Jesus is our Sabbath Rest (Exodus 35:1-3)

In Exodus 35 we meet the regulations for the Sabbath for the fourth and final time.  This time, the regulations given are very simply – work six days, rest one day.  What is distinctly different about this description is that the Sabbath is called a “Sabbath of rest to the Lord” and the specific injunction against lighting a fire in the home is also given.

Why not light a fire?  I believe that God was seeking to create a vibrant visual image about resting in God in darkness.  In darkness, there can be no rest. There is a constant struggle against the self and the imagination – is it safe?  What was that noise?  Who’s there?  Just sit outside in the wilderness without a fire and as the night settles in the sounds create a disturbing reality.  Such is the life devoid of the light of Christ that seeks to rest in God.  WIthout Jesus, there can be no rest, but no other light can take his place.  Indeed, Jesus said,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

If one is to rest comfortably in the dark, light must be present, hence the true believer must look not to the light of the world, the light of the lamp or the light of the fire, but to the true light, who shines in the darkness.

Secondly, this day is called a “Sabbath of rest to the Lord.”  The descriptors are important keys to seeing Christ in this passage.  First, is the purpose of the Sabbath. the purpose was to rest from labor.  Daily the Jewish family would work hard, from sunrise to sunset and beyond.  Difficult tasks, hard labor, but these were not the reason, or even the means of receiving God’s blessing.  The Sabbath was designed to remind them that their actions were not the most important thing in their relationship.  Sure God expected them to work, but the work was secondary to the relationship.  We see the same truth declared in Christ.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;  for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)

the author of Hebrews then goes on to declare Jesus the fulfillment of most other aspects of the Mosaic Law.  He is the Great High Priest, greater than Moses, and the sacrifice.  In fact, in this passage in Hebrews 4, sabbath rest is compared to faith in Christ.  By designing a sabbath ritual devoid of light and calling it rest, the Lord was forcing his people to trust him greatly in order to continue to experience their salvation.

Jesus summarized the same truth in these words:

Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Will you keep the Sabbath of rest to the Lord?  Will you have faith in Christ and live in such a way that your life depends upon it?Such is the true sabbath.

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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