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.
Witness Lee, Spiritual Applications of the Tabernacle, Chapter 1 (Print).
(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.)