Sabbath Meditation #3 – The Failure of Human Effort
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none” (Ex. 16:26).
“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates” (Ex. 20:9-10).
God did mighty signs and wonders for the Israelites to bring them out of Egypt. He even parted the Red Sea. God’s people walked across on dry ground and were delivered from Pharaoh’s army. After this series of incredible events, God performed another miracle for them. He gave them manna from heaven.
This manna served as food, but it had a greater purpose. The people were asked to gather one portion of manna for five days and then twice as much on the sixth day. On the seventh day, the people were asked to gather none. God used the manna to reveal to them which day of the week was the Sabbath. The Egyptians used a 10-day work week, so God had to restore Israel to His sacred rhythm. However, there is an even deeper lesson to be learned through this event.
Manna was how God provided for their physical needs. However, no amount of gathering manna on the Sabbath could please God – and no amount of gathering would satisfy human needs. Only the manna saved up from the sixth day was important for physical needs. In a similar fashion, we read in Exodus that we are commanded to work for six days and then rest on the seventh day.
As I ponder these details, it reminds me that my human effort alone will always fall short. It reminds me that where I fall short God’s completed work is so much greater. He will pick up the difference for my failure in a way that is so much greater than anything work could ever accomplish.
When I meditate on this understanding further, I also consider the specific areas in which I fall short. As I have honored the Sabbath over the years, I have learned more and more to surrender my failures to God and ask for His supernatural strength to overcome. I realize that the Sabbath is the time for me to give up trying to figure it out on my own. I need to let Him work it out.
What God can accomplish on the seventh day is so much greater than what my work can accomplish in the previous six days. The dominion given to humans in Genesis will fall short. Trying to carry my work or dominion over into the seventh day will not accomplish anything; I just need to give it up and over to Him.
Lastly, I have come to appreciate grace and salvation more as I honor the Sabbath. Because I am weekly reminded of the failure of human effort, I see how God’s grace is so needed. I appreciate it so much more each Sabbath that comes and goes.
The Sabbath is the way to acknowledge that the Creator’s rest of one day can do more in us than what our own human effort can accomplish in six days. I look up to Heaven so much more now that I understand His Sabbath rest, and I acknowledge that His work is so much greater than mine. With all this in mind, meditate on the following verses:
“1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. 2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2)
Truly, there is something available for us in the Sabbath rest that cannot be gained by physical work or labor.
We will explore this more in our next Sabbath meditation.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.; BSA President