Exodus speaks of a man who was caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath. This man was taken to Moses to find out what should be done with him. The Lord had him put to death by stoning, at the hands of the assembly. This might seem extreme but the moral of the story is that the Lord’s holiness is more important than getting our work done. In steps the Sabbath rest.
I’m very fortunate not to have lived in these times, for I surely would be stoned. I have often gathered my wood, hay, and stubble rather than living in the Sabbath rest. All of my work is to be done out of a place of rest (from the Life of Christ) or it’s a violation of the Sabbath. This is all pretty amazing to me.
Sabbath Rest and A Bundle of Sticks
This man with his bundle of sticks is but a type and a shadow of the reality of the Life of Christ. We’re all called to enter the rest. Hebrews say, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Hebrew 4:1 NKJV). We are not to perform any work but rather live in Sabbath rest. This harkens back to my post on responsibility. Who knows, this stick bundler might’ve just been a man who lost perspective. The pressure of his responsibilities may have overtaken his fear of God. But God deemed it worthy of death. He died that day. It would be hard for me to begin casting stones at him because I know that I, too, have given preference to responsibility over Sabbath rest.
In the Old Testament, the rest was to be on the seventh day. No work was to be performed on that day. We were to rest from our labors just as God rested from His on the seventh day of Creation. The Sabbath was evoked to train and teach Israel how to live. They were slaves; all they knew was work. God knew we were not made for only work and without rest we would run ourselves into the ground. Rest is holy!
Then Christ comes to up the ante. Jesus said we are a nation of priests, a holy nation. He fulfilled the Law of the Sabbath rest and so could say (paraphrasing), “Come unto Me, I am your Rest.” Christ’s own life is now our Sabbath rest. He performs, we rest. Our work and effort is but wood, hay and stubble. His Life is eternal and transcendent. We are called to the Sabbath as a lifestyle. Christ’s Life as my life is His Life in my life, and that’s not my life as His life.
Work Over Sabbath Rest
I have found myself valuing my work and the effort over His Life and the rest. This makes me no better than this stick bundler. The message to me behind this man working on the Sabbath is that our work is death. We may not be stoned for failing to take a Sunday off, we might not even see the immediate consequences of being the life force in our life, but if Christ’s Life is not my life, I will be sowing to the wind regardless of what I get done. Who cares if I build the world?! If it isn’t Christ’s very own Life, it is temporal and ultimately death.
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:11 NKJV