Deeply Rooted... in Rest

Today we begin a series of posts, one per week, that I'm calling Deeply Rooted.  In an effort to honor and to explain the deep roots of our faith, we'll follow along with the Jewish schedule known as the weekly Torah Portion.  Every year, the Jewish community reads through the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).  Every week has a Parashat assigned to be read in synagogue and studied.  Everyone reads and studies the same portion as a sign of and catalyst for unity. 

This week's Torah Portion is at the very beginning, so we read together Genesis 1:1 through 6:8 known as Parashat Bereshit. 

I'm learning in questions of my faith and expressions of it, the disparate difference a law and a principle.  The law of Moses was established on Sinai and was meant to lead us to salvation.  After all, how would you know your need of God's grace and mercy if you never knew how you'd violated His expectations.  A principle is different, however.  It's a truth that was established apart from the law and it has natural benefits or fallout depending on whether or not it is applied.  For example, the tithe (or the practice if returning to God ten percent of your income) is not a law.  It was a principle established in the first few chapters of Genesis - Abel gave to God what came first, while Cain gave over the course of time.  And regardless of what believers in the second want to believe about that, it's still a principle that when you give God what's first, He can do more with what remains that you could ever do with all of it. 

Another principle established in this text is the principle of rest. 

And I imagine my American readers who believe "if it is to be, it's up to me", and who feel like they've pulled themselves up by their bootstraps are cringing right now.  We have a virulent perspective of work in our western culture and its fruits are blaringly obvious if you will look throughout the issues that plague us.  Poor health, over-extended schedules, stress, compulsions and obsessions could all be traced to an inability to rest and be content.  The principle of rest is found at least three times in this passage reinforcing God's desire to do the heavy lifting in our lives and to offer us peace and return. 

The first affirmation of the principle of rest is in the structure of what God considers to be a day found in Genesis 1.  The evening and the morning were the day.  Now while we may be tempted to think the writer is waxing poetic or that the phrasing is inconsequential, our Jewish community still honors the principle that the day begins with the evening.  Celebrations, holy days and calendar days begin at sunset the evening before.  Can you imagine facing your day, by sleeping eight hours first before you get to your ToDo list?  In effect, when the evening begins the day, we are forced to recognize that God is at work while we rest.  How might recognizing that the day begins with the sunset and sleep change how we tackle our problems as we bring them before the Lord? 

The second affirmation of the principle of rest is in the Sabbath.  On the seventh day God rested.  Were there still tasks to accomplish?  Certainly.  Was He tired and needed a break?  Certainly not.  He chose to model for us the gift of rest of stopping what He was doing.  Even though the observing the Sabbath is part of the commandments handed down in Sinai, the principle began in the first week of creation.  And it is a gift to us to work hard six days a week and to stop our striving and maniac schedules on the seventh day - a gift you are better for receiving. 

The final affirmation of the principle of rest is a little more obscure, and it's found in the last first of our portion, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."  You read that right.  This verse affirms what we believe about rest because the name Noah literally means "rest".  Rest found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  What graces might you be forgoing by neglecting to rest in the Lord, to take your rest in your schedule and stop the crazy must work constantly mindset?  There is grace in resting because we find He is enough, He is active when we are not, and He is able to do for us what we cannot.  Sometimes, even for what we can. 

How would your life improve by receiving the gift of and by honoring the principle of the Sabbath?  Leave a comment or a question and let's see what God can and will do when we cease from striving.