MAN IS TO REST - P2
“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes” (Jer. 31:25).
Much of human history has seen a statistically small number of people with all the power and influence—owning many servants and slaves who work to satisfy the desires of their masters and empower and enrich them. In these pagan hierarchies, slaves and servants had lesser rights or no rights at all to ensure their well-being—and masters would work them hard with only enough rest as was absolutely necessary for them to stay alive and remain productive. There were few and in most cases no options to “quit” or “get a different job.” Even in Israel, most of the successful landowners had servants and slaves, much less their own children to work for them.
Into this harsh reality, God mandated a weekly day of rest upon the nation of Israel: “Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves” (Ex. 23:12). This surely would have been an unwelcome law to the landowners, businessmen, and slaveowners in Israel—namely all the wealthy and powerful people of the land. Like the literary Ebenezer Scrooge who was frustrated with a certain holiday, these folks may well have said “the Sabbath is a poor excuse to rob a man’s pockets every week!”
But God intended Israel to be a beacon of light to the gentiles: “I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness...I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations” (Is. 42:6). And part of that beacon was to be a symbol of the “rest” of God, which He gives to the oppressed and downtrodden.
God cares deeply about this, saying, “I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes” (Jer. 31:25). God is the origin or righteousness, and “the righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern” (Pro. 29:7). God says, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor’” (Zach. 7:9-10b). Truly it was said, “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him” (Pro. 14:31). Speaking to Israel’s leaders, God charged, “What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the face of the poor?” (Is. 3:15).
“Taunting” their Maker, the Jewish elites made the Sabbath more of a burden to the poor than the help it was meant to be, even regulating how many steps people could take. In contrast, Jesus refreshed the poor and oppressed, going out of His way to do so on the Sabbath. He encouraged them on this day in particular with healing and rest from their pain and difficulties—illustrating by His example: “Jesus said to them, the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27- 28). Jesus proclaimed spiritual and physical freedom to the “crushed” on the Sabbath, by the Gospel and by physically restoring people.
God purposefully made a physical and practical creation for a purposeful plan that will persist into all eternity. Our physical reality is not a “throw-away” to be discarded after the spirit leaves the body—it is an integral part of God’s plan. Truly, the Sabbath culminates in Jesus, spiritually for the Believer now and physically in the future during the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), both of which we will get to, but its practical good is immense to man now—especially the poor and slave.
Just as Jesus is God in flesh, God’s plan is both spiritual and physical: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:18-19). Even so, Amen.