"And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Genesis 2:3 (NIV)
In 1882 U.S. cabinet maker Peter McGuire introduced his idea for a new holiday saying, "Let us have a festive day during which a parade through the streets of the city would permit public tribute to American Industry." A dozen years later President Cleveland signed a bill into law designating the first Monday in September "Labor Day." For many Americans today is a day off from work, a chance to cook-out and hang-out in the lingering warm weather of summer.
A day off from labor, however, was not a new concept when McGuire suggested his holiday. The concept of a day of rest was first declared by the Lord in Genesis. In illustration, God rested the seventh day after creating the world and He deemed the day of rest holy (Gen. 2:2-3). He didn't call it Labor Day - He called it the Sabbath.
Sabbath is a not a day of tribute to workers, it's a day of tribute to their Maker. It's a day to rest your body while renewing your mind by making the focus of the day your Maker and your relationship with Him. In the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath is the focal point of the week - not just a day of laundry or list-making to gear back up for the week ahead. The Jewish people spent three days preparing for Sabbath, and three days reflecting on what they had learned or encountered of God during the Sabbath. They were a Sabbath-focused people, and therefore a God-focused people.
Keri Wyatt Kent, author of Breathe, writes, "This creates a rhythm of life that puts our focus not on our stuff or our schedule but on the opportunity to meet with God." Kent reveals:
"We are created in the image of God, and he modeled for us a way of life that makes sense for how we are created. Here's how to dance the dance of life, he said: work, be creative, use your imagination, throw yourself into it, whether you are washing dishes, reading to your kids and running a household, or trading stocks, reading corporate reports, and running a business. ...At the end of each day, stop. Take a rest, eat a good meal, get enough sleep, and refresh yourself. Take time to think about your day, to notice where God was in it and where you were blessed, and to say, "It's good." Then go back at it the next day. And after six days, take a whole day off. And say, "It's really good." Spend a whole day just pausing, just reflecting on how really good it is, and then start the dance again, at a sustainable pace."
That sounds really good to me. Whether you are here with me in the United States today, or someplace else on God's green earth, may this Labor Day mark the day that you and I decide to rest and become God-focused people.
Dear Lord, I want to rest in You. Show me how to live this way. Meet me there in my time of contemplation, reflection, and worship. In Jesus' Name, Amen.