Now relax your muscles.
Do you feel at rest now? Probably not (unless you were before you started reading). Resting is something that takes more time than that. Yet however much time it takes, most people will agree (or perhaps just admit) that we need it.
I looked up a couple of dictionary definitions of the word "rest". Here are a few:
Date: before 12th century
intransitive verb 1 a : to get rest by lying down; especially : sleep b : to lie dead
2 : to cease from action or motion : refrain from labor or exertion
3 : to be free from anxiety or disturbance
4 : to sit or lie fixed or supported (a column rests on its pedestal)
5 a : to remain confident : trust (cannot rest on that assumption) b : to be based or founded (the verdict rested on several sound precedents)
6 : to remain for action or accomplishment (the answer rests with you)
7 of farmland : to remain idle or uncropped
— ORIGIN Old English, from a root meaning "league" or "mile" (referring to a distance after which one rests).
verb 1 cease work or movement in order to relax or recover strength. 2 allow to be inactive in order to regain or save strength or energy. 3 place or be placed so as to stay in a specified position: his feet rested on the table. 4 (rest on) depend or be based on. 5 (rest in/on) place (trust, hope, or confidence) in or on.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
A few things strike me:
- Resting implies intent or necessity. The cessation of labour is done for a reason: "in order to relax or recover strength". Land is given rest so that it can better bear fruit the next year.
- I am no linguist but 900 years seems like a pretty good long time for a word to be in use. Of course the concept has been around much longer, but the longstanding use of this word in our culture seems to point to its significance. Also note that its derivation (see above) refers once again to the need for rest: after going a certain distance, it is time to rest.
- There is an element of confidence or trust. Resting requires trusting. I can't sleep well without trusting that I am safe. I can't stop working unless I trust that the necessary task will be finished. I usually like to think of the image of leaning on something for support: we trust in something because it is strong enough to allow us to rest.
Isn't it interesting that God specifically commanded his people to rest?