There has probably never been a group of people more uncomfortable with the idea of rest than the Israelites during their time in the desert. After fleeing Egypt, Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. As you might imagine, food and water were a pretty big deal for them during that time.
Just to make things more interesting, God Himself was providing for Israel on a daily basis. Here’s how God explained the arrangement to Moses, “ Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.”(Ex.16:4) The idea was simple – go collect what you need for the day but nothing more. The test for Israel was whether they would trust God for fresh provision the next day or try to store up extra from today in case God didn’t come through tomorrow. In case you’re wondering, Israel failed that test pretty badly and quickly discovered that the bread, called manna, went bad at the end of the day on which God had provided it so hoarding really wasn’t an option. (Ex. 16:20)
Here’s where it gets interesting. While all of this was going on, God commanded Israel to observe a weekly Sabbath. He wanted them to take one day per week and devote it to Him – to rest and to worship. (Ex. 20:8-10) That’s perfectly lovely but how were they supposed to eat on the Sabbath? The bread from the day before would go bad but they were not allowed to go collect more on the Sabbath and there was no other food source available.
Fortunately for them, God had already thought that one through. “On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” (Ex. 16:5) If Israel prepared properly, they would have plenty of bread to eat and a day off!
Even today, rest still requires preparation. Our issue isn’t collecting additional food. Our issue is planning to carve out space. Today’s preparation paves the way for tomorrow’s rest.
As a church, we’re not gathering tomorrow so we can rest. But that rest isn’t going to happen without a little preparation today. So, take some time now to plan what rest is going to look like for you tomorrow. Here are some factors to consider:
- Decide now what chunk of time you want to devote to resting and to being with Jesus. Maybe you’ll block out an hour or a morning or the whole day. The length doesn’t matter – what matters is designating that time now and protecting it.
- Where can you go to be alone and connect with Jesus? Maybe it’s a park, a lake, your back yard, your room or a coffee shop. It doesn’t matter where – just make sure it’s a place you love and a place where you won’t be disturbed.
- This is the one that might induce a panic attack – you need to shut your cell phone off (also, your Blackberry, your computer, your iPad or whatever else keeps you connected). Leave it in the car, put it on airplane mode, power it down, do whatever it takes to disconnect for your designated rest time. Trust me, both you and the world will be just fine.
- Approach rest with the expectation that you’re going to meet with God. Bring your Bible, a pen and a notebook. Print out the devotional guide I’m posting tomorrow morning. But approach all of this with excitement – you get to be alone with God!
The reward for our preparation is undisturbed time with Jesus. Israel knew the joy of receiving bread from heaven. We know the joy of communing with the One who is the bread of life.(Jn. 6:35) Manna satisfied hunger. Jesus satisfies souls. If Israel cherished God’s provision, how much more should we cherish Jesus knowing that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Deut.8:3)
Tomorrow we rest. Today we prepare.