God’s Rest

“We which have believed do enter into rest.” —Hebrews 4:3

THE Scriptures tell us that after six days of creative work the Lord rested on the seventh day. This does not mean that he rested from all activity as though he were tired. For the Scriptures also tell us, “Host thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.” (Isa. 40:28) The thought of God resting well expresses his assurance in the fact that his own Word would not return unto him void and that his Arm (Isa. 53:1) would bring about the fruition of his great divine plan of the ages for the earth and the human race. Even though resting in this sense, God himself undoubtedly was concerned with other creative activities in the vast expanse of his universe.

The Lord, through Moses, extended to the nation of Israel a promised rest in the land of Canaan if they would believe in his promises, and more than this, act upon them. But we know that from the time they left Egypt it was difficult for them to forget the small measure of security they had known there, even though under taskmasters. The wilderness was a barren place with no permanent shelter and no obvious source of food; it was necessary that they have unquestioned faith in God’s ability to provide. However, they murmured and complained to Moses about the hardships they were called upon to endure, and it was this attitude that at times brought the Lord’s wrath upon them.

The Lord told Israel through Moses, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” (Exod. 33:14) “Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. … And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.”—Exod. 23:20-31

The evidence of the Lord’s presence and power operating on behalf of Israel was very manifest. The cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that was with them, directing their journeys from place to place, was the most visible sign of his presence. This was also noticed by other nations and peoples who came in contact with Israel. (Num. 14:14) His presence was also shown in the Shekinah light which glowed between the cherubims over the mercy seat. It was here that Aaron conferred with the Lord on matters that concerned the nation of Israel. And, of course, in addition to these things there were the mighty miracles God performed in delivering the nation from bondage and bringing them to the borders of Canaan.

When Israel finally came to the place where they could see the Promised Land, spies were sent ahead to search it out and report about the land and the people. When the spies returned, they all, except Joshua and Caleb, gave an unfavorable report. The people then said, “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey. … Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. … We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” (Num. 13:27-31) So, ignoring all that the Lord had done to prepare them and to fortify their faith, they refused to enter the land. Therefore God said in his wrath, This people “shall not enter into my rest.”—Heb. 3:11

The Apostle Paul tells us that the promised rest in Canaan was a type of the rest available to the people of God during the Gospel Age. (Heb. 4:3,9) The people of Israel failed to enter into rest, not because God did not perform his part, but because they failed to exercise faith in the Lord and his promises. They had “an evil heart of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:12) The apostle then brings the lesson to us, saying, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”—Heb. 4:1,2

The Lord has established conditions that must be met if we are to enter into his rest. It is possible to have an intellectual knowledge of God’s promises and his plans and purposes and not be a partaker of his rest. The children of Israel had observed the miracles of God on their behalf, and had heard the Word of the Lord spoken to them, but those things had not touched their hearts and motivated them to demonstrate their faith. So it can be with us! The Apostle James states, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works; show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? … Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”—James 2:18-24

As we observe the Lord’s ways and endeavor to conform our lives to his laws and precepts we can have no better example than Jesus. For it was Jesus who, during his life and especially the three-and-one-half years of his ministry, demonstrated what it really means to enter into God’s rest. The Prophet David wrote of the attitude of Jesus, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” (Ps. 16:8) When we review the life of Jesus in all of his trials and experiences, both good and bad, it becomes evident that this statement must be taken literally. This attitude of mind and heart was evident in Jesus even as a boy. The account recorded in Luke 2:43-52 tells of Jesus being left behind and later found by his parents in the Temple, “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” Then to his mother he said, “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” We do not have a record of the next eighteen years of his life except the very brief statement in the last verse of the text, “Jesus increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man.” It is obvious that during those years he continued to hold the Lord always before him.

At the age of thirty, when Jesus came to John at the river Jordan, his attitude of mind was again expressed by the psalmist, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:6,7) This was an expression of his full surrender to the will of the Heavenly Father which was symbolized by John immersing him in the river Jordan. From this text we know Jesus understood that it was God’s plan that the sacrificial arrangement under the Law Covenant was to come to an end, and that a new dispensation would require that he die as a better sacrifice, which would really take away the sins of the world. Because of his faith in God, Jesus delighted to follow a course he knew would lead to his death.

After Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit at his baptism, and his mind was enlightened as to God’s plans and purposes, the scripture states that he went into the wilderness to meditate. He must have felt this was necessary in order to consolidate in his mind all the facets of the Lord’s arrangements, especially as they related to him. But while in the wilderness he was confronted by Satan, who in the beginning was named Lucifer, a glorious spirit being (Isa. 14:12), and even now, after his fall (vss. 14-20), is the mighty angel who has usurped control of the earth. When Satan’s temptations were presented to Jesus, his patience, self-control, courage, wisdom, and faith were tested. We remember how Satan endeavored to induce Jesus to use his miraculous power to provide food to satisfy his hunger; to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple; to bow down and recognize Satan’s authority in the earth. All of these temptations were met by Jesus with a Thus saith the Lord, and evidently the force of the answers convinced Satan it was useless to try further to deceive him, and he left. The guiding principle of our Lord’s life—“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (Ps. 16:8)—carried him through the experience.

One of the more subtle manifestations of an evil heart of unbelief is pride; it is somewhat comparable to the fancied giants of Canaan as the chief reason the children of Israel would not enter the land. Pride in a Christian is often expressed by a feeling of complacency because of personal attainments, and the desire to have his wisdom or ability recognized. This very attitude of complacency and pride in attainments was the ultimate cause of the downfall of the nation of Israel. The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 10:12, after showing how the Israelites had failed to demonstrate faith in God, states, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

It was this disposition in Satan that caused his downfall. We read in Isaiah 14:12-14, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” By way of contrast to this attitude of pride and arrogance, the Apostle Paul tells us about the attitude of Jesus and he admonishes us to have the same mind or disposition. “Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who though being in God’s form, did not meditate a usurpation to be like God. But divested himself, taking a bondsman’s form, having been made in the likeness of men; and being in condition as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And therefore God supremely exalted him, and freely granted to him that name which is above every name.”—Phil. 2:5-9, Diaglott

Jesus used these contrasting circumstances to teach his disciples a lesson concerning pride. In Luke 10:1-16 is the account of Jesus sending the disciples forth from city to city to witness to the kingdom. He gave them specific instructions as to how they were to act and he also gave them powers to perform miracles. When the disciples returned, they had glowing reports of their experiences, and seemed to be particularly impressed with the powers that had been bestowed upon them. “The seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” (vs. 17) Jesus apparently sensed an element of pride in how the disciples recounted these events, and he said to them, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (vss. 18-20) It was not of themselves that they were able to perform miracles, but by the grace and power of God, and this for the purpose of furthering his own designs. The disciples were only instruments in the Lord’s hands, and the powers bestowed upon them should have strengthened their faith in God and not in themselves.

One of the most important requirements needed for a Christian to enter into God’s rest is humility—the opposite of pride. A good definition of humility might be: the proper evaluation of our own thoughts and actions when compared to Jesus who is our captain and standard. In all the wonderful things Jesus did during the three-and-one-half years of his ministry, he did not attribute any of them to his own wisdom and power, but gave the entire credit to God. We are reminded of some of his statements in this connection: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things so ever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19) “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” (John 7:16) This same attitude is expressed by the Apostle Peter as a guide to the church. “As every man hath received the gift even so minister the same to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak let him speak as the oracles of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever.” (I Pet. 4:10,11) The selflessness of a true follower of the Lord is depicted in these verses. Those who have received these great favors and opportunities from the Lord are admonished to use them for the service and blessing of others, as good stewards.

On the occasion when James and John went to Jesus to request the special favor of being permitted to sit one on the right side and one on the left of Jesus in the kingdom, the disciples, when they heard of it, were angry and quarreled among themselves, being covetous of the honor. Because of this, Jesus gave the important lesson recorded in Mark 10:42-45: “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

We, having been blessed with a knowledge of the truth, and all of the evidences that God is dealing with us, have only to exercise faith in his promises in order to enter into his rest. A strong evidence of having entered into that rest is the peace of God in our hearts that passes all understanding. Jesus expresses this blessed state in yet another way: “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:20,21) The crux of the meaning of these wonderful texts is contained in the word ‘in’; it means to ‘rest in’.

The relationship that will ultimately exist between the Father, the Son, and the overcoming members of the church is expressed by the Revelator, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” (Rev. 3:12) But while we are here in the flesh it is our privilege and responsibility to endeavor as fully as we can to enter into this pact of confidence and trust. This is accomplished in only one way—by complete and unreserved obedience, and this from the heart. The Apostle Paul in Hebrews 4:10,11 states, “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” This rest In God must be from the heart, for the Lord does not look upon outward appearances but examines the heart. And to show how important complete honesty is with the Lord, the apostle continues: “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”—vss. 12,13

Then the apostle gives us the encouragement we need to step out on the promises of God and enter fully into his rest, when he says, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:14,15) It is because Jesus was obedient in laying his life down in the prescribed way—overcoming the opposition of sinners, while yielding his life in sacrifice as a ransom—that he has become the means of our justification. Because of this the Lord can accept our heart intentions for the deed and it is in this sense that we are enabled to also overcome the world, and enter into his rest.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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