When I told Cheryl Baird that I would preach on rest, she said, “That’s like me preaching on cooking.” Ouch. Okay. I admit it. Sometimes I work too hard. But why do I push myself so hard? Sometimes it is because I see things that need to be made right, or people that need to be reached, or (if I’m really honest), a feeling deep inside that I’m not good enough. Yet no matter how hard I work, I find more wrongs to be made right, more people to be reached, and a bottomless desire to be recognized. What is the answer to this problem? God has an antidote to workaholics like me: Sabbath rest. Isaiah 56 promises that when we keep the Sabbath, God keeps everything else! What does God promise when we keep the Sabbath in Isaiah 56:1–8?
First, Sabbath keepers see justice revealed (Isa 56:1–2). We don’t have to fix everything wrong in the world. When we “keep justice, and do righteousness” (56:1), we are often overwhelmed because there is so much more justice and righteousness to do! But when we keep “the Sabbath, not profaning it,” (56:2) God promises that “soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed” (56:1). God reveals his salvation, righteousness and just purposes for the world as we keep justice and the Sabbath.
Also, Sabbath keepers are given a name (Isa 56:3–5). Often we work too much because we want to make a name for ourselves. In Isaiah’s day eunuchs did not have a name for themselves because they could have no children, but God promises to “the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths…I will give… a name better than sons and daughters” (56:5). We do not discover rest because we have made a name for ourselves, but we are given a name because we find rest in the Sabbath.
Finally, Sabbath keepers see the outcasts gathered (Isa 56:6–8). Sometimes those most dedicated to gather outcasts rest least; our dedication to bring people to Jesus precludes bringing ourselves to Jesus! But this does not work. The less we bring ourselves to Jesus, the less we will be able to bring people to Jesus. Conversely the Lord promises that those who “minister to him, …who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it” will see the outcasts gathered and others also gathered to him (56:6–8). As we minister to the Lord, then the Lord draws us and others to himself!
Sabbath rest is an opportunity to recognize God as the creator, sustainer, Lord, and provider that he is. Let us learn to keep the Sabbath. One day a week, let us focus on ministering to the Lord, loving his name (56:6). Sabbath rest is more than not working to make money. Sabbath rest is ministering to the Lord. Are you ministering to the Lord? We must be as disciplined about our time to rest as we are about our time to work. Let us trust the promises of God’s Word and learn to rest. Regular Sabbath rest will delight and transform us.