Rest 101: Resting vs Wrestling

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Rest… what comes to your mind when you see this word?

A friend observed: “God has enforced REST upon many of us during the lockdown… Rest from pollution – noise, air. Rest from traffic….”

To these, may I add “rest from travelling, too much eating, too much shopping, too much partying?” In the midst of the pandemic, are you resting? too much of it? too little? Are you rested? Or are you wrestling?

The writer of Hebrews described two kinds of people in relation to rest.

Hebrews 4
3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

v.3a Those who enter that rest…
v.3b Those who shall never enter my rest…

Whose rest? God’s rest.. God rested from all his works (v.4). Does God need to rest? Why did He rest? God rested not because He was tired but because His work was completed. He was satisfied with His work because God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Gen. 1:31)

So who are those who enter that rest? Let us see first who shall never enter God’s rest.

6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Those who did not go in to God’s rest are those who harden their hearts (v.7) and disobey God (v.6). Who were these people? How did they harden their hearts? What did David say in Psalm 95?

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’

11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

The people, who hardened their hearts at Meribah and Massah that day in the wilderness, they shall never enter God’s rest.

What did they do at Meribah and Massah? (See Exodus 17:1-7) They complained to God that they had no water to drink. Meribah means quarrelling. Massah means testing. They quarrelled with Moses and tested God’s patience with their unbelief. They rebelled against God not believing that God would lead and provide for them till they enter the promised land. Alas, because of their disobedience, they shall never enter the promised land – the land flowing with milk and honey.

Now we who believe enter that rest… to believe is to simply rest in God’s sufficient grace. Abram believed God and it was credited to him righteousness (Gen. 15:6). What did Abram do? Nothing. He just believed what God said.. that he would bear a son and be a father of nations. Because of his faith, Abram was declared righteous in God’s eyes.

The reason I’m so tired is because I kept struggling. I was wrestling instead of resting. I worked with my own strength – to find water with my deficient self-sufficiency. I have no rest when I doubt God will provide the water.

To rest is to stay at the Lord’s feet like Mary. Read her story in Luke 10:38-42.

How often we think that life is about being busy… even for Christians, we think ‘serving’ the Lord is work.. about to-do list; about ‘doing’ the serving. Martha believed that loving Jesus is working at being a good host.

What was Mary doing? Seated on the floor, nothing? Nope! She’s doing something. She’s resting at Jesus’ feet listening.

Jesus rebuked Martha:
You are worried and bothered about so many things. Jesus knew her inner thoughts. Her anxiety and frustrations… and they were many. Martha wrestled.. no rest for her.

Jesus affirmed Mary:
BUT only One thing is Necessary. Mary chose that One thing and it’s the GOOD part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Living the life pleasing to God is about ONE necessary thing… it is sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his words. It is GOOD… to worship the Lord, to be in His presence – to put him as most important than all the doing and working. It is about being: being with Jesus, His audience, follower and worshipper.

It is permanent. Nothing and nobody can take away the time I spent with my Lord: the memories of experiencing His love, joy, peace, comfort and awe of being at His feet and listening to His Word. True rest lasts. True rest finds satisfaction in God alone.

The world calls us to be busy – so many distractions on social media, news real or fake, ads urging us to earn more, spend more, strive for more power, more money, more fame, more success.. no time for rest… no time for quiet time in the presence of God: reading His Word, communing in the Spirit in prayer, all these are becoming less and less a priority.

It is worthwhile to note that the first half of Psalm 95 is a call to praise and thanksgiving to the God who created the heavens and the earth, and the God who rested and calls us to rest.

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

To rest is to believe that God will lead me into the Promised land – that is His rest; ultimate shalom: rest in His presence and His providence.

Dear God, Creator of all that exist, just as you rested from all your good works, let me remember today and always to enter Your Presence and rest. Amen.

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