I enjoy the Labor Day holiday. A free day off of work where I can do whatever I want to do. For some reason to me it feels completely different from being off on a Saturday. On Saturdays I do all the house cleaning and grocery shopping and it really is not a very relaxing day. I always feel like that is a day that I have to catch up on all the work I can’t seem to get done during the week. Then Sundays are a day or worship. A time to join with fellow believers at church to hear God’s word and enjoy a spiritual refreshing. Before I know it, the weekend is gone and it’s back to work.
But Labor Day seems like a bonus. The house work is done and I get to choose to do something enjoyable. It’s a day for cook-outs and get-togethers with family and friends. Did you know God also initiated a Labor Day? It was a day the people were to do no work. Now, many are probably thinking that the day of rest I am referring to is the Sabbath, or now, our Lord’s Day. Yes, God commanded people to remember the Sabbath because He had created the world in six days and on the seventh He rested.
However, there are other times that God told the people not to work. If you read in the Book of Leviticus, God gives in detail a list of festivals the people were to observe. To be honest, I never really liked the book of Leviticus because I would think I didn’t really need to know about all of the laws the people had to observe. There were specifics about everything and frankly, I found it difficult to keep my mind on what I was reading. Until a certain phrase suddenly started to get my attention.
“You must deny yourselves and do no work.” Leviticus 16:29 NIV. The KJV says, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all.”
I had to read that a second and then a third time. I know some people really love their jobs, but me, if I’m told I need to take a day off, it doesn’t feel like I’m denying myself of very much. “Deny yourselves,” to me would mean not having that bowl of ice cream that I’d really like to have. So I thought that passage deserved a little more contemplation.
I read chapter 16 and chapter 23 of Leviticus and then the same thing is mentioned again in Numbers 29. These passages, as I have already said, talks about various feasts the people were to observe. The first festival was for the Day of Atonement. The whole chapter of Leviticus 16 is devoted to this event. This festival was when the people gathered together and offered blood offerings for the forgiveness of their sins. But there was so much more to it. This is what Leviticus 23 says about the Day of Atonement.
26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” Leviticus 23:26-32 NKJV
It was a very serious and solemn occasion, not to be taken lightly. Verse 27 says it’s a holy time. When it says to “afflict your souls,” the people were to come before a holy God, with a spirit of deep repentance and in fasting. Also, because this was considered a holy time, the people were to treat the say as if it was a Sabbath and not do any work. God also gives a warning in verses 29 and 30. Those who did not come in deep repentance or the person who performed work, which would signify they did not consider the day holy, would be cut off, or killed. It wasn’t just the offering of an animal, but the offering up of themselves in repentance. Then as they repented, the sacrificial offering of blood was made. Sound familiar? It’s not enough for us to come before a holy God with an offer to follow Him. In order to really be forgiven, we come in complete brokenness and repentance, and then the blood of Christ will cleanse us of our sins.
Some of the other feasts written about in Leviticus 23 were feasts to commemorate and celebrate various events. Such as the Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Tabernacles and a couple more. Even though these were more of a time of celebration, God still told the people that they must deny themselves of any work and take the day to rest and reflect on the provisions and faithfulness of God.
When I stopped and really studied on the requirement from God to rest from the labor of work, I realized it was more than just a day off. Just like our Sundays should be more than just a day to go to church. God created us and He knows the need for us to have physical rest. But He is also wanting us to take time to dwell on His goodness and graciousness. To remember the times that He has faithfully provided for all of our needs. To praise Him for the gift of His Son and the forgiveness of our sins.
But there is one more great, big Labor Day coming. Just as God rested from His labor of creating the world; and just like Christ completed His task on earth and now lives with the Father, one day we will enter into that rest, too.
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11 NIV
Those of us who are Christians will one day have a day of rest that will last for eternity. A day when all of our cares and problems will be no more. And feasting? There will be a wonderful supper that we will share with Christ that we cannot even fathom in our human minds. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to that day off of work.