Working Myself To Death
OK, switch gears with me. I know you thought I was going to talk about the interior design of the tabernacle, but I feel led to focus on the second part of Exodus 31 instead. At least we still read the right chapter !
“Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord; whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 31:15
When I was a little girl (and even sometimes since I have been a big girl), before I understood the concept of “grace,” I used to go down the list of commandments and try to check off which ones I thought I was obeying. For example, I would think, “Don’t kill.” OK-I haven’t killed anyone yet; check. “Don’t bow down to idols.” Easy- I don’t worship Buddha; check.” And when I would get to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” (Ex 20:8), I would check that one off too because I thought it must mean go to church, or pray, or sing Jesus Loves Me real sweet and sincere-like. I had bigger fish to fry, like lying and coveting.
Now that I am all grown up though, God is teaching me anew what His commandments mean and His purpose for their establishment. I understand now that an idol to me will look nothing like a statue of a little fat man and slandering a neighbor, includes things like gossip. But as I studied this chapter from Exodus, God revealed something very interesting. When I read verse 15 (above) I immediately thought, “Well, that’s a little harsh God. You are going to kill someone if they work on the Sabbath?” Additionally, I have no recollection of that ever happening; someone being immediately struck dead the minute they try to clean their bathroom on Sunday. But actually, I was reading it wrong. The verse doesn’t say that God is going to kill us; the verse says “he shall surely be put to death.” That leaves the question, killed by whom?
If you are anything like me, then you know what it means to go through every hour of every day of every week BUSY. I fill up my minutes with family and friends, chores and commitments, and then wonder why I’m exhausted and frustrated all of the time. Further, despite my relentless pursuit of “getting caught up,” my to-do list strangely grows longer with every task I cross off. Rest on Sunday? Rest ever? I don’t have time to rest. Whoever said “Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon” was not talking about me. My life is both; I’m racing through my days full speed ahead. I’m sure you are getting the point here. God is not up on His throne, waiting to lower the boom on me when I finally go too far, the most dangerous predator threatening me is the worn out girl in the mirror who uses a lot of concealer to cover the dark circles under her eyes.
Why did God establish the Sabbath? I’m sure there are many explanations in scripture that we could study at length, but let’s just consider a few. Exodus 31:13 says that keeping the Sabbath is a sign between God and us. The Key Word Study Bible explains it this way:
“The Sabbath was a covenant sign of God’s authority. When Israel kept the Sabbath, they showed that they were subject to that authority, that they wanted to obey the entire Law of God. It was a way of showing their trust in God, that He would honor their labors with fruit.” (p.1665) 
I bring this point up first because I do not want us to think that the “resting mandate” was only for our benefit. Setting apart this day and keeping it holy is a big deal to God and by obeying this commandment, we are submitting to His will and marking ourselves out as belonging to Him. This purpose alone should be enough incentive to establish a day of rest in our week.
Another reason for the Sabbath is because it is following the example of the Almighty Himself. It only took the Lord until chapter 2 of Genesis to take a break.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work.” (Gen 2:2)
The word rested can be translated as “to keep or celebrate the Sabbath.” God didn’t need to rest, He choose to. I love the idea of God stepping back to enjoy His perfect creation, the fruit of His labor. If He can create the entire universe in six days, I think I should be able to accomplish what He purposes for my life Monday through Saturday and save Sunday as a day to be still and worship; reflecting on His blessing of our weekly work.
Now, of course, this does not mean that we have to sit frozen somewhere on Sunday. That concept is legalism at its finest, and Jesus put an end to that notion in Matthew 12:1-14. After He healed the man with the crippled hand on the Sabbath, he states that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath”(Matt 12:12), clearly showing that Jesus is seeing the attitude of our heart when it comes to resting and sanctifying the seventh day. But Jesus also reminds us:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29)
That sounds so tempting, doesn’t it? I confess before you all, I am guilty of not keeping the Sabbath and working myself to death on a regular basis. Join me on my knees and let’s claim this beautiful promise together. Let’s stop working ourselves to death, remember the Sabbath, keep it holy and watch as God blesses obedience and multiplies the fruit He plans to produce on our lives.
Have a restful weekend!
Your Homework for Monday is to read Exodus 33: 7-23.
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 Key Word Study Bible. King James Version. AMG Publishers. Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A, 1991. p. 1665.