I recently watched an episode of Stargate SG-1 where the entire team really needed to take some time off but no one really wanted to take it. Only when the team was accidentally addicted to an alien device and they were forced to spend three weeks in a palace on an alien beach being weaned off the device did they relent and take some forced "time-off." If you’re anything like me or my wife, you probably know exactly what that situation is like. We often push ourselves too far and only end up taking time off when something takes us out of the game, usually an illness that could have been avoided by more rest. While laying in bed sick, unable to do anything productive, the statement is usually made, "Well, I guess this is God's way of telling me to slow down."
Time-off is often something we think of as a privilege, as something we have earned once everything that needs to be accomplished has been. Variations of the statement "There will be plenty of time to rest once I die" abound. But rest is not only a very Biblical concept, it is a command.
In the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, God gives the Israelites two distinct reasons for observing a day of rest, a Sabbath every seven days. The first reason is given in Exodus 20:11: For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. God provided the example for us to follow in God's own work of creation. Many of us are aware of this reasoning and many of us dismiss it. "That was God, we can't get things done like he can." "We're no longer under the law." And so on and so forth.
But there is a second reason God gives to the Israelites for observing a regular day of rest in Deuteronomy 5:15. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. God's second reason for observing a regular day of rest essentially boiled down to, "It reminds you that you are free because God has redeemed you."
Rest is not a priority for which a slave can set aside time. Rest is not a luxury a slave can count on. However, rest can be a sign that one is free in a world where too many of us are slaves to schedules and bills and obligations. No matter how bogged down we may feel, no matter how many weights may push us down, God commands a day of rest so that we can be reminded that we are free, so that we can practice being free.
The next time you decide that you are unable to have a day of rest, think about your freedom. What are you choosing to be enslaved by? What is keeping you from taking a day of rest? Are you acting like a slave or will you practice being free?