By Rev. Lance Filio
The Sign of Rest
When summer comes, the change in season is most welcome. The summer heat prompts us to happily visit the latest and most exotic beaches and resort. For most people, it has become a sign of rest and recreation. A time of a long vacation and relaxing fun time with the family. And with kids enjoying a long school vacation, parents receives this as a queue to pause from their busy work schedules and plan a holiday getaway. Some call it a work-life balance. A chance to re-charge and prepare for the coming next season.
But as Christians, should we take our cue from how the world turns or should we look for a sign from somewhere else? Is this really the sign of rest or change? Is this where our hope rests?
A change in season is a common sign. It reminds us as creatures we belong to the natural order. The rotational movement of stars, the planets and moons signify for us a change in season. Just like a popular saying confirms, “Life seems like an endless cycle of up and down.” We consider changes in seasons not as a sign of redemption but of temporal order. God will end it in judgment, “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Genesis 8:21-22).” Jesus said in rain and seasons there is no difference between believers and unbelievers (Matt 6:45).
Rather, the temporal order of seasons are simply to serve the purpose of redemption. By his divine forbearance, God calls everyone to repentance, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).” It serves as a background of redemption.
So what is the sign of the season for Christians? What is the sign we should all follow?
The Sabbath in Redemptive History
The tempo of creation, based on Scripture, was not determined by the changes in season nor time of day, a month or year. It is not dictated by the movement in the cosmos like the full turn of the earth to establish a day, a full turn of the moon on earth to establish a month or a full turn of the earth on the sun to establish a year. Rather, it was signified to us by the Creator God when he created all things in six days and rested on the seventh. One week of creation was the pattern given to us by God which was commanded for Adam to follow, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 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 (Genesis 1:31 to 2:1-3).”
The pattern of creation is work then rest. Sabbath is the sign given by God to man after accomplishing our tasks. It showed us the purpose and the goal of all things: for every good work he has done; he was to enjoy God’s rest as a reward. And when God finished his creation, He made a covenant of work with Adam. If Adam succeeds, he will receive the reward of life then enter God’s eternal rest but if he fails, he and his descendants will be punished and doomed for eternity. While in a probation in the garden of Eden, Adam was to protect the temple and rule over the garden but He failed. According to Genesis 3, under his rule, he allowed the serpent to enter the temple-garden and gave it the opportunity to tempt his wife, Eve and eventually fall into sin. Adam, as a federal representative of the entire human race fell, banished from paradise and lived east of eden. Instead of entering God’s rest and receiving the reward of life, he was punished and sentenced to death.
But God out of His sheer grace made a promise of redemption which He sets in motion in Genesis 3:15, the proto-euangelion. Between God and the seed of Eve, the covenant of grace was established. The seed of Eve would strike the head of the seed of Satan. He would also be wounded and eventually die. However, he would bring his people to rest from their sin and earn eternal life for them.
In redemptive history, the seed established the city of God. While Cain and his descendants build the city of man, it was beginning with Seth, after his brother Abel, when they called on the name of the Lord and received as their inheritance the city of God (Genesis 4:26). The world revolved around the ceaseless work and labor of its people but for the people of God, Sabbath rest marked the end of their labor. While work was part of their calling, the people accepted the call to cease from work and enter God’s rest. This happens when God’s people gather and worship the God who promised them redemption through his seed.
During the time of the Old Covenant made with Moses, Sabbath reminded God’s people of its significance. It was to be a sign of His covenant with them, “Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed (Exodus 31:16-17)”. But just like Adan, Israel failed to keep his covenant with God and eventually sinned against his Covenant God. (Hosea 6:7) The judgement of sin and death remained. The promise of entering God’s rest after unceasing labor was still waiting to be fulfilled. Israel, just like Adam, fell short of the glory of God and the righteous requirements of perfect obedience to the law covenant. This is what the preacher of Hebrews explains, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest (Hebrews 4:1-4).”
Despite Adam’s sin and Israel’s disobedience, the promise of God’s redemption happened in the fullness of time. The Son of God, the Word who become flesh entered history to fulfill all the righteous demands of perfect obedience. He died so his people will receive forgiveness from all of their sins and bring them into God’s eternal rest. Born of a woman, born under the law, he satisfied for us what we ourselves cannot render unto God. Received only through faith and given to us only by grace, Christ’s work has become the object upon which our soul rests. As expressed by this beautiful hymn, “My faith looks up to thee”:
“My faith looks up to thee,thou Lamb of Calvary,Savior divine!Now hear me while I pray;take all my guilt away.O let me from this daybe wholly thine!”
Listen to promise from our divine Savior:, “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 (Matthew 11:28-30).” My beloved brothers and sisters, listen to what our Savior is saying to us today. Are we hearing his Words? Do we believe in his promise or are we still trying our best and still hoping to labor our way to God instead of receiving the rest that comes from Christ? Christ is the Lord of Sabbath and in him, we have rest.
Our Eschatological Rest
As Christians, we do not let the world dictate the tempo of our lives. Let us not allow the changes in season influence the heartbeat of our soul. Instead, we are called to let the Lord’s Day mark the cycle of our christian walk. Let us remember that even though the sabbath cycle was instituted in creation and signified in the old covenant, the Christian Sabbath was already fulfilled for us by the Christ who is the Lord of Sabbath. Christ, through his atoning work, established for us believers, a new covenant through this life, death and resurrection. God is calling us to put our faith in what Christ has done and receive the blessing of His rest.