern winters. Then as the spring temperatures rose above freezing once again, the sap started running back up into the extremities of the tree, allowing the leaves to bud out.
This sap was the life-blood of the maple tree. Its sweetness made it worth the effort to collect and boil it down into syrup. But in order to make the purest and tastiest syrup, my farming neighbors knew they needed to collect the sap when it first started running back up into the branches of the tree, before the leaves came out right after the season of rest for the tree.
Resting seems to be a necessary part of life to help us be at our best, just like the maple sap. Without proper rest, our bodies have difficulty healing from illness. We have difficulty “de-stressing” and getting back on track emotionally or mentally. We burn out.
The Children of Israel were burned out, drained emotionally and physically from their four centuries of brutal slave labor to the Egyptians. For their first few months in the wilderness, God gave them a season of rest, carefully working with them to restore their trust in him. But once the crisis period passed for them, they needed to get back to a more “normal” routine which included productive work to build up their self-esteem and their identity as a nation.
During phase two of the healing process, God incorporated a balanced regimen of work and rest into their lives. This weekly Sabbath rest was about more than just ceasing from their labors on the seventh day. It was about taking time to rediscover who their God was and who they were in relationship to him.
Not only did God want to heal their hearts from slavery, he wanted to prevent such physical and emotional captivity from ever happening again. He made rest a mandatory part of their law, sandwiching it between the first commandments about loving him and the last ones about how to treat others. It was to be a day spent in his presence, to build relationship with him so they could know how to live with the others around them.
Think about it. When we’re hurting badly inside, we often become “workaholics” to try to forget our grief and pain. While the hard work does dull the pain, it also keeps us too busy to work through it. The work prevents us from spending quality time with our Creator. And it often causes us to neglect or even harm relationships with those around us.
Quite often we don’t want to spend time with God because he is a God of truth, He loves us too much to allow us to wallow in lies and pain. We don’t want to face the pain or hard work of healing. We don’t want to face the fact that once we’ve been hurt, we have the potential to pass that hurt on to others. It’s easier to nurse a grudge than to forgive. So we lose ourselves in our jobs or busy-work, or we wallow in self-pity.
When we stop and spend time with our Creator, he will mirror the content of our hearts back at us so he can cleanse and heal us. We need to stop fighting him tooth and nail because he has our best interests at heart.
Lord, help us to rest in you so you can bring out the best in us!