Thursday, March 29, 2018

Genesis 2:1-3 Ministry of Rest

KEY TEXT: Genesis 2:1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

KEY THOT: On the seventh day, God "rested from all his work that he had done in creation" (v.3). Note that this rest refers to the completion of his works in creation, not a rest from any activity. And this "rest" day (Heb: shaabat) is holy because on the Sabbath, we celebrate God's completion of His work in Creation. However, it does not imply that that God has ceased from all activity--only the works of creating the Universe. In other words, from the day of the first Sabbath onwards, God's activity focus is no longer upon the physical Universe, but something else. In fact, Jesus declares that God never ceases to work. In John 5:16-17, Jesus said the reason He was healing on the Sabbath is because His Father was still working on the Sabbath: "And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." 

So, the Sabbath is a celebration of the end of one order of God's work (the physical creation) and the beginning of another order of God's work (the spiritual creation). From the Sabbath day onwards, God's activity focuses on the the humans He has created. Immediately after this verse, we read about the God's new activity in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. So, the Sabbath is a celebration of God's physical work. And He blessed this day and set it aside as holy--that is separated as a day for focusing on the Creator, rather than His Creation.

On the Sabbath, our attention shifts from our six-day works in the created order to focus our attention on the Creator on the seventh day (i.e. the Sabbath) in worship and adoration of the Creator. So, the Sabbath is a rest from our physical activity to re-focus on God's spiritual ministry of life and healing among us. In other words, our spiritual ministry must flow out of our physical Sabbath-rest in God.

We as Jesus' disciples will continue to do the work of healing and restoration just as Jesus has done because the Father never ceases from this spiritual work. In John 5:19, Jesus said to the Jews: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise." So, we work as God works. Ministry is not we doing our works, but we working as God is working. If the Father is not working, we should not work. But when He works, we also work.

Our ministry must therefore flow out of our Sabbath-rest in Christ. So Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Are we ministering from rest or from stress? Anytime we find our ministry hard and burdensome, we are no longer carrying Jesus' yoke but our own. Jesus has called us into the ministry of rest. And the pre-requisite for carrying His yoke is meekness (here translated as "gentle", but it really means total submission to God) and humility (here translated as "lowly in heart"). The opposite of these two attributes is self-will and pride. 

In order to carry Jesus' yoke, we need to reject our own self-imposed vision and submit ourselves totally to God's vision. For that to happen, we need to humble ourselves and acknowledge that apart from Him, we can do nothing.

Our responsibility in ministry is therefore to respond to His activity and not to rely on our own resourcefulness. We need God's grace in ministry, not just for salvation. If He isn't working, we should not work. Ministry is never about us working out our vision, but ministry is about God working His vision in and through us.

Abba-Father, thank You that You have called us to a ministry of Sabbath-Rest, not a ministry of endless Stress. Deliver us from burn-out from our own self-efforts so that we may rest in You and work with You, even as You work. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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