The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1–3a, NKJV)
It was the Sabbath and Christ’s disciples couldn’t do anything except rest…and wait. You could say they were locked up in their homes. Sound familiar?
I think we Americans have trouble with resting. Is it possible that when we rest we feel guilty? But God places a high value on rest. After six hardworking days of creating, God rested on the seventh day and blessed it. It’s the only day out of seven that He “blessed”.
It wasn’t only Sabbath days that God was concerned about, He also set aside Sabbath years. Every seventh year Israel was commanded to give their land a rest and not cultivate it. Whatever came up on its own, that’s what they would eat. If they would do this, then God would give them a bumper crop in the previous year that would last them until the harvest of the eighth year. But guess what? They couldn’t leave it alone. In their greed, they continued to work the land in the seventh year. When the southern kingdom went into captivity because of their idolatry and disobedience, God kept them in Babylon for seventy years to give the land the rest they neglected to give it for 490 years. God cares about rest!
Right now businesses are shut down. Roughly ten percent of the people who were employed before the Coronavirus now don’t have a job to return to. And many more are on an indeterminate leave of absence. Suddenly we have time to rest! Some people don’t know how to handle it. They are spending more time with their spouse than ever before. This will either strengthen a strong marriage or reveal the faults in a weak marriage (or maybe a little of both in every marriage). The point is that we are having to spend time resting whether we like it or not. Businesses that have kept their employees going seven days a week are shut down completely. Is there a lesson here?
Hebrews 4 speaks of entering the rest we have in Christ. This is resting from our own works of righteousness in trying to be “good enough” or to measure up to other people’s expectations. We received the perfect righteousness of Jesus when we believed in Him. We receive this as a gift of God’s grace. We cannot improve upon this righteousness. We rest knowing that we are justified by faith. Blessed assurance! We all have room for improvement (and if you don’t think you do, then ask those closest to you). But our growth isn’t for the purpose of being “more acceptable” to God. [We are already accepted in the Beloved Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:6)]. Neither is it to please others or conform to their expectations. Our growth is to become more like Jesus because this is God’s will for us (Romans 8:29).
“Now wait a minute, Daryl,” you say, “I thought you were talking about resting. Now you’re talking about being more like Jesus.” That’s right. But how do we become more like Jesus? It isn’t by striving; it’s by resting. It’s by abiding in Christ as the branch abides in the vine. Then we will bear much good fruit (John 15:5).
Maybe God is giving us a much needed time of rest. Time to spend in His Word; time to spend with those we love; time to lie down in the proverbial green pastures and meditate. What’s really important in life?
So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. (Hebrews 4:9–11a, NLT)
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