There is a provision for the satisfaction and contentment of the thirsty longing soul in Christ, as he is the way to the Father; not only from the fullness of excellency and grace which he has in his own person, but as by him we may come to God, may be reconciled to him, and may be made happy in his favour and love.[1]

 

O Lord God, grant Thy peace unto us,—for Thou hast supplied us with all things,—the peace of rest, the peace of the Sabbath, which hath no evening.[2]

 

We exhaust ourselves trying to rest. Hebrews 4 focused on the rest which remains for the people of God. This rest has not yet been reached, but it a major focus of the entire Bible. Mankind has ruined their perfect Garden rest, and despite all our efforts we still cannot be “at rest.” Anxiety rules the day, but God offers a new day filled with tranquility in his presence.

 

THE OLD TESTAMENT STORY OF REST מְנוּחָה

Exodus 35:2, says work shall be done six days “but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of rest (מְנוּחָה) to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.” Psalm 132:14, described Zion as God’s (מְנוּחָה)“resting place forever.” Isaiah 11:10 says, “In that day the root of Jessie, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples, of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place (מְנוּחָה) shall be glorious.” The word “rest” (מְנוּחָה) is therefore used to describe what is to be done on the Sabbath—a day reserved for God and his people. The word is also used to describe where God is (מְנוּחָה) in Psalm 132:14.

Isaiah taught that the rest (מְנוּחָה) is provided by the Messiah. So the (מְנוּחָה) rest is to be in God’s presence through Christ’s work. The rest (מְנוּחָה) was experienced in measure each 7th day for those following the Old Testament Covenants. Now that Christ has come, Christians enjoy the Sabbath rest in a superior measure every day as they live in Christ. However, the ultimate rest—being with God is yet in the future. “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

The first mention of “rest” in the Bible is when God “rested” on the 7th day of creation thus sanctifying it. That was the last day of creation, but it was the beginning of God’s dwelling in his earthly temple as it were. That beautiful “resting place” or tabernacle made unfit by sin’s presence. God evacuated his temple, but he promised to restore and return through his Son (Genesis 3:15). Entrance into this perfect rest is supplied by Jesus. “But God’s rest signifies the rest of those who rest in God, as the joy of a house means the joy of those in the house who rejoice, though not the house, but something else, causes the joy. How much more intelligible is such phraseology, then, if the house itself, by its own beauty, makes the inhabitants joyful![3]

 

THE NEW TESTAMENT PROMISE OF REST

Jesus is the one who “tabernacle among us” (John 1:14). He described his body as the temple rebuilt in three days after the crucifixion. The dwelling of God was among men! Christ has descended to earth, descended to the unseen realm; he has been raised, he has ascended to the Father’s right hand! Still, yet, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. The future Land of Rest is one which Joshua could not deliver. It is the Land which Moses could not even enter. This Land of Rest is the promised land of rest which only Jesus can provide (John 14:1-4). Christians experience a portion of this rest now. “There is, again, a rest of faith which a Christian enjoys; a sweet rest. Many of us have known it. We have known what it is, when the billows of trouble have run high, to hide ourselves in the breast of Christ, and feel secure.”[4] But we long to be at rest with God fully.  This promised land is where God is. It is his place of rest. This promised land is the ultimate goal of what Jesus supplies. This promised land of rest is where we will be fully and actively with God.

Hebrews 4 picks up the Rest motif to encourage the Christians to be faithful to the One who could provide the needed rest. The Holy Spirit said, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands,[5] let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” (Hebrews 4:1). The ancient peoples had not been able to enter their promised land on earth because “they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:2). That lack of faith is described as “disobedience” in verse 6. Joshua and Caleb, because of their faith, were welcomed home. The others died in the wilderness. God “swore in his wrath” that “they shall not enter my rest” (Psalm 95:1; Hebrews 4:3).

The place of rest is understood by Christians to ultimately refer to the eternal rest. The “Rest” (κατάπαυσιν) is the same Greek word used in the LXX translation of Isaiah 66:1. “Where is the house that you will build for me, and what is the place of my rest (κατάπαυσιν).” Where is the place of rest suitable for God? It is not a place made by mankind. It must be a place “made” by God—his own holy home. “Now, this rest, I believe, is partly enjoyed on earth. “We that have believed do enter into rest;” for we have ceased from our own works, as God did from his. But the full fruition and rich enjoyment of it remains in the future and eternal state of the beatified on the other side the stream of death.”[6]

 

THE CHRISTIAN AND REST

The ancients could not enter the rest because of a lack of faith obedience (4:2, 6). They had leaders which could not provide what Jesus has provided. Christian, we have the better Rest remaining. We have the best Leader. “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). Lenski noted how the passage “is full of threatening and thus serves as a warning; but in this very threat there lies the most blessed promise, which the writer uses with equal effect to make his readers firm and to stop their wavering. He thus uses both law and gospel in the true, evangelical way and becomes a model that we may well follow.”[7] Jonathan Edwards wrote:

the Apostle plainly understands something besides the rest which God had provided, or the rest that he had promised. He understands the rest that God himself enjoys. For God’s rest, spoken of in the preceding verse (with which these words are connected), was God’s rest in this sense….he exhorts Christians … to seek to be partakers of the rest that Christ enjoys, that he entered into when he had finished and ceased from his works, as God did from his.[8]

Let us worship our Savior as we live by faith in our journey home.

 

Hence I would take occasion to invite needy, thirsty souls to come to Jesus. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” You that have not yet come to Christ, are in a poor, necessitous condition; you are in a parched wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land. And if you are thoroughly awakened, you are sensible that you are in distress and ready to faint for want of something to satisfy your souls. Come to him who is “as rivers of water in a dry place.” There are plenty and fulness in him; he is like a river that is always flowing, you may live by it for ever and never be in want. Come to him who has such excellency as is sufficient to give full contentment to your soul, who is a person of transcendent glory, and ineffable beauty, where you may entertain the view of your soul for ever without weariness, and without being cloyed. Accept of the offered love of him who is the only begotten Son of God, and his elect, in whom his soul delighteth. Through Christ, come to God the Father, from whom you have departed by sin. He is the way, the truth, and the life; he is the door, by which if any man enters he shall be saved.—Jonathan Edwards[9]

 

We must praise the Father, because as Augustine wrote, “Thou, being the Good, needing no good, art ever at rest because Thou Thyself art Thy rest.[10]

 

 

[1] “Extracts from Two Sermons by Edwards,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 8: Jonathan Edwards & the Great Awakening (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1985).

[2] Augustine of Hippo, “The Confessions of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Pilkington, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 207.

[3] Augustine of Hippo, “The City of God,” in St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 209.

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, “Heavenly Rest,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 3 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1857), 213.

[5] “καταλειπομένη ἐπαγγελία a promise that is still open.” William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 521.

[6] C. H. Spurgeon, “Heavenly Rest,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 3 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1857), 209.

[7] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James (Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern, 1938), 125.

[8] Jonathan Edwards, The “Blank Bible”: Part 1 & Part 2, ed. Stephen J. Stein and Harry S. Stout, vol. 24, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2006), 1142.

[9] “Extracts from Two Sermons by Edwards,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 8: Jonathan Edwards & the Great Awakening (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1985).

[10] Augustine of Hippo, “The Confessions of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Pilkington, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 207.

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