When I talk about rest, people often envision taking a Sunday afternoon snooze or lying on an isolated beach soaking in the sun and feeling the soothing rhythm of the waves. Certainly, physical rest presents a huge need in today’s world. Even so, the spiritual dynamics of rest supersede the physical, influencing our lives in profound ways. Spiritual issues are a primary reason that so many people struggle to find rest.
The purpose of the Old Testament Sabbath was not just to rest bodies, but also to illuminate a greater spiritual reality. And as much as Western culture has lost touch with the physical Sabbath, the spiritual dynamics are even less understood.
Peace—both within us and between us—is becoming increasing elusive in our modern world.
The Garden of Eden
I can claim that we lack peace because we are drifting further and further from God’s design, but that is much too general a statement. Let’s briefly return to the garden of Eden to further explore this concept:
The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17 (HCSB)
The Lord designed the garden of Eden as a luxurious paradise—heaven on earth, we might be inclined to say.
Just One Rule
Life in the garden was simple. Our Creator laid down only one necessary rule: do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or you will die.
At the end of Genesis 2, we find a statement that reflects the idyllic nature of the Eden: “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Peace. Adam and Eve, before they violated God’s command, rested in a state of peace.
Sadly, a disobedient bite from the forbidden fruit would not only create unrest, it would also cause the reverberations of that unrest to gather momentum throughout the centuries.
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”
“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5 (HCSB)
The Big Lie
Multiple lies and half-truths can be found in the serpent’s hiss, but one stands out so much that I call it “the serpent’s big lie.” And just what is the big lie? That merely by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve could be like God.
The big lie did more than tempt them to just be like God. It promised that they could be like God apart from God.
The serpent’s big lie was a message of independence. And the human quest to be independent from the source of rest—because rest begins with God—has created the exhausting world in which we live.
Physical death did not come quickly to the first human transgressors, but it took no time for a state of unrest to settle in:
Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:6-8 (HCSB)
What heartbreak! Peace, which only a short time earlier had seemed so normal, was now gone—fear, blame, and division in its place.
Returning to the Wellspring of Life
Our world tells that God cannot be trusted because He is to blame for all the chaos, suffering, and unrest in this world. But that is a lie as big as the first one, serving only to increase our dysfunction. The further we drift from the presence of our Creator, the further we distance ourselves from the peace that characterizes His presence.
Rest begins with God, and those who seek to experience that peace can do so only by returning to its source. And that is what the Sabbath is all about—making a deliberate choice to return to our Creator’s presence.
The Sabbath has nothing to do with obligation and everything to do with an amazing—albeit short—opportunity to return to the wellspring of life.
*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.