What Does the Bible Say about Rest and Relaxation?

What does the Bible say about rest? The concept of rest is so important from a Biblical perspective that God made it a law to observe the Sabbath. Check out these Bible verses about rest.

Rest bible verse

A DAY OF REST

We need rest. Rest gives us perspective. It allows us to see what are true issues and what are problems caused by physical and mental exhaustion.

Since my job is writing and creating, I can take my laptop anywhere and work 24/7 if I want (and sometimes I do!). But if I’m not setting boundaries on my work hours, I may never get a day off and suddenly this hobby–turned business becomes more of a chore than a passion and calling. I’m not helping anyone if my writing is tired and sloppy.

God knew that we required rest. Not just for our bodies, but for our minds.

The very first story in the Bible talks about our need for rest.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then 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 2:2-3

In Exodus, a day of rest was required by God’s law in order to refocus the Israelites on what was most important—living for God. This day was called “The Sabbath”.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8-11
You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

Exodus 31:13
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Deuteronomy 5:15
Bible verses about rest

SABBATH YEARS

Another Sabbath tradition was implementing Sabbath years.

Moses was instructed by God to give these instructions about commemorating a Sabbath Year.

The Sabbath Year

The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

Leviticus 25:1-7
Bible verses about rest

A FESTIVAL OF REST

In addition to the original Saturday and Yearly Sabbaths, the book of Leviticus includes festivals as special times of rest so that the people could atone for their sins or present food offerings as thanks to God.

1. The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:7-8)
On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present a food offering to the Lord. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.

2. The Festival of Weeks (Leviticus 23:21)
On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

3. The Festival of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24-25)
On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.

4. The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:28,32)
Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God...It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.

5. The Festival of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-36,39)
On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present food offerings to the Lord, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work...After you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest.
Bible verses about rest

PUNISHMENT FOR VIOLATING THE SABBATH

The Sabbath Law was so important, that God punished his people when they didn’t keep it regularly. Prophets warned of God’s anger and judgement on those who ignored it.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline. But if you are careful to obey me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it...But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.

Jeremiah 17:21-24,27

If this seems a little harsh, you’re not alone. I mean, Jeremiah predicts (and it comes true!) that Jerusalem will be destroyed in a fire from their enemies. So why does God make such a big deal over celebrating the Sabbath? Is he really this angry that we’re not taking weekend naps?

The point of the Sabbath isn’t just about resting your body, it’s about resting your mind and centering your focus back on spiritual growth, worship and transformation through God your father.

The prophet Ezekiel goes onto explain that the Sabbath was meant to keep God’s people grounded in him. Because they refused, their disobedience went beyond forgetting the Sabbath—they forgot their God.

I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.

Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness...They utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness...I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land I had given them—a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands—because they rejected my laws and did not follow my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths. For their hearts were devoted to their idols. Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them or put an end to them in the wilderness. 

I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”

But the children rebelled against me: They did not follow my decrees...and they desecrated my Sabbaths...They had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their parents’ idols. 

Exekiel 20:12-13,15-21,24
Bible verses about rest

WHAT JESUS HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE SABBATH

The Sabbath is a commandment for our benefit. Jesus himself says that God created the Sabbath for us:

Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

Mark 2:27

However, the Gospels are riddled with stories of Jesus ”violating” the Sabbath. So what does that mean?

Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12:10-12
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Luke 13:14-17

Let’s go back to the point of the Sabbath. If the point is to remember and honor God, then wasn’t that what Jesus was doing? The problem wasn’t that the Israelites were helping too much on the Sabbath that they were ignoring God’s law to rest, but that they were spending that time sinning–worshipping idols, being drunkards, etc.

The Pharisees in this passage are angry because they miss the point—God is about heart and motive, not about black and white rules. Jesus is also saying that he isn’t trying to disprove God—he’s enforcing the true nature of the law.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17

When Jesus challenges the Pharisees about this, they are humiliated and want to retaliate.

It seems that if the point of the Sabbath is to constantly reassess and refocus our actions on the path God wants us to walk, then Jesus, in his perfection, didn’t need any redirecting, therefore, he never needed to stop ”working”. But we, as imperfect humans (sinners), need this weekly reminder as a discipline to true spiritual growth.

A MODERN PRACTICE OF THE SABBATH

So how can we acknowledge the Sabbath today in our modern world?

Here are some ways to make the most of your Sabbath practice using even more Bible verses on rest:

1. Focus on praises and prayer

Following the example of David, make a practice of praise and prayer time during your weekly Sabbath.

A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.

1 It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
2 proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.
4 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
5 How great are your works, Lord,
    how profound your thoughts!
6 Senseless people do not know,
    fools do not understand,
7 that though the wicked spring up like grass
    and all evildoers flourish,
    they will be destroyed forever.
8 But you, Lord, are forever exalted.
9 For surely your enemies, Lord,
    surely your enemies will perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.
10 You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox;
    fine oils have been poured on me.
11 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
    my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Psalm 92

2. Listen to teaching

If you expect growth, expect that you don’t have all the answers. Be open to being a lifelong learner. The easiest way to do this is to plug in with your local church community.

For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

Acts 15:21
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. 

Luke 4:14-17

3. Set aside time to actually rest

Even God rested on the 7th day. Carve out some intentional time to rest. Lay down, stop working. Relax your mind.

A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:9-11

4. Find a way to refuel and refocus for the upcoming week

A great way to have some quiet reflection time is by getting out into nature. I’ve benefited from this since I was a child, but if you want to take it a step further beyond walking outside, I’ve created a Prayer Walk Workbook that guides you through prayer in an interactive experience using more Bible verses on rest. You can learn more here and order it in my shop:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…

Now that you know what the Bible says about rest, some other ideas that have been bouncing around my head are:

  1. Celebrate a Sabbath Festival Day for your family
  2. Brainstorm what a Sabbath Year would look like in your life

For more posts on what the Bible says, check out:

Have a restful day!

Bible verses about rest

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