For the past weeks, I have been considering how that God shatters our dreams in order to bless us. At times in our lives we experience times of weariness and weakness. Today, I would like to focus on how God provides rest. We will consider the relationship between the Matthew 11:28-30, Deuteronomy 12:9-10, and Hebrews chapters 3-4.
Creation and Rest, God’s example and command
To begin, we need to define what rest is according to God. This concept first appears in the creation account in Genesis. The Hebrew word is shabat which means to “stop or cease.” Genesis presents God as being Omnipotent (all powerful). So why does God rest? Because He completed His creative work. Simply, He finished everything as He desired. No last minute changes were necessary because He did everything perfectly! The basis for a seven day week with rest on day seven comes from God’s example and requirement for rest. For additional scriptures and explanation:
Why does God command us to cease? Because He desires for us to rest in His finished work for us. Six days of the week we are striving for ourselves, families, jobs, etc. It’s vital that we cease and rest in Him.
Jesus’ call to rest in Him: Matthew 11:28-30
28.Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When reading these verses, it’s vital to understand the context. John the Baptist has just sent messengers to Jesus inquiring about if He is the Messiah. Reports were spreading that Jesus was eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus has just warned about God’s judgment coming upon those who won’t believe/repent (example of Sodom). He goes to the extent of mentioning known pagan centers (Tyre and Sidon) as being more repentant (sackcloth and ashes if given opportunity) than the cities He had been preaching in. The issue was the refusal to repent. The Jewish people were refusing to accept Jesus as Messiah due to His associating with sinners. Even John the Baptist has his doubts. Why is this so?
The Jewish people weren’t willing to see Jesus as God! They have their own ideals about who and what the Messiah should be. Jesus eating with sinners isn’t part of it. They believed that sin was contagious and being around sinners was wrong. The go so far as to later accuse Jesus of having a demon.
It’s easy to fault them while we overlook our modern misconceptions! When reading the Gospels have you ever got frustrated with the people? Why can’t they just accept Jesus? Why the constant resistance and rebellion? Why do we resist God’s offer of rest? Perhaps it because we believe in our own ways more than God’s.
They (Hebrews) were attuned to a relationship with God that involved obeying rules and making sacrifices. Jesus is the Sacrifice, but one has to accept Him and repent from the false “self-righteousness” that sought God’s favor through outward law abiding in place of inner heart renewal. Do we not make the same error?
We try to please God hoping that He will bless us instead of trusting and resting in His Atonement and work in our lives! We need to live in ways that pleases and honors God. But, we can’t depend on our efforts of pleasing God to remain in proper relationship with Him. It’s about His Grace not about our self righteous intentions or actions! Our self-seeking “righteousness” is like filthy rags before God according to Isaiah 64:4-7. John Piper describes this in his devotional below
In this passage “filthy” refers to the false righteousness of unrepentant being sent into exile. They thought they were okay with God (because of self-reliance) when in reality they were in serious trouble. This verse is properly interpreted in the context of recognizing sinful nature and turning to God for salvation instead of depending on your own self-motivated deeds! It’s Christ’s righteousness that saves us!
God’s Promise of Rest to His People Deuteronomy 12:9-10
God promises rest and peace to His people as well as a place where His people can bring sacrifices and offerings (setting to worship Him). While Jesus forever ended the need for sacrifices, do we not need rest and peace in our lives? The Hebrew people lived in area surrounded by idol worshiping pagans. The entire religious and moral system of the region stands in opposition to God’s. The Canaanites practiced human sacrifice and all types of immoral and cruel idol worship. They were lost in darkness. God intended for His people to be an example/a light that would reveal His Holiness, Goodness, and Glory.
Many in our society are lost as well. There are many who think that having a good job, family, house, car, etc. is the “good life.” As Christians we know that God is the Ultimate Source of Goodness and all good things are gifts from Him. It’s sad to see people trapped in debt and other situations in their pursuit of good things. The good things become false idols to pursue instead of a relationship with God. God’s grace is a refreshing source of life for us and others! Christ shines through His people when they depend and rest in Him!
The Concept of Entering into Rest in Hebrews Chapters 3-4
The author of Hebrews uses the example of the Hebrews in the desert to warn Christians. The Hebrews decided that their way was better than God’s! They refused to obey God’s command to enter into Canaan. Consequently, God kept them out in the desert until all of the unfaithful ones died. Their sin appears in Hebrews 3:16-19
16For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
The sin is unbelief–they didn’t obey God’s Word. They didn’t believe His Promise and choose fear and anxiety over obedience. They saw the “giants” and “great walled cities” as being greater than the Almighty God. While it’s easy to recognize their failures, do we not commit the same errors in our lives? The remedy for this serious sin is found in God’s Living Word! Repent and Trust in God instead of seeking out your own way!
Jesus also rests just as His Father! Since Jesus is with God having completed His mission we can rest in Him!
10For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
The author of Hebrews reminds us to: (Hebrews 4:11-16)
11Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Our Compassionate High Priest
14Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
For a good overview and additional details/scriptures, I found this posting to be helpful:
Point 1: Rest in God’s grace and accept His provisions for sins. Realize that our “good” deeds come through relationship with Christ as evidence of His work and presence.
Point 2: Consider how life’s demands: pressures, anxieties, difficulties can cause loss of focus and trust. Recognize when this is happening and turn to God for strength and help.
Point 3: Remember that God’s Word guides and convicts us. Jesus is our High Priest in which we can rest. Religion and self-righteousness are dry wells that lead to increased exhaustion.
Point 4: Boldly and confidently approach God and seek His mercy and grace instead of relying on others or self.
May God bless you and make you a blessing to others as you refresh your soul in His Rest!
For His glory and the encouragement of fellow pilgrims, I write