One of the primary purposes of the gospel being preached was for us to enter into the rest of God. “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:2-3)
For Israel in the wilderness the word (gospel) was preached to them and the literal “rest” on the horizon was the land of Canaan, which serves as a type of rest for us today. While ultimately this Promised Land is our future inheritance in God, we also have a rest available to us today which we are behooved to enter. As a matter of fact, we are instructed in the Word to be “diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” (4:11)
Diligence and obedience are two character traits that will serve us well as escorts into rest.
There is no better example or model for us to follow in this regard than God Himself. We are told in Genesis that God rested after His creative work was finished. Our modern usage of the word makes us think that “rest” is something we enter into because we are in need of it, mainly due to the fact that we are tired. But God Himself rested and thus we must glean additional meaning from the word.
God rested, after He said or spoke everything He wanted to say at that time. “Let there be” was declared from His heart and when He was finished there was rest. Principle: Our hearts find rest when there is a full expression of God’s Word. When He declares His intent (“Let there be”) into your life, you can be assured that His goal is to bring you into His rest. I’ve discovered however, a certain turbulence in the process.
The turbulent stream comes from two qualities of His Word: piercing and discerning. “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (4:12)
I believe that the pattern of creation we see in Genesis still holds true today, in several respects. God, with Jesus at His side, is still in a creative flow. It’s an attribute of our Creator. Jesus our Intercessor is declaring the intent of God (His Word) into our lives even today. As I was recently reading Hebrews chapter four, I noticed a beautiful blending of descriptive words. His Word described in verse 12 is living, powerful, sharp, piercing and discerning. We are then encouraged in that we have a sympathetic High Priest, well acquainted with every temptation we will ever encounter. Therefore we can come boldly to the throne to obtain mercy and grace.
With the piercing and discerning there is mercy and grace. What a beautiful mixture! The rest of God is a place where His Word is perfectly spoken. It was so in the Genesis creation and it remains so in every creative cycle that we find ourselves in.
Another aspect that came to mind was that God’s artistic expression begins with a blank canvas. It sounds nice and clean, and it is, from God’s perspective. But this blank canvas, from our vantage point often feels like total darkness. In the beginning, when God was starting to shape His portrait, there was darkness and the Spirit of God was hovering. We have all known the experience of darkness when God is forming a new thing in our lives.
Psalm 139 tells us that “the darkness is not dark” to God. But to us mortals…how dark it can seem! A blank canvas really is necessary. If I was the Painter, that’s how I would start. God is good and He creates good things. What He forms is beautiful and He sees the end from the beginning. Be assured that His creative work begun in your life will be completed until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
The path into rest is trod choice by choice. Remember that it takes diligence to enter His rest and other “options” will present themselves. God rested in the garden and Adam and Eve were a part of that experience. But there was an option presented to them and they fell into its sway. Psalm 95: 8 – 11 offers us a sober warning: Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways. Therefore I swore in my wrath. They shall not enter my rest.”
Along with the offer of rest comes the temptation to rebel. The option in the day of trial is to “jump ship” and escape the heat. God was grieved for forty years with a people and He cites two reasons. “It is a people who go astray in their hearts and they do not know My ways. Two keys to entering His rest: 1) Keep your heart aligned. 2) Seek to know His ways.
Entering into the rest of God is not without turbulence. But rebellion, choosing what appears to be an easier path at the moment, will in the end be of a much greater turbulence, one that will overwhelm and potentially shipwreck our faith. So continue to receive His Word into your life. He is declaring, “Let there be”, over your life. Trust Him to fill the blank canvas; to be the Light in your darkness. Believe in the power of His grace to enable you to choose rightly and refuse other options.
The Lord asks, “Where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1) He identifies one location. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My Word. (66:2)