Rest. What comes to mind when you see that word? I’m guessing the outdoors, maybe the cliche ocean-and-palm-trees scene, maybe a hammock swinging in the breeze, a book, a couch, a bed. Rest is something we either do for a few hours after work is finished, or for a longer period, like a vacation. But the point is that rest is a concept separate from the rest of our lives; we don’t ever associate work with rest, for example. It seems like an oxymoron.
God instituted the “Sabbath” rest in the Torah when He was giving His commands and the Law to the Israelites, whom He had just brought out of Egypt.The very first time any kind of rest is spoken of in the Bible is Genesis 2, when God rests after His work is finished. I seriously doubt that God needs rest at all, but I think He was setting an example for us. Although paper and ink was precious in those days and things were not written down more than once without reason, the Sabbath rest is mentioned a few times, as though God is reminding the people how important it is. This is one kind of rest, a day set aside where no work is done. Without getting legalistic about it, I think those of us Christians who think we can ignore this and just blunder on to victory are seriously mistaken. It is shocking how much difference a day of total, set aside rest makes.
But my actual point is this: although that rest is needed, it is the way the rest of the world rests, too. Anyone can set aside a day to not work, regardless of what they believe. It’s a physical, human act to decide not to work, to go on vacation, to prioritize sleep, etc. But Christ offers a different kind of rest that quite frankly blows my mind. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30, NIV
It is already spoken about in Psalm 23. Most people I know, Christian or not, have heard and read this Psalm so many times that it has lost meaning. It’s one of those passages we never really read anymore because “we know it.” But after I finish the post I’m going to post it here, and I really hope you will read it, really read it. David is talking about how God leads him beside quiet waters and refreshes his soul. I don’t think David was only talking about a physical stream of water, since he goes on to talk about the darkest valley, which is obviously metaphorical. When you read it, it seems like David was talking about a place inside him, where he communed with God.
The rest of Christ is not necessarily a physical rest, which makes it all the more incredible. It is a quiet place of peace where His Spirit ministers to you and fills you with His peace. You can be working, you can be sleeping, you can be actually physically resting…this peace and rest that Christ give us through the Holy Spirit is not limited by what you are doing physically. It’s beautiful and wonderful and a gift He gives to us.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Psalm 23, NIV