“For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’
“although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”
Hebrews 4:11 (NKJV)
While on vacation this month, I had the opportunity to purchase my second Fitbit device after successfully killing my original one. After a year of consistent use, I found that it really does promote personal movement, healthy eating and rest. Yes, rest. One of the features on my Fitbit is a sleep function that tells me how many hours a day (yes, it tracks naps) I rest as I pursue my “sleep goal”. It faithfully sends a nightly text to tell me to cease from my activities and “begin to prepare for bed” (it really does).
Health experts and social scientists agree that the need for rest is critical to not only our physical well-being but also our emotional health and our cognitive performance. The writer of Hebrews also recognized the value of rest especially the rest God gives, as a gift, to His believers. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on rest in the context of intimacy with God and returning to our First Love.
Webster defines rest not only as sleep but also as “freedom from worry or trouble”. Most uses of the word rest in the Bible are nontheological; they take on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people—the recipients of the both the Old and New Covenant.
Also read: “Seeking and Finding God”
God introduces Rest
In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest was introduced in Genesis as God ceased from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3). Sabbath rest was later commanded as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15) as evidence of God’s love and recognition that all living creatures, man and animal, needed physical renewal and respite. Canaan rest finds its beginning with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. It included not only deliverance from Egyptian slavery but also establishment of protection and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15). The tribes of Israel also enjoyed God’s gifts of rest when they settled in the land, which flowed with milk and honey (Josh. 1:13-15). In following God’s commandments, they would ultimately acquire rest experienced by “peace in the land”—no longer threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1).
Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement presented believers with the opportunity to enter into God’s Eternal rest. This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises available on this side of heaven (2 Pet. 1:4), His presence manifested through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26) and will culminate with the blessed reward of eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest.”
Accessing God’s Rest
Accessing God’s gift of rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him. Rest is not cessation from work but in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His plans and purpose for our lives. This exercise of faith provides peace and release from anxiety and fear.
On this matter of rest, Lawrence O. Richards, noted theologian writes:
The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest (Heb. 4:11). That is, they are to be responsive to the Lord and let His Word and Spirit guide then to the solutions he has already provided for their problems.
God has provided us with the Holy Spirit, who acts as our spiritual Fitbit to tell us when we need God’s rest. When we have been negligent in our personal time with Him, we become spiritually restless and ill-tempered. We can’t seem to concentrate on the things of God because we lack the rest we need to keep us emotionally and spiritually healthy (Col. 3:1-4).
We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice. Such trust can only be ascribed to the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest. Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, protect, and give use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37). He knows the end from the beginning, and His purpose will stand (Is. 46:8-10). It is God’s desire that we live more fully as recipients of His gift of rest. He invites us to draw near and enter into His rest.
SELAH: Are you in need of God’s rest? Is it time for you to recommit, refocus, and reprioritize your relationship with the Lord?