Resting with God and Working with Him according to the Principle of the Sabbath

Exodus 31:12–17 says:

Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, Speak also to the children of Israel, saying, You shall surely keep My Sabbaths; for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am Jehovah who sanctifies you. Therefore you shall keep the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to Jehovah; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.

In Exodus, the Lord gave Moses the revelation concerning the building of the tabernacle as His dwelling place on earth, including the design of the tabernacle with its furniture and the priestly service. At the end of that revelation, Jehovah repeats the commandment concerning keeping the Sabbath (Exo. 31:12-17). The fact that this insertion concerning the Sabbath follows the charge for the building work of the tabernacle indicates that God wanted the builders to learn how to rest with Him. In other words, while the workers were building, they were not to forget about resting with Jehovah.

Like the builders of the tabernacle in Exodus, we also need to learn how to rest with the Lord (cf. Matt. 11:28-30). If we know only how to work for the Lord and not how to rest with Him, our work will be carried out contrary to the principle of the Sabbath, which is that working with the Lord requires that we learn first how to rest with Him. In order to see this principle, we must realize that the significance of the Sabbath is not merely to cease from work; it is that first we rest with God, and then enter into His work with Him.

Comparing the record in Genesis 1 to that in Exodus 31:16 shows that the Sabbath, the seventh day, the day of God’s rest, was man’s first day. In five days God created the heavens, the earth, and everything necessary for the existence of man, who was to fulfill God’s purpose (Exo. 31:16; Gen. 1:26-27). Then on the sixth day, God created man (vv. 24-31); thus, as soon as man came forth from God’s creating hand, his first full day, God’s day of rest and refreshment, was about to begin. The record in Genesis shows that God worked first and then enjoyed what He had done, whereas man first enjoyed what God is and what God had accomplished before he was enabled to work (Gen. 2:1-4, 15).

Today according to the principle of the Sabbath, God first supplies us with Himself to be our enjoyment; only after a full enjoyment with and of Him may we work together with Him. Thus, if we do not know how to rest with God, that is, how to enjoy God, we will have no way to genuinely work with Him by being one with Him in His work. Our enjoying God so that we may be one with Him in His work should be a cycle that continues until God’s purpose is fulfilled. In this cycle, God works and rests, whereas man rests with God and then works.

Further Reading:

Holy Bible Recovery Version, all verses mentioned in this post and their corresponding footnotes (NookKindleiBooksPrint).

Witness Lee, Life-Study of Exodus, Message 172 (NookKindleiBooksPrint).

Witness Lee, Spiritual Applications of the Tabernacle, Chapter 1 (Print).

(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on

One thought on “Resting with God and Working with Him according to the Principle of the Sabbath

  1. If God’s workers perceive the revelation given in Exodus, the enormity of God’s desire for His dwelling place might begin to weigh upon His chosen ones. The calling of Moses gives us a glimpse of God’s feeling for His people. Jehovah appeared to Moses in a flame of fire in the midst of a thornbush. The fire of God’s calling began with Moses and has been kindled within many fellow workers to complete the work of God’s building. Even though this divine flame has motivated God’s workers, it must be matched with God’s revelation. The building must be according to the pattern given by God. Not only do His servants need to work according to burden, but they must realize and work according to the divine instruction (Heb. 8:5).
    One of the principles of God’s work is seen in Exodus 31:12-17. This insertion indicates the significance of rest in relation to work. It is a divine principle that God does not ask us to work until we have enjoyed Him. Our enjoyment of God should come first, and then we may work with Him. Pentecost is a clear illustration of this principle. After forty days of being filled in spirit, the disciples began to work with God for His building. It was as if the Lord was telling the builders to learn how to enjoy Him and rest with Him.
    In order to fulfill God’s purpose, we must diligently seek and labor with Christ Himself for the consummation of God’s purpose. In the book of Hebrews, Christ is our rest in three stages: In the church age, in the millennial kingdom, and in the new heaven and new earth. “The rest in the first two stages is a prize to His diligent seekers, who not only are redeemed but also have enjoyed Him in a full way, thus becoming the overcomers; whereas the rest in the third stage is not a prize but the full portion allotted to all the redeemed ones… The rest of the good land was the goal of all the children of Israel, who had been redeemed and delivered from Egypt; likewise, the rest of the coming kingdom is the goal of the New Testament believers, who have been redeemed and saved from the world. We are now all on the way toward this goal.” Hallelujah, Christ is our rest!

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