Rest: A Word Study

My family and I recently had a wonderful vacation.  We were able to go to Virginia Beach and stay at a resort on the boardwalk.  We were there for an entire week, the longest our children have stayed at a beach.  Of course, there was much more to do, like visiting the world’s largest naval base, touring the first lighthouse built by the United States, and one of my favorites, visiting a zoo.  Still, the kids had a blast, and of course, are worn out.  It 2019-06-18-16.22.17.jpghas been a balanced vacation (see Abbie’s definition and mine of a vacation by clicking here).  We are tired physically, and my legs are killing me from a bike ride.  However, our spirit’s and minds are refreshed.  We are well-rested.  Are you?

Here is a quick word-study on rest from the Scriptures.  Followed by some practical suggestions for resting in an easy to remember acrostic.


Like many other words used in the Old Testament and the New Testament, a word becomes nuanced in its meaning based on the context (see the chart for examples).

rest word study


Rest in the Scripture contains three significant themes according to the New Bible Dictionary (1996):

Non-theological rest: Rest from labor and activity like experienced on the Sabbath.  Examples in Scripture are found in Genesis 2:2 and Exodus 31:15.

Theological rest: Spiritual rest that was promised in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament by Christ.  Examples in Scripture are found in Deuteronomy 3:20, Hebrews 3:7-4:10, and 12:22-24.

Eschatological rest:  Rest that is yet to be experienced but is promised to each follower of Jesus Christ.  Examples in Scripture are found in Hebrew 4:9, 11:10, and verse 16.

So, how does this affect our practice?

First, to experience any meaningful rest is to come to Jesus Christ by faith.  Without faith, we will not find rest for our soul.  For now, to find rest for the child of God, let’s look at the following acrostic.

R-eflect:  I could go ahead and add a second word, but it actually the result of reflecting – refocusing.  Rest, such as what God took in Genesis 2, was a moment of reflection.  He looked back on the creation and noted that it was very good and sanctified the Sabbath day.  He set apart a day to reflect and take in what he had accomplished through His word.  After the Sabbath, he was back to work having Adam name the animals and creating woman.  For us, it is crucial to take the initiative to focus.  Like I am always telling my oldest daughter, you need to be more aware.  Reflecting creates awareness of our actions, emotional health, need for self-care and helps us refocus on energy into productive activities.

E-nergize:  For me personally, this is the most difficult to master.  Getting adequate rest, learning to say no to unimportant issues, eating healthy, and getting exercise are certainly not my strongest point.  However, I am growing.  It is surprising how much more energy you have when you start doing the right things to gain energy.

S-abbath:  The last two points are related to our use of time.  I am a big proponent of using a calendar.  The critical issue is not to be ruled by your calendar.  Instead, master your schedule by first guarding your sabbath.  You need to take time out to honor God and to personally reflect.  You have to carve out time to rest.  But, you may be asking, how will I ever get things done.  I can’t relax if I force myself.  I’m too worried about the things not happening.  Look at the next item:

T-ake your time:  If you can’t rest because of your schedule, you are being controlled.  Yes, we may seasons were we need to push our limits.  However, we can’t run on overdrive all the time.  Our culture punishes those trying to rest.  If you are not working or active, you must be lazy, is the focal point of many people.  For me, we are better if we get into “holy leisure.”  Don’t overcrowd your schedule so much with commitments and activities that you have to rush to get everything done.  For one thing, the quality will diminish.  Secondly, you will be physically, mentally, and spiritually spent.  Learn to plan strategically and plan your calendar accordingly.


Thomson, J. G. S. S. (1996). Rest. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible Dictionary (3rd ed., p. 1009). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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