Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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Our Work Ethic verses our Rest Ethic

Lev 23:3  ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath (cessation of work) of the LORD in all your dwellings.

Ceasing Work
The Jews had holidays where they could not work at all and others where they could do no customary work.  The Jews were given six days to do their work, but the seventh day required complete rest or cessation from any unnecessary work.  Honest industrious work is COMMENDED in the old testament, but rest is COMMANDED.

The first day of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread required them to cease from their ordinary work as did the feast of Pentecost, the feast of Trumpets, and the first and last day of the feast of Tabernacles.  The day of Atonement was a day of affliction requiring a complete cessation of work along with fasting.  But there is not one feast day where the children of Israel were commanded to work.  Even the land was to be left fallow one year out of seven.  The Jews did not do that, and they went into captivity for 70 years so the land could have its years of rest or sabbaths.  See 2 Chronicles 26:21. Apparently the years of rest for the land involved more than just allowing the land to lie fallow so that it would be more productive.  It involved giving everyone a “year off.”

What does the Sabbath mean to us?
Obviously, when we cease from our own works and accept the completed work of Christ at the cross, we can rest in the truth that we are saved.  Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Hebrews 4:3 says, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.”  So, the true sabbath rest in the new testament is obtained by faith in the Lord when we cease from our own trying and toiling and doing in order to be sure that we are right with God.

In a more practical way, a day of complete rest is something that simply isn’t in the nature of most of us.  We are not commanded to keep a sabbath rest in the new testament (except when it comes to the matter of salvation).  However, a day of true rest would seem to be appropriate in the new testament.  Could we quit answering the phone, quit checking email, and quit making plans for the next week? And if we are in some retail business, could we afford to miss out on a day’s sales?  We think we are lazy and sluggards if we are not working.  While Solomon condemns the sluggard in the Proverbs, he also reminds us that all the things we work and labor for are nothing but the passing wind in the light of eternity. He calls these “important” things vanity and vexation of spirit.  First, he says in Proverbs 14:23, “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.”  And while that is true in a general way, we all know that we have been involved in labor that is nothing more than “spinning our wheels.”  We have planted fields that didn’t yield, we have built houses we couldn’t sell, we have started businesses that have gone bankrupt.  So later on, Solomon sums this all up by saying, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:11).”

I am beginning to believe that the “work ethic” is associated with the sin issue.  And that the “rest ethic” needs to be cultivated by more of us so that we can move from being productive in material things to being productive in spiritual things.  Apparently, God rested from all his work with a desire to enjoy what he had created.  We assume that we should have a “work ethic” that will help us “get ahead.”  God knows that we need a “rest ethic” to have balanced lives and to have time to spend with the Lord. 

Bruce Collins

Meditation for the week of February 23, 2020

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