This psalm ends, surprisingly, rather abruptly. God says of his unfaithful people at the time of the Exodus, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ (v. 11) What was the “rest” that God referred to? Is this still relevant to us today?
When we turn to the NT letter to the Hebrews, this “rest” is referred to again, so obviously it is still relevant, but here we find quite a bit of extra explanation (see Hebrews 3-4). But, just let me say, this is a BIG subject which I will just touch very briefly on in this Post.
FIRSTLY, to begin with, Hebrews tells us that:
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (4:1)
There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (4:9-10)
So, the key points are that this rest is still available today and that it is a gift of God to his people – it is “my rest” (Psalm 95:11) – it is “God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:10).
SECONDLY, how then do we enter into this rest? A key word is faith/belief. Consider the following verses in Hebrews 3-4 where it speaks of the people who did not enter into God’s rest:
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (3:2)
So, we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (3:19)
We also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (4:2)
And, on a more positive note:
Now we who have believed enter that rest. (4:3)
So, there is no doubt, by faith, we, the people of God can enter into God’s rest.
THIRDLY, did Jesus speak of this rest? The good news is that he certainly did as follows:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
The Message Bible puts it like this:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (11:28-30)
I don’t know how you feel, but in this very restless and stressful world, this invitation by Jesus sounds very appealing.
FOURTHLY, so what then does it all mean?
Simply, as I understand it, this concept of spiritual rest is to cease from all our striving in our own strength to try and please God by doing good deeds (our own works), or being involved in any other religious type activities. Instead, it is to trust only in Jesus and all that he has accomplished for our eternal salvation in his death and resurrection.
Then, having trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and the privilege of being reconciled to the Father, we continue to live for him, walk with him, serve him and trust him and all that God has revealed in His Word to be able to live the Christian life, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And so, rest involves the past (our salvation in Christ), the present (living the Christian life in the power of the Spirit). But I believe there is even more. It also involves the future!
In relationship to Christ, we need not fear death but rather can be confident of our eternal destiny in the presence of God.
So, where in the Scriptures do we read of these truths? Here are just a few examples.
Paul in Ephesians seems to say it all – note the following: our salvation in Christ alone (past) – the power to live the Christian life (present) – our confidence in our eternal home (future)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us… 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-8, 13-14)
And then in chapter 2:
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
And so, Paul prays:
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
So, in the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
May you enter into his rest today!