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There is a rest in God that only comes as we hear the voice of Jesus inviting us, "Come unto Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11.28, 29)
Jesus, God’s faithful Son, the Captain of our salvation, the Author and Finisher of our faith, is our great High Priest. He "became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." (Hebrews 5.9) God has a "land" for us to conquer. He wants us to possess the land and to enter His rest. He chooses, He redeems, He calls, He entreats, He commands His people to "Arise, go."
After Lot separated from Abram, God told Abram to lift up his eyes and look from the place where he was standing. All the land which Abram saw, God would give to Abram and his descendants forever. Then He commanded Abram, "Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you." (Genesis 13.17)
The children of Israel had some success, but then ended up in slavery in Egypt until Moses heard the call of Yahweh and led the people out. God redeemed His people and called them to holiness (Exodus and Leviticus). God desired that His people live and multiply and go in and possess the land which He had sworn to give. After a time of "wilderness wanderings," a generation arose which had not experienced the bondage of Egypt, though the Passover would be a remembrance and a re-entering into the experience of the great deliverance and mighty act of God’s redemption…a lamb for a house. Moses called the people together.
"Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself…" (Deuteronomy 9.1) Moses gives a review of Israel’s rebellion, how he interceded for them, how Yahweh heard and chose not to destroy them and then said, "Arise, begin your journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land…" (Deuteronomy 10.11)
What did the Lord require? It was to fear the LORD their God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD their God with all their heart and with all their soul and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which Moses was giving them for their good.
Moses would not enter. He died, but to Joshua, God said, "…arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them…I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you." (Joshua 1.2, 5) Joshua told the people, "The Lord your God is giving you rest, and is giving you this land." (Joshua 1.13)
Hebrews 4 speaks of a Sabbath rest, a rest such that "he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His." (Hebrews 4.10) It is the rest of God. The children of Israel did not enter into this rest because of disobedience, a disobedience that resulted from unbelief.
We are invited to enter into God’s rest, spending our years in the Sabbath-keeping of God, sharing it, the rest of a finished work. When God rested from the act of creation, He didn’t become weary, and He didn’t continue inactive. Jesus said, "My Father works hitherto…" He is ever at work, repairing, renewing, and sustaining. But the creation was a finished work, meeting with God’s approval, satisfying fully, and very good.
God’s rest is one that would bring us to equilibrium, to a contented heart, to that peace that passes all understanding, to a quiet resting in the will of God, to the shelter of God from the storms of life. The Sabbath only typified that rest. In the Land of Promise, it was constantly interrupted and finally, in the Captivity, broken up. Rest was broken by unbelief’s rebellion.
In Psalm 95.7, the Holy Spirit speaking through David, points to a rest still future. This psalm is a call to worship, an invitation to sing, shout, come before God’s presence with thanksgiving, worship and bow down, to kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture. It is a call to enter into that place in God where there is rest, to hear God’s voice but not rebel and test God, go astray, and disobey so as to fail to enter this rest.
As we think about this invitation to enter God’s rest, we are encouraged to understand that Jesus, our great Joshua, has entered into it for us. He also has ceased from His own work of redemption, as God did from His work of creation.
After Jesus said, "It is finished," he lay, during the seventh day, in the grave of Joseph of Arimathaea, not because He was exhausted or inactive, but because redemption was a finished work. Yet Jesus rose from the dead, ascended on high, and sat down at the right hand of the Almighty. He ever lives to make intercession; He is working with His servants, confirming their words with signs; He walks amid the seven golden candlesticks. He is with us and will never leave us or forsake us.
In Jesus, as we place our faith and trust in Him and this mighty act of redemption, this finished work of the Cross, we, too, can enter and enjoy the rest of God as we identify with Christ in His glorious life. We have been raised up together with Him in the mind and purpose of God. We have been made to sit with Him in the heavenlies. (Ephesians 1, 2) We enter by faith.
Maybe, however, you have received the rest of salvation, and even found the rest of submission. In the first, you receive the rest that Jesus gives. In the second, you find rest for your souls. This rest, however, you enter. You possess the land. Maybe you will say "Amen" as I share with you some of J. Hudson Taylor’s struggles to enter this rest from enemies to his soul.
On October 17, 1869, J. Hudson Taylor wrote his sister Amelia from Chinkiang of the pressures of duties, of his lack of power, of sincere prayer but difficult days. There in China, he expresses his need and the need of the Mission "of more holiness, life, and power in our souls." He writes, "I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living nearer to God, prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently, sought more time for retirement and meditation—but all was without avail…the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not…To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I found not."
Taylor goes on. "I hated myself; I hated my sin; and yet I gained no strength against it…" He knew not how to rise to his privileges as a child of God. He says, "I thought that holiness, practical holiness was to be gradually attained by a diligent use of the means of grace…but so far from in any measure attaining it, the more I pursued and strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp." Hope waned. Trying to exercise enough faith failed. He says, "Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar!"
Unbelief is the root of all sin, yet we indulge in it every time we turn away and believe another wisdom, another word, another way. Hudson Taylor found the answer as the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus. "But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."
Jesus abides faithful. He died for all sins, including unbelief. He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. He promises to abide with us. He is the true vine and we, the branches. We are members of His Body, of His flesh and bone. The vine is not merely the root, but all—root, stem, branches, leaves, flowers, fruit. We are called to enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ. It comes through identification with Christ, oneness with Him. We are as the Word says, dead and buried with Christ, risen and ascended. We live by the faith of the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. We believe ourselves dead to sin and alive to righteousness. Through Christ we go in to possess the land (our souls), receive the Promise (the Holy Spirit) and enter into the rest of God (rest from the enemies of our soul all around). We rise up in the Spirit to overcome sin, self, satan.
This is the birthright of every child of God. Every believer can realize and enjoy the rest of God by realizing and appropriating the following truths:
- Will the will of God. Jesus said, "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work." (John 4.34) Say with Jesus, "I have come to do Thy will, O God." Our mind should say, "Henceforth to do Thy will…" "Even so, Father, for it seemed good in Your sight." (Matthew 11.26)
- Accept the finished work of Christ and cease striving to make yourself acceptable to God. Stand in God’s presence by virtue of the completed sacrifice of Calvary. Accept yourself in Christ. (Hebrews 2, 4)
- Trust the Father’s care. Care mars our peace. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You." (Isaiah 26.3) Trust that He will never leave you nor forsake you.
- Identify with Christ’s life. He learned obedience in the things which He suffered, experienced, endured, and so shall we. (Hebrews 2; 3.14) Conquer enemies through Him.
- Keep your confidence in Christ. Hold fast your profession and come boldly to the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4.14-16)
Going with God for Him and for you,
"I will arise and go to my father." (Luke 15.18)
"For we who have believed do enter that rest." (Hebrews 4.3)
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