Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Labor Day Rest for Your Souls

I don't know about you, but my Labor Day weekend was way too short. Last year today's date fell on a Sunday, so we were right in the middle of the long weekend at this point. On September 6, 2015, I posted the following article on Examiner.com. Since Examiner has closed their cyberdoors, removing their content,  I replicate the post here for posterity.

Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALabor_Day_New_York_1882.jpg

Many laborers are enjoying some well-deserved extended rest this weekend as the United States celebrates Labor Day Monday. The FOX28 website gives some recipe ideas for you to use this holiday, and the South Bend Tribune lists some activities in the area.

Labor Day isn't considered a religious holiday, but the words of Jesus come to mind as many workers take an extra day off.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

Jesus was not just talking about physical rest. He was offering spiritual rest—rest for your souls. This rest doesn't involve inactivity, either, as implied in the phrase "Take My yoke." A yoke is a device used by farmers to link animals together when working the fields or pulling a wagon or cart. Jesus invites people to join his team, and promises to pull together with them and refresh their souls.

Jesus' words end chapter 11 and lead up to a confrontation with the Pharisees in chapter 12. Jesus and his disciples are walking through a grain field and gleaning some of the grain and eating it. The Pharisees are incensed – not because they are stealing; the provision of leaving grain for the poor to glean was part of the Jewish law. The Pharisees objected because Jesus and the disciples were "working" on the Sabbath. Jesus responds first by declaring his authority. But even if the Pharisees do not recognize his authority, their legalistic response goes against the spirit of the law. In verse seven (NKJV) Jesus asserts, "But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless."

Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 to show the Pharisees they had the wrong spirit in how they applied the law. In the parallel passage in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus adds, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." [Mark 2:27 NKJV] God's law was made for our benefit; to use it in a merciless way so an individual is not benefited, or is oppressed, is not God's intention in giving it.

Jesus came to give us rest. Not by putting a yoke on us which we are unable to bear (See Acts 15:10.), but by working with us and in us to help us be what God intended us to be.

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