What is the relationship between the following words: rest, cease, and seven? They all relate to the biblical notion of Sabbath, however, in the Hebrew of the Old Testament the relationship is even tighter since the each of these words are all based on the same root word. So throughout the Old Testament they form something of a word-play. The word “rest” sounds like the word “seven” which sounds like the word “Sabbath.”

With this in mind, God created the world in six days and on the seventh day rested or ceased from his labor. Later God will declare the seventh day a holy day and a day of rest for his people. This notion is so important that it finds a place in the Ten Commandments. In the Exodus version of the Ten Commandments, Sabbath grows out of in God’s creative activity:

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (20:11 NIV).

However, in Deuteronomy’s version, Sabbath is more closely tied to the Israelites release for hard labor:

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day (5:15 NIV).

Jesus himself focuses the purpose of Sabbath-keeping more clearly, when he states,

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27–28 NIV).

In short, Jesus will clarify what should have already been clear. Humans need Sabbath and God instituted Sabbath for the good of humanity.

Later in the Bible, Sabbath becomes a way of talking about heaven. The writer of Hebrews teaches us,

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9–10 NIV).

This serves as a word of encouragement for us to hang in there to the end.

Still, we need Sabbath now. Increasingly, in our culture today, Sabbath is hard to come by. The time when we reserved Saturday or Sunday for worship and family time is gone. Therefore, Christians need more discipline at getting away from the hustle of every-day life. The work will be there when you get back and the benefits of Sabbath include clearer thinking, a stronger connection with God, and a calmer presence when we return to our work.