Thursday, November 10, 2016

To Rest

Are you rested?

The more analytical of you would respond by answering, "what does she mean by 'rested'?"

In our current day, on the day I'm meditating on these scriptures, many in the USA are very restless. Last night, there were many demonstrations in large cities across the country, to protest the outcome of the landslide presidential election held just two days ago.

There are essentially two kinds of rest:  physical rest and spiritual rest, which encompasses emotional rest and peace in the soul.  Of the two, the latter is the more complex.

I have a friend whom I'm constantly enjoining to "get more sleep".  This dude runs on about 4-5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.  How?  I don't know.  But, he's in his 50s, and still living and breathing.  Others of us humans need around 7.5 or some as much as 9-10.  Further, there are "morning people" and "night people".  I am the former, but don't disparage the latter as my precious husband falls into that category.  Of our two sons, we have one of each type.  Physical rest is pretty uncomplicated.  Get it and you'll be healthier.  Don't, and your health will be adversely affected.

7You have put gladness in my heart,
         More than when their grain and new wine abound.

8In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
         For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:7-8 (NET)

Physical rest, although uncomplicated, is impacted by the more complicated concept of spiritual rest. If your soul is at peace, your body will rest better also. So, let's get to that this morning.  Today's main text is Hebrews 4:9 (NET) - - -

Consequently, a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God.

What does this mean?

Those of you familiar with the Ten Commandments will recall that one of them is this:
"Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy."  

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Exodus 20:8-11

These verses are pretty self-explanatory.  The Old Testament Jews took them very seriously.  Jesus demonstrated by picking a few heads of grain as He walked through a grain field that the Jews' many man-made "rules and regs" concerning keeping the Sabbath had become an unbearable burden all on their own. (Mark 2:23, Matthew 12:1).  Jewish rabbis had, down through the centuries, "added to" God's commandment to dedicate the 7th day of the week to rest and to worship Him.  The result was (predictably) a monstrosity.

I do believe that this principle of resting and dedicating one day a week to rest and the worship of our God is valuable, although our rest and worship should certainly not stop there.  It is also, in our day and time, horribly difficult to 100% do, (particularly if you are involved in full-time ministry.  In those cases, your "day of rest" is not Sunday because on that day you absolutely must "work".)  When I was a child it was much easier.  All commerce was closed on Sundays.  After church, you had lunch and then you napped in the afternoon before consuming a simple supper.  Maybe you drove over to visit a friend or loved one.  Simpler times.  Now, it is more challenging.

But, let's get to the larger principle that the writer of Hebrews makes in 4:9.  In prior references with the word "rest", the author of Hebrews uses the Greek word "katapausis", from which we get our English word "pause".  But, in 4:9, he uses a word that is used nowhere else in the New Testament but in this verse: "Sabbatismos".  In this way, the writer of Hebrews is linking and contrasting the "new covenant" of Jesus with the "old covenant" practice of "keeping the Sabbath".

The main purpose of the Sabbath rest in the Old Testament was to allow the people to focus their attention on their relationship with God, to praise and worship Him, as well as to experience physical rest from their labors.  In the new covenant of Jesus Christ, we find the Old Testament Sabbath expanded and fulfilled.  Jesus said this, in Matthew 11:29.

"....I will give you rest for your souls."

Both in the Old Testament and New Testament, the people of God have been invited to enter God's rest the only way God provided, which was by faith.  In the new covenant of Jesus Christ, faith is still the entry mode, but the rest Jesus provides is transformational, all-encompassing.  It is a rest prepared from before creation (vs. 3).  We who know Jesus Christ have a promised "eternal rest" for our souls, which we can experience in the form of supernatural peace today, regardless of circumstances, and will experience ultimately in "eternal rest" in Heaven with our Savior.  It is both a current, local rest for the soul and simultaneously a future rest in Heaven forever.

The heavenly "rest" will be more like a Sabbath celebration as pictured in the Old Testament.  We won't be merely sitting around on clouds "resting".  Instead, freed from the sin nature with which we constantly must contend in this life, we will worship, praise, celebrate our Savior in His "Unshakeable Kingdom" (Heb. 12:22-24).

This is our peace as Christians, an unassailable peace which buoys us up, no matter our present, earthly circumstances ... a supernatural peace that unbelievers cannot know.  As many of us have said in recent days: "no matter the outcome of this presidential election, God is still on His throne".  His promises are eternally secure.  In them, in Him, we have the full gamut of rest ... even better than that of a sleeping baby!

Dear Father, thank you for this teaching about the Sabbath and about Your holy rest provided to us through our Savior, Jesus.  In His name, amen.


2     Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Kindle edition. 

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