In today’s world where everyone is running around with many unfinished tasks in hand, it becomes rather difficult to rest even as per the God decreed command. God not only rested on the seventh day after creation but sanctified it as holy. God did not rest but this was for ensuring rest to the body and soul of all mankind and for the earth and that is on it. But most religions urge their followers to work hard to please God places additional burden on their already burdened bodies and souls. Our Savior Lord’s call to the ‘weary and heavy laden’ to come to Him and enter into His rest is a reminder to the tired to place the burdens on His broad shoulders for He cares for all of His creation.
We learn from Scripture that God is Spirit (John 4:24) and when He saw the earth covered with darkness, without shape and form, He saw through the chaos to the potential to create great and wonderful works on the same earth ((Genesis 1:2). The same Holy Spirit has God blessed us with, to fill us with His power, love and self control. God finished His work on the seventh day, blessed and sanctified it and ‘rested from all His work’ (Genesis 2:2-3). Thus God ordained a seven day week and attempts to change this have failed in the past. The Creator and Keeper shall neither slumber nor sleep for in Him everything subsists and He never gets tired (Psalm 121:4). God blessed and sanctified the seventh day for it was a gift from Him to man to rest and replenish. The finished work of Lord Jesus on the cross has set the believers free from the observation of Sabbath day but binds us to enter into that rest of the Lord lest we miss that (Hebrews 4:11).
The Sabbath rest is about thankfulness, worship and getting closer to God. Hebrew word ‘qadash’ means ‘to set apart, consecrate or declare holy’ and ‘shabbath’ means ‘to cease, desist, rest from labor’. The Creator through this identified two aspects of creation of man, first, the need to give rest to the body and soul from the rigorous work that the body would be subjected to during the six days. Second, each human being is a spirit and we are perpetually involved in battle with forces of darkness and evil which are fallen spirits. This battle depletes our spiritual strength which is rejuvenated through contact with the Source of power. King David realized this and said, ‘The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped’ (Psalm 28:7). I trust in God and He helps me by strengthening my body, soul and spirit to be ready for the battle. This is received through prayer, worship and fellowship with God and the seventh day was declared by God as special and holy.
Since the earth is the LORD’s, a Sabbath year was set apart by God which is every seventh year when the land was not to be cultivated and this is accepted today as a good practice to let the earth get restored (Leviticus 25:2-7). On the Sabbath day all people and their animals rested.
Rest of and in Lord Jesus – After inspecting all of the creation and finding it as ‘good’, God rested thereafter (Genesis 2:3). On the cross, Lord Jesus, ‘knowing that all things were now accomplished, fulfilled the Scripture and declared, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:28-30). There was no seat for the priest to sit down in the Temple for his work was never finished since ‘sacrifices could never take away sins’. But our High Priest in heaven, ‘after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 10:11-12). Right hand is the seat of power and authority and Lord Jesus received the glory which He had with God, the Father, ‘before the world was’ (John 17:5) and rests. Stephen, the first martyr, ‘saw the glory of God (in heaven) and Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:55-56). Lord Jesus’ getting up from His rest was to welcome the martyr into His Divine presence.
We do not inherit the kingdom of God in flesh and blood but in the spirit (1 Corinthians 15:50). ‘Stephen filled with faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people’ and in that spiritually enlightened state saw the heavens opened. God the Father has ‘blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3). With these spiritual blessings we can, not only perceive rest in Lord Jesus’ finished work but also rest therein.
Lord Jesus’ rest involves receiving in faith forgiveness from all sins, receiving access to God the Father through Lord Jesus to seek Him and His blessings, healing of the body and soul of all infirmities and being filled with power and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The devil’s work is to steal our belief system in the Lord and thus destroy our inheritance in the Lord, the gift of abundant life (John 10:10). God’s promise is for those who hope in the LORD for they ‘shall renew their strength; they shall soar on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:31). An eagle trains its young one by taking it on her wings and reaching high up, releases the young bird to make it flap its wings to fly and again and again comes underneath the trainee to take it up again to higher levels to be released again. This continues till the mother eagle is sure of the skills of the young bird. God also takes us up onto great heights to train us and to prepare for achieving unimaginable feats in His Divine power and His rest for us is part of that preparation and obedience. However, we struggle and resist God’s effort and many fail to fully enter the rest of achievements in spiritual, physical, social and financial realms that God plans for us.
Why do we fail to enter into God’s rest? – Word of God teaches us, ‘Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by faith’ (Habakkuk 2:4). The two parts of this Scripture verse provide the answer to our present life style. First, the soul of the proud person is not upright in him and the Hebrew word ‘aphal’ is translated as ‘to swell or proud’. And the second, Hebrew word ‘yashar’ means ‘to be smooth, straight, upright or agreeable’. A proud person is swelled up with his own power leaving no space for any help from God or others and is thus not agreeable or upright in his ways with others, rejecting their help or guidance. Second, the ‘tsaddiq’ or the ‘just or righteous’ person lives by faith and this faith is God or heaven centered and not self or world centered.
The worldly knowledge acquired through the fruit of the Forbidden Tree turned our minds to self and the world and away from God. Apostle Paul urges all believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God and ‘not to be confirmed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:1-2). This transformation is to prove the ‘good, acceptable and perfect will of God’ which has been revealed through the coming of the Son of God as Redeemer and His finished work on the cross. This process of transformation is where the battle is fought, since the knowledge of the world is about the five senses whereas the heavenly knowledge is spiritual. The devil wants to keep us focused on what is visible and forget about the finished work of the Savior Lord, which is in spiritual but directly impacts the physical realm.
By sharing in the sufferings of Lord Jesus, we become heirs of God and joint heirs with the Lord and share in all the blessings of kingdom of heaven (Romans 8:17). Believers are also heirs of the promise of God to Abraham and both are received through faith (Galatians 3:29). An heir, who is not aware of his inheritance or is yet a child, is just like a slave despite being the owner of everything and is under guardians (Galatians 4:1-2). We have all the blessings but because of our unbelief and immaturity in faith we remain in bondage to the forces of this world.
The LORD will bless all those who revere and fear Him and will give more and more increase, even to the next generations (Psalm 115:13-14). Apostle Peter confirmed fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:5 about healing of the body and soul of a believer (1 Peter 2:24). Also, God promises to deliver a believer (righteous person) of all afflictions and these and many other promises of God assure us of our blessings (Psalm 34:19).
Lord Jesus, the Living Word, and God the Father are one (John 10:30) and God has magnified His Word even above His own name (Psalm 138:2) and God’s Word is ‘settled in heaven’ and confirmed for fulfillment (Psalm 119:89-90). God’s Word cannot and will not return void but will accomplish the will of God for what it is sent (Isaiah 55:10-11). The moment we receive a revelation from the Word of God about any issue of our life and proclaim it, the devil comes and tries to lead us away from that through his lies. For sickness he keeps on reminding us about the medical reports or physical symptoms and for any lack he keeps on bringing up the notices.
The devil is persistent in his efforts to break our resolve but the only way we can defeat him is through writing the promise of God on our heart so that its completion becomes a part of our desires and will enable us to divert all our thoughts, words and deeds towards that. And we do this by countering every thought of failure with a determined repetition of the promises of the Word of God. But invariably we start falling back after a while whereas the devil’s agent carries on a relentless campaign to lead us astray. Our thoughts are like birds flying over us in the air but we never let a bird create its nest in our hair. In like manner we resist formation of strongholds and imaginations of Satan in our mind and continue to bring every thought into captivity into obedience to Lord Jesus, the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is the only way to enter into the rest of Lord Jesus and we have to labor to enter that rest and remain therein. We are not alone in this battle and help of all heavenly resources is available to us to be victorious.
Entering into and dwelling in the rest of Lord Jesus – We must understand some basic principles for we live in a world that is always craving for more and is never satisfied. First, It is a spiritual discipline and is not about going to sleep for a while. It is about focusing on God and my relationship with Him and trusting Him, rather than on completing my task list. Second, it is about faith and sitting down to receive rather than trying to earn it. It is about walking away from the work for a day and leaving it all to God. Third, it is an art that is diligently practiced with separation from emotions and feelings and is like starting anew. Four, it is about creating stillness of the soul and finding joy in Him and is not about hiding things from God for He in any case knows everything. King David and the prophets laid open their heart to God to seek His help “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?’ (Psalm 13:1-2). Even Lord Jesus on the cross could repeat David’s cry to God the Father ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ ((Psalm 22:1).
Laboring to enter and be in God’s rest is about expressing the deepest feelings of the heart to Him and then feeling His protective help all around. Despite the fact that I may not feel like praying to God due to the situation all around, seven things I must do –
First, Enjoying God – Going for a retreat, to get away from everything for a day, a week or a month to some place to be with the Lord, meditate on His Word and just be with Him. The command is, ‘Be still and know that I AM God’, remember His past deeds for me and my family with thankfulness (Psalm 46:10).
Second, Being aware of God’s love for me – I am chosen of God, appointed a royal priest to My God and it is not due to my goodness but of His Divine grace. I must not only remember that the Son of God died for me despite my sinful life and redeemed me, I must keep on proclaiming this.
Third, Remembering His unfelt presence with me and in me – The Holy Spirit is a Comforter to empower me and fill me with God’s love. I am surrounded by a ‘glorious cloud of witnesses’ who are cheering for me (Hebrews 12:1) and like Gehazi, Prophet Elisha’s servant, I am unable to see the presence of heavenly angels around me, but they are real and present.
Four, surrendering my will to let His Divine will prevail in my life – I must remember what Apostle Paul has declared, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no kind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). The more I struggle on my own, the more I am led away from God’s will and blessings for my life.
Five, remembering God’s faithfulness – ‘I cried out to God with my voice, and He gave ear to me’ and ‘I will remember the works of the LORD, surely I will remember Your wonders of old’ (Psalm 77:1& 11). Moses commanded the Israelites not to forget the miraculous deeds of the LORD that they had seen and to teach them to their children and children’s children (Deuteronomy 4:9).
Six, finding hope – Hebrew word ‘tikvah’ is translated as ‘hope, to bind with a cord or rope, to wait for or upon’. Hope is not a passive action to do nothing but an active act to bind myself and what I hope for, tightly to the Object of my hope, my Savior Lord and wait for His action. I act in the natural with hope for the supernatural boost from God. David’s camp in Ziklag was attacked by the Amalekites who took everything and the wives and children of David and of those who were with him. David’s followers wanted to stone him but he called Abiathar, the priest, to enquire of the Lord about his future action (1 Samuel 30:1-9). Only God is capable and willing to help in our time of need.
Seven, setting my mind on heaven – We are citizens of heaven and our help comes from heavenly kingdom (Philippians 3:20). I must remain fully under the control of my earthly intercessor, Who is in me while retaining focus on my Savior Lord, my heavenly Intercessor. There is a caution for all believers to labor lest someone may ‘come short of it. This labor is to bind myself tightly with the promises of God and wait for fulfillment from Him. David’s life was full of tribulations, as a young shepherd fighting a lion and a bear to save his flock, hiding to save himself from Saul and then the rebellion of his son Absalom and his close friends. Despite all this he could say with confidence, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me’ (Psalm 23:4). His comfort was in the presence of God, His guidance and protection was through the ‘rod and staff’ of God and David could rest in that and rejoice. The struggle is to fight the attempts of the devil to lead us astray into attempting to do everything on my own.
Hannah poured out the agony of her soul about being childless, before the LORD and the High Priest mistook her joy of faith in the promises of a loving God as being under the influence of wine. King David and others could lay bare before God their feelings and emotions and then confidently move forward to face their troubles. One can only be at rest in the Lord once I am sure in my close relationship with God and His faithfulness for then like David I can face any Goliath in my life being fully assured of victory. That faith gives me rest even though the situation may not be to my liking.