We are to enter into peaceful tranquillity, the perpetual state of the Father. The observance of the Sabbath-rest is beneficial to the physical world and provides for its optimum functioning.
But the physical and mental rest of the Sabbath observance is only a shadow of the real rest and soul-sabbath that God has made available to His people. Again, sabbath is not ultimately a day of the week, but a state of the soul.
The land of rest. The next shadow-figure of sabbath-rest is the promised land. Earth began as a land of rest but became a place of labor, turmoil and death because of the entrance of sin.
When God promised His people a land of their own, He called it a land of rest (menuha). Part of the gift of land was the gift of rest. "Come into Canaan. Here, I will give you rest," is essentially the invitation of Yahweh to His people (Deut. 12:810).
The promised land, the land of Canaan, the homeland, was to be a land of physical and soul rest. But when the nation of Israel refused to enter the land because of fear, God said of them: "For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, 'They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known My ways.' So I declared on oath in My anger, 'They shall never enter my rest" (Ps. 95:10-11).
Thus, we have sabbath (God's rest), celebrated and remembered by a weekly observance and represented by a land. Sabbath is God's rest into which His people may enter.
Canaan in the material realm is a geographical location; in the spiritual realm, it is Jesus Himself. The promised land is the shadow of the Promised One.
The writer of Hebrews connected these pictures of rest, making them one thought: sabbath, Canaan, God's rest, and Jesus (Heb. 3:16-4:10). He reminded his readers of "the rebellion" or "the testing" when the Israelites complained against God and Moses because there was no water. Having seen God provide miraculously for their every single need, they still did not trust God to meet their new needs as they arose.
God swore that this generation would never enter His rest (Canaan). The Israelites did not experience the rest of Canaan because they trusted their own perceptions more than they trusted God's Word.
In Hebrews 3:7-19 and 4:11, the author moves the analogy to the present, in essence warning readers: Don't let the same thing happen to you. You can experience Christ (the real Canaan) if you operate in faith as need enters your life.
The same good news of a promised rest has been given to us. The Israelites' promise was Canaan; our promise is Jesus.
Just as the Israelites could enter Canaan, we can enter God's rest. In fact, those who have believed have entered the promised land, the place of rest: Jesus (Heb. 4:1-11).
God's own eternal sabbath, based on His finished work, was pictured by Canaan. Jesus is Canaan. Jesus is sabbath. Jesus is rest.
What Sabbath Means for Us
The purpose of the weekly Sabbath observance was to stop everything else and take delight in the Lord. The people of God were to have no other purpose or thought except to enjoy His presence and to give Him pleasure.
I want to challenge you to let your daily time with the Lord be a Sabbath pause, a time to celebrate the relationship you have with Him. The soul-sabbath that He has provided for you in Christ is His sign to you of how deep His love is for you. Let the daily Sabbath pause be your sign to Him of how much you love Him.
You should design your Sabbath pauses according to what is conducive to worship for you. Essentials are your Bible, a prayer journal and a writing utensil.
One of the benefits of a private Sabbath pause is that you can be completely uninhibited in your worship style. Perhaps you will find it refreshing to physically assume some of the following scriptural postures of worship:
- Kneel in His presence (Ps. 95:6).
- Lift up your hands (Ps. 134:2).
- Fall on your face before Him (Rev. 1:17).
Spend this time opening your life fully to the Father. Let these be moments of delighting in the Lord and celebrating His finished work.
Daily Enter His Rest
As you begin your daily sabbath observance, think through how your time will be structured. Each day may flow differently, but I would propose the following structure as a springboard:
Delight. Begin by focusing on the joyful, exuberant and passionate relationship you have with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Sabbath is a sign between you of mutual delight (Is. 61:10; Zeph. 3:17). His delight in you will cause you to delight in Him.