Finding our wilderness rest
Rest. Who needs rest? We all do! Health professionals agree that the need for rest is critical. It is essential for our overall well-being. This includes our emotional health and cognitive performance.
But how can we rest? 21st century living has introduced a unique set of challenges that radically impair our ability to rest. Our current life experiences have resulted in heightened anxiety within our families, our cities, and our nation.
Similarly, rest for believers has always been (and will continue to be) challenging. This is because we live in a fallen world. However, the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 4:9-11) offers a “viable solution”. He invites believers to enter God’s rest—wilderness rest.
Webster defines rest as not only sleep but also as freedom from worry or trouble. Rest in the Bible is used most frequently in non-theological terms.
However, it takes on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people. Most specifically, when used in reference to the Old and New Covenant.
God addresses wilderness rest
In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is first introduced in Genesis as God ceases from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3). God later commanded Sabbath rest as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15). He knew that all living creatures needed physical renewal.
Canaan rest began with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. Rest was defined as deliverance from slavery. Canaan rest established protection from and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15). By following God’s commandments, Israel would no longer be threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1). Peace in the land would be their rest.
Most importantly, Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement introduced us to God’s eternal rest. This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26). Believer’s eternal rest will culminate with Jesus Christ in eternity.
Accessing God’s rest
Accessing God’s rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him. Our rest can be found in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His will (John 10:27). For example, believers should let God’s Word and Spirit guide us. God has already provided solutions for our problems therefore releasing us from unnecessary 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.” That is, believers need to be more responsive to the Lord.
Responding to wilderness rest
We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice. We trust the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.
Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, and protect. He gives use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37). God 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.