Life, Hope & Truth

From the November/December 2020 issue of Discern Magazine

God’s Sabbath Rest: A Day of Refreshing

Observing God’s holy Sabbath day can help us regain energy, refocus spiritually and be encouraged by others. God’s Sabbath rest is truly a day of refreshing!

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Our world is full of turmoil. Tensions between nations have risen to alarming levels, and the effects of a worldwide pandemic have upended our lives. Even if the virus itself doesn’t frighten you, a slowing economy threatens everyone’s livelihood and standard of living.

Compounding our apprehensions, government leaders and health experts can’t always agree on the best course of action.

Furthermore, people around the world are angry about a number of issues, ranging from racial inequality to police misconduct to loss of personal freedoms, and they are demanding change.

In such a contentious environment filled with anger, fears and unknowns, it’s easy to become discouraged and worn down.

An important antidote to the stress we are facing is found in an ancient command from mankind’s Creator. It’s called the weekly Sabbath.

Sabbath definition

According to the Bible, the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath—a day for resting from one’s normal labors and assembling with fellow believers to worship God. God created it, blessed it and set it apart just after He created Adam, the ancestor of all mankind (Genesis 2:1-3).

Resting on this day is one of the 10 Commandments God gave on Mount Sinai.

God said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.

“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Sabbath was observed by Jesus when He was on earth (Luke 4:16). It was observed by the apostles and by both Jews and gentiles who were part of the first-century Church of God (Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 18:4). And today the seventh day—Saturday—“remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, English Standard Version).

The Sabbath: a type of future refreshing

The weekly Sabbath is a reminder of a refreshing God will bring about on earth after Jesus returns and establishes the Kingdom of God here.The weekly Sabbath is a reminder of a refreshing God will bring about on earth after Jesus returns and establishes the Kingdom of God here.

In the first century, Peter spoke passionately of this wonderful future.

Peter admonished his listeners to “repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21, emphasis added throughout).

Historians have noted that the early Christians connected the Sabbath with millennialism—the understanding that Christ would return to earth and reign for 1,000 years.

English historian Edward Gibbon wrote: “The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years.

“By the same analogy it was inferred that this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death, or who had been miraculously revived, would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection” (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, p. 403).

While the Bible doesn’t specifically state that mankind will have 6,000 years prior to Christ’s return, it is a logical assumption since 2 Peter 3:8 says, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (compare Psalm 90:4).

Biblical prophecies of the Millennium show that this epoch in earth’s history will be a time of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all to receive salvation. This will surely be a refreshing change from the world we live in today. The seventh-day Sabbath serves as a weekly reminder of this future time of refreshing.

How the Sabbath is a day of refreshing today

In addition to this rich symbolism, observance of this weekly holy day can refresh us today in three important ways.

  1. Physical rest on the Sabbath refreshes our bodies

One of the special blessings of Sabbath observance is the opportunity to rest from our physical labors for a full 24-hour period. As we’ve noted, God said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work” (Exodus 20:9-10).

When the ancient Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they did not rest on the Sabbath. They worked according to the dictates of their masters, which was likely seven days a week, without a day of rest.

In a subsequent reference to Sabbath observance, God specifically addressed the refreshing we can experience by resting on the Sabbath. “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed” (Exodus 23:12).

God’s intent is that all people should have the opportunity to rest from their labors on the Sabbath and be refreshed.

  1. Sabbath observance can spiritually refresh our minds

In our busy lives it can be hard to find time to strengthen our relationship with God. The Sabbath is a perfect opportunity for us to spend extra time in prayer, Bible study and meditation on God’s plan and purpose for our lives.

The Sabbath is a time for us to catch our breath, a time to pause from our regular routine so we can focus on what is really important.

The mental refreshing that comes through Sabbath observance is something that even God experienced after spending six days refashioning the earth for mankind and then resting on the seventh day. As Exodus 31:17 says, “In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”

This phrase was refreshed means “he took breath” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible). God didn’t need to be refreshed from tiredness. After all, He “neither faints nor is weary” (Isaiah 40:28). But it appears that God found it mentally refreshing to take a break.

One of the ways God intends for us to be spiritually refreshed on the Sabbath is by attending a church service. In Leviticus 23 God says that “the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation” (verse 3). A holy convocation is an assembly, a public meeting of God’s people.

By attending a church service on the Sabbath where the same doctrines espoused by Jesus and His apostles are taught, we can learn God’s way and be encouraged to remain faithful to our Creator.

Sabbath observance provides us with a weekly opportunity to refresh and deepen our relationship with God.

  1. Fellowship with brethren can refresh us

Fellowship was an important part of the early Christians’ lives. In addition to their spiritual activity, they spent time talking with each other and eating meals together (Acts 2:42).

Later, the apostle John taught that being called to God’s way of life is a calling to fellowship with brethren and with God (1 John 1:3). The Sabbath is an ideal time for us to have fellowship with God and our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Spending time with people of like mind can be very refreshing. To the brethren at Rome, Paul asked for prayers “that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you” (Romans 15:32).

To the Corinthians, Paul spoke of ministers refreshing the brethren and brethren refreshing the ministers (1 Corinthians 16:18; 2 Corinthians 7:13).

Saturday Sabbath: Does the day of the week matter?

Some say that it doesn’t matter which day of the week we rest upon—that simply resting one day out of seven is all that is important. Others say that Jesus is their Sabbath rest, and they now worship Him on every day of the week, removing the need to observe one day as separate and holy.

These are both faulty arguments based on flawed reasoning. The seventh day has unique meanings that other days do not. It is also important to note that worshipping Jesus was never limited to just the Sabbath.

The seventh day is the day sanctified and designated as holy by God. It is a gift God made for all of mankind (Mark 2:27). By observing the Sabbath, we can be refreshed through physical rest, through spiritual refreshing and through fellowship with brethren.

For further study on why no other day of the week can replace the seventh, see “Do You Need a Rest?” and “Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day.”

About the Author

David Treybig

David Treybig

David Treybig is a husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife, Teddi, have two grown children and seven grandchildren. He currently pastors the Austin, Texas, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He has served in the pastoral ministry for over 40 years, pastoring congregations across six states.

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