The instructions were complete. All that Moses needed to know, he knew. Not as simple as following Ikea instructions, but the building plans for the tabernacle were clear. The place where God would meet with Moses . . . the place where God would dwell among His people . . . that place had been clearly spec’d out and the plans presented.
The tent of meeting . . . the ark of the testimony . . . the mercy seat . . . the furnishings for the tent, the table, lampstand, and altar of incense . . . the altar for the burnt offerings . . . the basin for washing of hands . . . the holy garments of the high priest . . . and the, to be spread overall, anointing oil . . . it all been detailed and delivered. Though “assembly was required,” even there, God had raised up and Spirit empowered men with the skills to construct the tabernacle and bring all the pieces together (Exodus 31:1-11).
All that was left was setting it up and waiting for the glory to come down. But, says God, one more thing . . .
And the LORD said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.
You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you.'” (Exodus 31:12-14 ESV)
Moses has been on the Mount for days. He has lived and breathed the glory of God, literally. God has revealed to Him in great detail His commands and His plans for moving from the mountain into the people’s midst. And before God lets Moses go, He tells him to tell God’s people, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths.”
Above all. Really? Above all? Apparently the ESV translators feel those are the right English words to use to indicate how emphatic was the command in the original.
And it struck me. While God might make all the provision that heaven can afford in order to dwell among men, unless men enter His rest, there is no communion. Though God may set a place apart as holy that He might be in their midst, unless men set apart their God as holy, His provision has no benefit. How important is it to cease from our works in order to know His presence? . . . Pretty!
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered Gods rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:9-11 ESV)
The Old Testament Sabbath was a foreshadow of the New Testament reality that there, in fact, remains a rest for the people of God. That futile striving to reach God, or to somehow merit His favor, can cease for He has made full and complete provision for men and women to draw near “in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). Blood has been shed, once for all, to atone for sin and make open the way into the most holy place. The curtain has been torn, from top to bottom, proclaiming God’s invitation to “whosoever will” to enter. The Light of the world shines . . . the Bread of life is available to be eaten . . . the mercy seat is accessible . . . God desires to meet with all men and women as He met with Moses. And so, He says, Above all, keep my Sabbath. Above all . . . enter My rest!
And keep entering! The good news is not a “once and done” dynamic. To be sure, having believed we were sealed by the Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). And in that sense we entered the rest once for all. But how easy it is to drift away from that rest. To start striving as though we think now it’s up to us. To stop applying the blood as the accuser suggests that our most recent transgression is such failure as to not be covered by the cross. To become lax with setting apart the LORD in our hearts, seeking instead the world’s pleasure as what truly defines our significance.
So to us the ancient words spoken to God’s ancient people still resonate . . . Above all . . . enter My rest!
O’ that His people would see the importance of continually abiding in His rest. Above all.
By grace alone . . . for His glory alone.