What is Biblical Rest?
Ok, we are talking about our bread and butter, our thesis as a ministry. REST. Of course, that requires exploring further, because we want to be a trusted place for you to find resource, feel included when we post blogs, and know you’re welcome wherever we host Creative Gatherings. It’s only fair to expand on what we believe at our core.
We encourage you to also read through our Values as well as our blog post, A Journey to Collected. What we are all about is expressed in our Mission, “We are a collected group of creative individuals, leading lives of rest. We believe true rest is an active posture, positioning us within God’s presence. It’s from the overflow of true rest that we create without striving. We blog, provide resource, and organize local gatherings for creative souls to find rest and refuge.”
We talk about rest a lot, and what we talk about, what we promote, what we believe should have Biblical backing. So, what does the Bible say about rest? We have studied references for “rest” in both the Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament (Greek). Examining the original language as well as the cultural context provides a rich understanding of Biblical rest.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. Genesis 2:2 (KJV)
The very first Biblical reference for rest is found in Genesis. God completed the world and He, Himself, rested. Straight away, rest is something we imitate from God, our Father. But why did God rest? Surely He doesn’t NEED to rest. So God’s decision to stop what He was doing and rest must have been out of desire.
Have you ever finished working on a project - a piece of art, a brochure you designed, a room you just redecorated - and simply step back and look at it admiringly? Imagine being there at the first breath of creation - out of nothing, smells, colors, sounds. At the wonder of it all, God took a step back and delighted in His creation. God was the first to shabath. Shabath is the Hebrew verb meaning, “to cease, to repose (find peace), to celebrate.”
It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest (shabath), and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate (shabath) your sabbath. Leviticus 23:32 (NKJV)
This understanding of rest is more intentional than our Western interpretation: inactivity after exertion or labor. Yes, physically, God stopped working. Yes, physically, when we rest we often are inactive. However, there is more depth to shabath. It’s a purposed action - there’s a lingering “why” behind God’s determination to rest. Ya know, God is extremely intentional, and He sees all aspects of time because He is omniscient. The rest that God established in Genesis 2:2 later becomes a very crucial commandment for His covenant people.
As you just read in Leviticus 23:32, rest was given parameters and it was a cause of celebration. Here’s why it needed parameters: life back then was tough. I mean, survival-of-the-fittest, you-may-get-eaten-by-a-lion kinda tough. Everyone in the community needed to work, and work hard, in order to survive. They were on high alert from natural threats and the threat of attack from enemies. Their work was vital to survival, yet God COMMANDED that they rest.
God created His covenant people, as well as us, with the ability to take care of ourselves physically, but He also wants us to nurture ourselves spiritually. Biblical rest is stopping work, delighting in the work accomplished, coming back to a place of community, and reminding the soul of it’s connection to God. Shabath was something the covenant people took very seriously, because God took it seriously. It was vital to their covenant relationship.
However, this isn’t singularly an Old Testament concept.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (KJV)
Oh, the words of Jesus - He speaks healing to our souls in the same way God the Father instructed His covenant people to look after their souls. Anapauō is the Greek word for rest, and it means, “to repose, to refresh.” Jesus asks us to “come” - He’s asking us to choose to seek His presence - and He will “give” us what we need. What He gives us is anapauō, peace and refresh.
Jesus was very familiar with shabath as He was a Jew, therefore, integrated with covenant-culture. Jesus words in Matthew 11:28 are significant because He is saying He is the source of rest, whereas culturally, rest was vital yet limited. Now rest, coming from Jesus, is accessible whenever we seek Him.
So may you choose to seek Him. Seek Him within your creative endeavors, seek Him, within your friendships, seek Him within your work. Anticipate God to show up, to partner with you in all you do. It’s there you will find true rest.