As Val and I get ready to go out of town for a few days, here is a very brief excerpt from my Doctor of Ministry thesis. This short section details the importance of physical rest:
Physical rest, as a primary emphasis of the Sabbath, allows leaders time for renewal. Rest is implicit in the very name, since “Sabbath” means “to cease.” The nation of Israel was commanded to rest from work one day of the week (Ex 20:8-11, Deut 5:2-15), and breaking that command brought about severe repercussions (Ex 31:14).
However, rest is not confined to the Sabbath exclusively. Rest is found in other feasts and festivals, such as the feast of Tabernacles when the Israelites rested for seven days (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). The Sabbatical year was also a time of rest, as was the year of Jubilee:
The rest principle also found application in the practice of the sabbatical year, the one in seven when even the land was to lie fallow. After the space of seven Sabbaths of years, or 49 years, there came on the fiftieth year a special celebration of jubilee. Land and possessions were redeemed by the original owners, and special religious observances were provided.
1 Kings 19 also demonstrates the need for physical rest and care. After Elijah battled the prophets of Baal, he found himself physically and emotionally exhausted. He prayed, slept, ate, slept, and ate again. It is only then that he was able to continue on his journey. Jesus also modeled the importance of physical rest. He withdrew for periods of rest (Mark 1:35), and encouraged his disciples to do the same (Mark 6:31). In fact, while many of the other rest periods of Israel can be thought of in theological terms, Jesus’ life calls us back to one of the important practical issues of the Sabbath command: mankind needs physical rest.