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Valerius Herberger on the Sabbath Rest

531178_vol1This excerpt introduces the meditations on Genesis prepared by Valerius Herberger (1562–1627), a Lutheran pastor in Fraustadt (now Wschowa), Poland. Herberger regarded the Scriptures “rather like the linen cloths that wrapped the infant Jesus in the manger, and traced his Lord in every little wrinkle” (from the translator's preface). 

The following comes from The Great Works of God, volume 1 (pp. 128–29).

Now who is the Lord that rested here? Moses says Elohim, that is, “God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” the eternal God, revealed in three persons, the selfsame God who was at work before this. Here we find Jesus once again. He was at rest with His heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit.

Accordingly, just as the Lord Jesus rested here on the seventh day after having completed all His tasks for Friday, so after the rest between God and man had been disturbed by sin, the Lord Jesus rested yet again in the tomb, and by His resting won back that rest that man had before the fall, restoring everything that had been lost by the deceit of the evil one. Just as the Lord Jesus once completed all creation on Friday (Gen. 2:2), so the Lord Jesus completed the work of redemption on Good Friday, saying in truth, “It is finished.” Just as Jesus once rested on the eve of Saturday, so after the quiet Friday in the tomb, He rested on Saturday and acquired for us the most blessed rest previously lost by Adam’s fall. Here ponder, dear heart, what a great and inexpressible treasure this is. Take this comfort as your prized trophy, use it well, and say: Dear Lord Jesus, thanks be to You for Your rest in the tomb whereby You have restored to me the first rest for which man was created. By my sins the Holy Spirit was driven from me, but by virtue of Your rest the Holy Spirit is now to rest in my heart and lead me from one good deed to the next. For “all whom the Spirit of God leads are children of God” [Rom. 8:14]. Now I am to rest from sins instead of laboring in the devil’s courts. I am to find rest for my soul by virtue of Your rest. When I have a restless conscience and my deepest fears are gnawing at me, I will simply recall Your merit in living faith and all the unrest of my heart is dispelled. My soul is to find in Your benefits an everlasting Sunday, an everlasting day of joy, jubilee, and pleasure. And someday, when the restless world has vexed and annoyed me enough, I will come to rest in the churchyard in my resting-chamber. There I will rest for a season, free from all sin, adversity, hunger, care, sorrow, and misery, until the bright morning of the blessed Last Day. For “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yea, says the Spirit, that they may from their labors” (Rev. 14:13). And finally, O Lord Jesus, by the power of Your rest I am to have eternal rest, where there shall be nothing but Sundays “from Sabbath to Sabbath” (Is. 66:23), nothing but joy and bliss, delight, pleasure, and life. “In Your presence there is fullness of joy, and pleasures at Your right hand forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).—Valerius Herberger

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Dawn Mirly Weinstock has been with Concordia Publishing House for 25 years and has served as a production editor for professional and academic books for more than 10 years. Her projects have included Luther's Works, Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces, and the writings of Hermann Sasse, C. F. W. Walther, and many others.


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