by Tim Hall
God’s commands are given for man’s benefit.
The current issue of “U.S. News & World Report” contains a section entitled “50 Ways To Improve Your Life In 2009”. The first thought I had was “More resolutions? More things I know I should be doing, but don’t want to do?” But when I read the suggestion to take more naps my mood brightened.
Napping in the middle of the day has not yet been embraced by Americans. Afternoon naps are a reward of retirement, not something for the work force, many think. Workaholics are the only approved addicts of our culture. Studies in recent years, however, have shown that there are many health and work benefits associated with adequate sleep. Taking a brief afternoon nap also produces benefits.
The Sabbath was a day of rest for Israel. Observed on the last day of the week (Saturday for us), it was a reminder that God created all things in six days and rested on the seventh. By the time of Jesus it seems to have become more of a burden. The average person wanted to use the day to get more accomplished; the Pharisees made it a test of faithfulness. The Sabbath was a hot-button issue with most people.
Moses gave insight into God’s purpose for setting aside a day for rest. As the people gathered manna for the first time, Moses warned them to not gather on the Sabbath day. But how they would eat if they did not gather?
Here is Moses’ response: “See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore he gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:29, NKJV).
Two ideas stand out in that passage. One is that when people commit themselves to obeying the Lord, he provides for their needs. The second idea is that the Sabbath was given to them. It was not imposed or forced upon them. It was a gift from a loving Father who knew his children would benefit from rest.
Jesus reaffirmed this thought when confronted by angry Pharisees. Why had his disciples plucked grain as they walked through the fields on the Sabbath?
Here is part of Jesus’ answer: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Again we are reminded of one of God’s purposes in giving this ordinance: he was thinking of their needs.
In another place, Jesus taught on prayer. Behind our petitions is this truth: “… For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). He knows our needs better than we know them. The provision for rest is just one more example of his loving knowledge. Modern science confirms it.
by Tim Hall