“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)
What is rest? Webster defines it as “sleep” but also as “freedom from worry or trouble”. Today I’d like to camp on this issue of rest and its implications to us living in the twenty-first century.
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. 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 protection and victory over their 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. This rest is now, in part, available to believers.
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. 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 his 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.”
In hearing and responding to the Lord as He speaks to us in our “today” we can find rest. 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 you to enter now into that rest.