So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Hebrews 4: 9-10. (ESV)
It is overtly obvious to me and likely you as well, that this world is becoming increasingly unsettled. As a result, we are all exhausted. You can see it on the faces of those around you, well at least in their eyes since these days you can’t see anyone’s nose or mouth. Restlessness is a trending condition especially in our nation. A global pandemic, racial tensions, unprecedented political division and an attack on the capitol building along with soaring unemployment numbers has millions of people rattled and unsure. Anxiety, confusion and frustration are at the highest levels in decades.
Where are we to find rest for our weary souls?
It is not in science, certainly not politics, vaccines show promise but ultimately will not inoculate us from the restlessness of our souls. Rest is found in only one name, his name is Jesus Christ.
In Hebrews chapters three and four, the writer gives a clear illustration as to what it means to enter into the Sabbath rest offered by God through Jesus Christ. Israel had been delivered from slavery in a dramatic fashion and through the leadership of Moses, began the arduous trek to the prophesied Promise Land. The Abrahamic Covenant reveals it was God’s desire to give His people a permanent dwelling place on earth where they could live in relationship with Him. Scripture reveals that Israel held true to their name as they “wrestled” with God and Moses throughout the 40 year journey. On their way to a promised rest, they were consistently restless with complaints, sin, idolatry and ultimately disbelief. As they stood at the end of their journey looking at the Promised Land, they made the choice to stay on the wrong side of the Jordan River neglecting the promised rest. The writer of Hebrews reminds his audience of God’s words in Psalm 95:11, “So I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.” (NKJV).
The first generation of Israelites hiked a 40 year trail only to see the finish line and refuse to cross it due to unbelief. It seems unimaginable to find yourself on the cusp of experiencing the promised rest of God and not entering in. The Promised Land and the Sabbath typologically foreshadowed an eschatological hope which would ultimately be fulfilled in the person and work of Christ.
In Hebrews 4:1, the author connects the failure of the Israelites to his audience as he warns, “God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.” (NLT). In the verses that follow the author explains that the rest offered by God, is no longer found in a Promised Land, but in a promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. There is great urgency in chapter four as the writer essentially says, “Well, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, enter your promised rest, his name is Jesus.” (paraphrase of 4:6-7). The high point of this chapter is found in verses 9-10. As the author continues to show how Christ is greater than the law, angels, High Priest, Moses and the previous covenants, he challenges the audience to enter into a new and better Sabbath rest. In Mark 2:28 Jesus says, “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” In contesting the Pharisees Jesus points beyond a day of rest and toward a spiritual rest which could only be found in Him.
Jesus would later give one of the most precious invitations found in Scripture:
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11: 28-29.
From this point forward rest would not be found in a physical space, a designated day, religion, church, a denomination, or even a hot bubble bath! His invitation is simple, “Come to me.” His promise is profoundly alluring. He promises a yoke, which has nothing to do with eggs. A yoke was an instrument of labor, placed around the necks of beasts who, together as a team, would plow the ground as they drug behind the tools for breaking apart dry land.
In our labors, let us not neglect the invitation of Christ to enter into His rest. Many of us are striving, painfully so, to plow the difficult soil of a hardened world. Imagine Jesus, literally entering into your labors, giving you His strength. He says to you today, “Give me your burdens, your weariness, your worries, grief and sadness and in exchange I will yoke myself to you.” In exchange for our weariness, he promises rest for our soul through his humble and gentle heart.
You should rest today. Take a much needed break from your labors, anxieties, worries and fears. I know what some of you are thinking, you have wondered over the past months where God has been in the midst of your laboring. Have you really, I mean truly, asked Him to enter into your yoke of burdens?
In Jesus we find perfect rest. In Him we have sins forgiven, mistakes redeemed, and righteousness which has places us in right standing with God. We have been seated in heavenly places and He has removed our shame through His grace not giving us deserved condemnation. Rest in that today. Take a spiritual rest from fear, loneliness, worldly pursuits, and from the need to be understood and accepted by others.
This article is not as much for you as it is for me. This is currently my battle. I confess out of conviction that I have strived for too long to make a name for myself, to chase personal and professional accomplishments which have left me feeling empty. Ultimately these things have caused a restlessness deep in my soul. Yet over the past week God has brought to my heart the previously mentioned verses to remind me to enter into His Sabbath rest. I have done that and will continue to strive toward Him and away from myself. It is a daily battle. I don’t want to be like the children of Israel standing on the wrong side of God’s promised rest.
Stop for a moment, turn off the TV, get off social media, and don’t check the COVID numbers. Instead enter into His rest. There is a Savior whose name is Jesus and His arms are opened wide, ready to take your burdens, cares, fears and worries and exchange them for His presence. He will not require a mask and He will not ask you to social distance. Enter into His yoke of rest; you will be surprised how much lighter your cares, tasks and burdens will become.