Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"End-of-Labor" Day

We've just had another American tradition, the three-day holiday weekend to celebrate (from all appearances) beer, BBQ and boats, along with sunscreen and the end of summer. Actually, Labor Day was first proposed as a tribute to workers of all kinds for their contributions in building up
society, and particularly the organized labor movement that worked for better conditions and rights for workers. It was enacted into Federal law in 1897, so we've had a lot of practice at drinking beer and grilling burgers, it seems. But the American tradition of hard work goes back clear to the colonial days, when a shipload of immigrants would land and have to carve out a place to live and grow food before winter started, in order to survive. Perhaps that's the origin of our lack of willingness to rest?

Guess what? In the Bible we're told that we have rest, and we have that rest already in Jesus Christ -- not by working hard enough that we can get far enough ahead to take a break. Under the covenant he made with Israel, God told the people to stop working on the seventh day, the Sabbath, and to make sure their hired help also stopped. They had worked without any breaks in Egypt for so long they didn't know what rest was, so he had to teach them. He even enforced it with the miracle of manna, that showed up in double amounts on the sixth day and none at all on the seventh day (Exodus 16). Of course, being human, the people of Israel slacked off on the idea of rest and went back to working all the time -- there's no real record anywhere in their history of Sabbath-keeping.

At just the right time, (see Romans 5:6) Jesus was born, lived, and died for us. One of his teachings was that when we get tired of trying to work all this out on our own, we can come to him:  “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30).  The writer of Hebrews, a brilliant expositor, spends chapter after chapter, example after example, showing that Jesus was greater than everything God had given his people before -- including, in chapter 4, both the Sabbath day and the rest in the land of promise.

So how is it we "rest" in Jesus Christ? By recognizing, admitting and giving up on our idea that we can make ourselves good or holy, that our efforts will get us anywhere and that we don't need God. All those ideas are disastrous and doomed to failure. But -- GOOD NEWS! -- we already have peace, and a perfect standing with God, all through Jesus our savior. He loves us and will never let us go because he is devoted to us as all parents are to their children. Jesus came into the world to join us to God, and he fulfilled that job perfectly -- so we also have perfect assurance that we are loved by God.

So don't fret, and quit "laboring" to gain what you already have. Rest in Christ, and enjoy your weekend!

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