The Promise of Rest

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it (Hebrews 4:1).

Travel is wearying.  My husband and I do a lot of it.  In fact, he tells people that we live in the airport! I love our ministry but sometimes I just want to “be there,” and not go through the hassle of airline travel. I am sure many of you reading this can identify.

Finding the ticket or tickets for our trip takes a great deal of research. After paying for those expensive tickets, we must then decide what to pack.  Sometimes that is tricky since weather is unpredictable. Even in the summer, I pack a jacket when traveling to Europe.  Since we are often gone several weeks at a time, many times I pack for more than one season.  It is often necessary to pack equipment such as laptops, projectors, cameras, etc. The weight limitations now make that extremely difficult.  After much thought and careful weighing (even then we may leave something important behind), we are ready to start out on the trip.

The next phase, of course, is the trip to the airport.  Starting from our office in Texas, that portion of the trip takes an hour or more depending upon traffic.  There is always the decision of whether we impose upon someone to take us or drive ourselves and pay the hefty parking fee at the airport.

If you are a frequent flyer, you know what happens at the airport:

  • locating the correct check in line (even though we try to arrive at the right spot, sometimes we are at the wrong terminal and need to walk a long distance to get to our check in line)
  • long lines at check in for depositing the checked bags
  • more long lines through security and careful scrutiny of carry-on items
  • waiting at the terminal for departure (hoping the airplane will not be delayed)
  • the flight itself (usually 10 hours or more for us and maybe a change or two in between)
  • security and passport check at the destination
  • waiting to claim checked bags
  • waiting to go through customs declaration line
  • looking for the person who is meeting us at the airport, renting a car, boarding a train or taking a taxi to our destination
  • trip to the hotel
  • unpacking the bags
  • finding a local store (if possible) to buy things we have forgotten or snacks to eat in the room
  • repeating above in a few days for another destination

Just listing the process involved in 21st century travel makes me tired.  Neither my husband nor I can sleep on an airplane. By the time we reach our hotel room or other place of accommodation, we are exhausted. All we want to do is rest.

Perhaps that is the reason I have been so intrigued with God’s promise of rest.  The references He makes concerning rest give me hope for the future and affects how I feel about the present. Since I can rest in the Lord (Psalm 37:7), I can cope with the challenges of life.

There are several Hebrew and Greek words translated “rest” in the Old and the New Testament.  Some of them are nouns such as in Jeremiah 6:16, Thus says the Lord, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls”.  Others are verbs such as Proverbs 19:23, The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied, he will not be visited by harm (ESV).  The NKJV translates whoever has it rests satisfied as he who has it will abide in satisfaction. Christ told His followers to abide in Him (John 15 and 1 John).  We will never rest satisfied until we abide in Him.

The promise of rest is so encouraging. Rather than inactivity, it is a picture of safety and completed work, refreshment, recuperation.  In the process of creating the heavens and the earth, on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made (Genesis 2:2-3).

If rest was defined as total inactivity, there would be the temptation to think that it is dull or boring. I do not think this is what is being communicated in scripture. Jesus healed on the Sabbath and was criticized for it, but He reminded the critics that even on the Sabbath, they led their animals to food and water (Luke 13:10-17). There will be productivity in heaven, but no weariness involved in the work.

David knew the meaning of this word. Although rest itself is not used in his best known Psalm, he paints a visual picture of resting in the safety and security of the Good Shepherd. 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; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:1-4).

Jesus also painted a word picture of this concept in Matthew 28:28-30.  A yoke is placed on the shoulders of two oxen so that they share the burden of carrying the load.  Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”                                                                                                                               Sharing your yoke (work) with Jesus does not remove the burden. It makes it easy to bear resulting in rest for your souls.

Spiritual rest is a goal for the Christian and a privilege denied the unbeliever. (Hebrews 3:7-4:11 and Revelation 14:9-13). Certainly, a Christian wants to be productive.  The fruitfulness of a believer is determined by his obedience to Christ’s call upon his life. The result of this obedience is the promise of rest. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:11).Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:12-13).

When I finish an assignment, the completion of the task is very gratifying. I may take a rest before starting a new one. I can think more clearly after a rest.  As long as I am here on earth, there is work for me to do and there will be the need for refreshment and restoration. Fortunately, He who began His work in me is the One who will complete it (Philippians 1:6). In the life to come, there is the promise of rest from the labors of this life.

Just as I look forward to returning home at the end of a trip, there is a much greater anticipation for the “rest” of eternity, always and forever in His presence, without worry or care.

© Stephanie B. Blake

September 2009

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Download The Promise of Rest 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: