In his book The Radical Pursuit of Rest, Moody professor and author John Koessler warns us not to simply work for the weekend: “When work loses its purpose and becomes an end in itself, rest also loses its meaning. This is not because rest serves work. Neither is it because work justifies rest. It is because rest in its rightful place needs nothing to justify it. Rest is an end in itself. We do not rest in order to work. Rest as the Bible describes it is our destiny.”
Are we designed to rest? Certainly! The God who designed us showed us how to rest through His own example. God “finished the work he had been doing” and rested (Gen. 2:2). In today’s passage, Moses assembled the Israelites to complete an important task, the construction of the tabernacle. He gave the people a detailed work schedule, but he also included an important addendum to that list. He said they must rest.
They were instructed to use six days for work. It would be painstaking and detailed. They should take care to do “the things the Lord has commanded” (v. 1). But on the seventh day, they were to rest. Notice that they were to “rest to the Lord” (v. 2). The focus of rest is not self-gratification for a job well done but a time set aside to prioritize, to refocus, and to honor their God.
The penalty for abusing Sabbath law was death. God obviously took the practice of rest seriously. But the Sabbath was never intended to be a burden filled with restrictions and rules. It was to be a gift and a way to follow God’s own example.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Rest is not an obligation we fulfill but a necessary part of our design. Work and rest go hand in hand.