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Work & Rest

“Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.” Genesis 1:14

It is tempting to think that this is simply for marking time. However, in the next function we see that they are given for signs, seasons, days, and years. That sounds more to me like time markers, so what is in view here? In ancient times, much more than in modern times, there was a strong correlation between the day/night cycle and the work rest cycle. It is interesting to note that Psalm 104:20-23 says the following:

You make darkness, and it is night when all the beasts of the forest creep about….22 When the sun rises…23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening. (Psalm 104:20-23, ESV)

So the first function that these lights serve is to help regulate our work rest cycle. Spurgeon has admonished:

Let us praise God for common mercies, for they prove to be uncommonly precious — when they are once taken away!

James Smith springboards off of him to say:

Waking up from a good night’s rest — I feel exceedingly grateful for so great a mercy. What a refreshing thing is sleep. How many nights of good sleep I have enjoyed, for which I never prayed, and for which I never praised God.

But now I cannot sleep as I once did. Hour after hour I lay sometimes, and get no rest. I feel with job, that “wearisome nights are appointed to me.” Sleep is valued now as a great blessing, though it was once looked upon as a common thing. Now I pray for sleep, and when I get it, I praise God.

How little praise God gets from us for his common mercies — unless he deprives us of them. Then we prize them, pray for them, really enjoy them, and give God thanks. What we win by prayer — we should wear with praise.

This first week is God’s work week that is intended to provide a pattern for us. We all take note of the pattern of work 6 days rest on the seventh, but I think most fail to make the connection that God also worked during the day and stopped his work, or rested, at night. Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” He recognized the importance of this regular cycle. We at times try to do too much, we stay up late and get up early. We end up burning our candle from both ends if you will. That is not something that is healthy or wise, or really sustainable. I speak to you as one who struggles with this. I feel that there is so much to do that I end up in an unwise cycle where I try to accomplish more by cheating sleep. God designed us to do our best when we work when we are well rested. So make sure you take that time to get the rest you need. A.W. Pink stated:

Sleep has been aptly defined as “the nurse for tired nature.” What cause for gratitude have we, that frayed nerves and weary muscles are refreshed and renewed by a few hours of repose! How glad is many a one whose body is racked with pain throughout the day — to obtain a few hours’ respite during the unconsciousness of night! Sleep is indeed a merciful provision of God’s, which none of us appreciate as highly as we should.

There is a flip side to this, we can sleep too much. The Psalm says that “when the sun rises, man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.” So don’t sleep in too much either. Keep active. Sleeping half the day away, oh what a wretched habit to get into. A little sleep, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty comes on you like a thief! There is a balance that we must strive to keep on our cycle of work and rest. And God has given us these lights to separate day from night, work from rest.

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