by Druinie Marion Perera, MCapSc, BEdm, BA, PGDipSpTchg
In a world obsessed with productivity and achievement; rest is perceived as the elusive reward for hard work. God’s rhythm for life is the complete opposite. We are created to operate out of His rest (Matt 11:28-30). When we enter God’s rest, He restores our shalom, making us whole.
What is God’s Shalom?
The Hebrew word shalom refers to far more than the absence of war and the presence of peace. Shalom is best described as a “multidimensional blessing that encapsulates God’s goodness and his very nature”.
God is love and by nature, relational to the core. Shalom is, therefore, firstly about experiencing relational wholeness. There are four key dimensions to relational wholeness = being in right relationship with:
- The Trinity
The experience of relational wholeness (shalom) begins with being brought into right relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By abiding in him, we discover our identity which brings us into right relationship with ourselves. This vertical relationship is the key to experiencing the other two aspects of relational wholeness. It is only by being filled up with God that we can be brought into right relationship with others and creation.
In the beginning, there was perfect shalom. Adam and Eve experienced relational wholeness before the Fall. For example, according to The New American Commentary on Genesis 3:8: “The anthropomorphic description of God “walking” (mithallek) in the garden suggests the enjoyment of fellowship between him and our first parents.” In short, all of God’s creation was whole.
Finally, shalom encapsulates God’s goodness. Being brought into right relationship with God, self, others, and creation leads to complete well-being (physical, psychological, social, and spiritual prosperity) – an experience of everything in abundance, and life in all its fullness until we overflow (John 10:10).
Why is Sabbath-rest central to wholeness?
Sabbath-rest is not optional. Sabbath is God’s reset button. Ceasing (Shabbat) is central to wholeness because God uses his holy day to restore our shalom. In the New Testament, shalom is revealed as the reconciliation of all things to God through the work of Christ: “God was pleased . . . through [Christ] to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through [Christ’s] blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20). Jesus went out of his way to heal the sick and free people from demonic spirits on the Sabbath because healing and freedom are part of God’s restoration of shalom. Jesus took the leaders of his time to task for interfering with God’s restoration of shalom.
Sabbath-keeping is often associated with the Old Covenant, not the New Covenant. Jesus tells us that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. In Mark 2 Jesus makes it clear that the Sabbath was made for us. The Sabbath is still a gift. Humanity is, however, slow to learn, and in his loving patience and kindness, God repeats the lesson through his Word made flesh. Jesus says:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matt 11:28-30 NLT).
Jesus honored God’s rhythm for life, he worked from rest. Jesus placed his relationship with his Father over his ministry, and he was never in a hurry. Jesus spent much of his time on earth, abiding in his Father. He began his ministry by spending forty days in the desert. During his ministry, we find Jesus often withdrawing to quiet places to be alone with his Father. Somehow, Jesus had plenty of time to be in intimate fellowship with God and accomplish all that he was called to do.
Jesus taught His disciples the secret to abiding in the Father and producing fruit. First, he taught them to rely on God’s goodness – in whom shall you trust? “And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveling bag, no money. He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.” Mark 6:7-9 NLT
Later in Mark 6, Jesus teaches them the next part of the lesson: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (vs. 30-32 NIV). Notice how Jesus does not call a meeting to discuss how they could build on their success. Instead of demanding more productivity, he invites them to come away with him and get some rest. What was Jesus trying to teach his disciples and us about the importance of rest? Abraham Joshua Heschel provides some useful insights here: “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul” (The Sabbath, p. 12).
While Jesus does not demand more productivity, following Jesus requires a sacrifice. Here is a detailed breakdown of the cost of Sabbath-keeping:
He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. You must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 12).
What will you gain from ceasing and entering God’s rest-work rhythm for life? In the words of the Jewish Afternoon Prayer for the Sabbath: the “Beauty of grandeur, a crown of victory, a day of rest and holiness … a rest in love and generosity, a true and genuine rest, a rest that yields peace and serenity, tranquillity and security, a perfect rest” which pleases God.