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THE QUALITY OF REST
While victory against deadly foes, spiritual, moral, personal, pseudo-ecclesiastical (like Judas, as to type - cf. II Peter 2), is a glorious feature of divine deliverance for those who know the Lord, there is another order of excellence in the divine spectrum of gifts and kindnesses to His people. Let us examine this for a moment.
The quest for rest is one of the most fundamental of human drives and desires. To rest in wealth, security, peace, probity, acceptance, the knowledge of your right place, right walk, is as the essence of living to many. Others seek rest in their psyches, not to be keyed up, run down, self-depreciatory or self-exultant, but just to be ...
Man is restless like many other objects, when not settled properly - like a rock, inclined and ready to fall when the ground trembles.
As with greed for food, there is a proper and proportionate place for this item, and an improper one - there is greed and good nourishment. One soils and spoils; the other enlivens.
The tranquillity plus activity,
the poise plus thrust,
the good grounding plus stability,
the sense of goodness plus go,
the resolution of troubles plus function that meets the criteria of being made, and of the Maker, for those who do not wobble at the outset:
these things are often desired and whether or not desired, are quite essential.
When Jesus Christ invited people, therefore, to come to Him and find rest for their souls, He was speaking to one of the main items on the agenda, whether realised or not, of human desire. Man can have currents and counter-currents, and can be confused; but for very many, there are fundamental questions, keys to essential knowledge sought in some underlying and perhaps periodic way, or pondered in some sudden zest or roving question.
The obvious need is met by reluctance; but the need grows as the world becomes almost like the solemn parody in a cartoon, of the spiritual debauchery and casual hatreds and wars, personal, professional and national, of man.
Indeed, Christ is called, in Haggai 2:7, "the desire of all nations."
This follow the Lord's determination to "shake all nations."
As in Psalm 2, there is an end to casuistry and confrontation alike, on the part of ever warring nations, peoples seeking to thwart the gracious and free provisions of pardon and peace, offered by God, but instead to grab - like Hitler, and gab like various international bodies. The end however comes (Matthew 24:14), in apex like a tornado, as in Micah 7, Psalm 2, Isaiah 24, 66, Zephaniah 3:8ff., Deuteronomy 32, Habakkuk 3:11-15. Then, with judgment comes peace for a sustained period before final judgment (as in Revelation 20).
What of the meantime ? of now ? Yes, there is a rest for the people of God, even now; and in Hebrews 4 you have that delightful invitation to labour to enter into your rest (Hebrews 4:11), to grasp the glory offered, to find the foundation given, to receive the pardon specified, and to embrace the redemption procured. That topic is for another day. Today it is the quality of the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:4-6), inheritance of Christians who find it as they walk with the Lord; and to this we now look.
Consider first that Psalm of many vicissitudes, 107, which tracks the onrush of various potential tragedies, and the Lord's grace in rescuing, on call, from His people. Its theme: " Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men." You, once converted to Him, cry to Him, and He answers: but now, GIVE THANKS and be aware of all for which you are giving thanks. Put your mind to it and your heart into it.
It is like a sudden boom in shares, that has come into the land. It is remarkable, on a grand scale, free. So is the grace of God who has sent His only begotten Son so that WHOEVER believes in Him, not making God a liar but himself or herself a freely acknowledged sinner, should have eternal life (I John 2:22, 5:11-12). It was, as it is, a gift; He was gored, but broke death and was glorified, and showed with pointed finger, the long settled domain of history to come, which now comes to the last little details as He said (Matthew 5:17-20).
Indeed, His word is a sure light in the darkness of drab time as the nations find out their own wickedness in their infamous events and remarkable rebuffs, often from each other (cf. II Peter 1:9, Matthew 24). As His time on earth, the first time, grows more distant, and people wonder why He waits so long (as in Revelation 6:9-11, some even in heaven), so as in a dark, because growingly wicked (cf. Matthew 24:8-12, II Thessalonians 2) world, the rapid-fire fulfilment of prophecy mounts like a machine gun on target, reassuring and enkindling interest and desire for the all-conquering God, who tries and gives, and tests and pardons, and at length judges one and all (Revelation 20).
In this blessed meantime, this time of challenge and for courage, for those who will obey Him and in their obedience find blessed access (cf. John 14:21-23, Acts 5:32), there is a great period for testimony in truth, and loving-kindness in action. And most of all, there is His own.
Then, as men come to Him, call upon Him, and find His answers to their woes, as in Psalm 107, let them GIVE THANKS. Why ? It is for His DISPOSITION to give, for the GRACE with which He did it (not overweening in arrogance, but in startling meekness of spirit), such as shown in Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21, on His predicted and then performed arrival in Jerusalem on an ass's colt. Further, it is because He bore the cost of free pardon, as in Psalm 22, fulfilled as in Matthew 27, and applied the redemption to many, as in the arousal to the Gospel and the miracles of Pentecost. That it was a birthday for the New Testament Church: for with one known language as base, the interpretation was multiplied so that every man could hear the Gospel preached in his own language (Acts 2:6-7). Here was an extension of clarity concerning the jewel of faith, the Gospel of glory, by the use of divine intelligence, wisdom and wit.
It was gibberish in reverse, a matter of increased intelligibility, to give instant grounding in the Gospel at that day of massed people from many parts. It was as if the UN translators were at work; but the God who made such powers for man, could readily use them Himself, without man, as there! Shall He who made the tongue not know how to speak! (cf. Psalm 94). For Him, polyglot actions are simplicity. Indeed, He MADE the tongues of man to divide into many, to both challenge and mar their absurd efforts to make a unifying idol (Genesis 11). As now, so then, they act with a strong and strident arrogance towards God, moving in their lairs of power and spiritual pollution, so that "nothing they propose to do, will be withheld from them," in their ant-like scurrying, intoxicated with themselves.
What God then varied, to inhibit total calamity, He now reversed for a short period, in order to extend the application of the Gospel on this marvellous occasion, when the New Testament Church was born, and many were gathered to learn of its Gospel.
These things are not suspension of 'nature' but surpassings, as is always possible to a creator of one thing, adding what was left behind, or held in store, for a particular purpose or occasion. When you KNOW God (cf. Jeremiah 9:23-24), you have to get used to Him, and you do, for far mightier than an earthly father to his child, is the Father in heaven to His redeemed creations in His own image! (cf. Ephesians 1:19). He knows them and they know Him, as in John 10:9, 27-28.
Take the particular case of Psalm 107:23-32. There are the ships, people moving to "do business in great waters. They see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep." Yes but when the storms come in excruciating immensity, their boat mounting to the heavens, going down to the depths, "their soul melts because of trouble, they reel to and fro," and they " cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses."
He calms the storm, brings them to their "desired haven." Indeed, "then are they glad because THEY ARE QUIET." Here is rest: wrestling and then rest, appeal and then action (cf. Isaiah 64:5). Here comes on scene, answer and then quietness, rest of spirit, comfort of heart.
There is a peace in the PROVISION of the Lord, the POWER of the Lord and in the PEACE which is to be found in Him, for whom nothing is too difficult. If, just as nothing is too hard for the Lord, then nothing is also too hard for the atheist, who refusing the power of God before creation, and so bypassing the only way for accounting for it rationally, has to turn to it for everything, and that, to get it all from nothing, is certainly too difficult, for nothing has no future, and once enshrined in what is not there, it cannot lift a finger, because it has none and in any case is not there to do it. The only rational option is to have what is adequate eternally, and so never try to invent something from nothing, in order to avoid God, a swimmingly superficial substitute for thought.
With the Lord who MADE all things, however, there is nothing which is beyond Him (Luke 1:37, cf. Psalm 115). Lies and fraud, arrogance and oppression, these He hates; and His Gospel is their overthrow, and through it in due course, their judgment; but what He pleases, this He does, and there is none to stop Him (Isaiah 14:37). In that, there is rest! The love of His people loves His reality, and in that reality there is rest. Grand designs may be sketched for a man of God to do; but there is rest in the certainty of committal as in the reality of commitment; and when God is for you, and you are for God, and His revelation and redemption are with you, then mountains move (cf. Mark 11:23, Matthew 21:20-22). Not only is a change of geology fascinating; it often constitutes spiritual deliverance. Do not then worry; God is able, and worry is static.
MATTHEW 11:25-30, LUKE 10:17-20
Again, this time on land, there was a tumultuous happening, 70 servants of the Lord sent out in specially light attire, without money, to preach and teach the things of the heavenly kingdom and the Messiah, heal the sick, and they returned with proven power over devils, to heal; and being anointed, they were delighted. Don't rejoice in the works, the Lord indicated, but rather in the fact that your names are written in heaven. Of course, as in John 6:70, there was one hypocrite; but that was the anomalous and this was not that occasion for its exposure, itself so long predicted (cf. Psalm 31, 69, 109). Earlier, Christ had sent out the 12.
They, drafted earlier without Him, were commissioned even as a group, to raise the dead (Matthew 10:8). In fact, Christ specialised in this, just before His death, a perfect demonstration lesson before He broke death without human intervention, and declared the result before the congregation of listening saints, showed His wounds, ate food and moved with supervening power according to the elevation of resurrection.
Here then was rest. Indeed, Christ went on, on the return of the 70, to thank His Father that such things were shown to those like babes, new bought and brought; for they were enlightened from the Father from within and not by this world's competitive, contrived and convoluted wisdom. God revealed reality to them (as He did to Elijah's servant when they were surrounded, before He acted, shown in II King 6:15-23).
Demonstrating His power to send with power, given to His disciples, as with understanding, though now He was lowly, garbed as a man, He noted ALL THINGS were delivered to Him by His Father (Matthew 11:27).
This is as in John 16:15, where we find that "all that the Father has, is mine."
Such is the infinite intimacy of the Trinity. Most blessed are we, because we have to suffer no deputy, vice-regal entourage or wavering diplomats: we deal direct with the Person who designed us (Colossians 1:15), with the God of salvation, redemption and judgment, of power and glory.
Thus just as there is only one way to be introduced to the Son, and that is by the Father, so there is only one way to the Father, that is by the Son who, as with Peter (Matthew 16), WILLS to make the relevant revelation to each of His children! (Greek, Matthew 11:27). God knows all and knows both who are His own (I Timothy 2:19), and who are hypocrites or wedded to irrationality and prize irredeemability above all. They go their own way. But God seeks all (John 3:16-17, Titus 2-3), and while they go on their way, NO ONE need lack rest because of any divine blockage, for it is only in the end, his or her own (John 3:19). Rest in that! If you want help, ask for it: God is already at work.
God, if you seek Him with all the heart, is your ally in that! Indeed, Christ then cried out to come to rest:
"Come to Me all you who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest."
Rest like good organs or a high bodily stature, is a gift. You receive it from the relevant source: Your Creator and (when this comes to pass), your Redeemer. You do not invent it by psychic manipulation, which can flex back; it is a gift of God to be received. You could say, No, I will not come, or this, I want to stand on the doorstep and have the best of both worlds. However, it is what you do that counts, for you either come to Him and find rest, or you do not. He went further.
"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."
It is precisely when you labour, when you churn or burn or turn like a turn-table, twisting your neck this way and that, or meeting hostile environment that seems built to overcome you, that the pointlessness of living this way occurs, that the call of Christ to gain rest by His gift, can come like light in the thick darkness of a sulphurous labyrinth of caves. Come and you make a discovery, for you will find rest. Come and you will find and experience this: His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
One reason for this is the power of the Holy Spirit who can stir and enable and engrace your actions to the point the seemingly ridiculously impossible comes into your reach; for you are helped within and the Lord acts outside you to achieve His purposes. Another reason is that when God is for you, what does it really matter how many words, or worlds for that matter, are against you! A third reason is this, that HE IS restful, not fretful, and peace comes in the very path of His ways. A fourth comes quickly, for when destiny is already decided, there is no cliff to cross. You simply work as a contented employee, for whom the boss is not only very wonderful but a friend. You may be tested, but why worry about that. God knows the answer, and as in the case of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, may precisely show the answer to you, if this is needed. It is very wonderful to serve Him. Amidst the greatest labours, there is rest for your soul.
But we could not leave out in this little travelogue,
Isaiah 63:13-14 with Proverbs 8:34-36
In considering the ways of rebellion and its needless cost, the Lord turns the mind of the prophet Isaiah to write of the Exodus and attendant events, and the days seeking for the promised land. He "led them by the right hand of Moses, with His glorious arm ..." and it was He who "led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they might not stumble." And what more ? This:
"As a beast goes down into the valley,
and the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest,
so You led Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name. "
Think of a beast, knowing little, moving in readiness, and readily led, finding the way clear; for there is the valley of custom, there the water of comfort, and there in the cooling sunshine is the valley that conveys to it. Then so moved, the beast rests, his whole being now content and looking forward to the rest of reliability and the pleasantness of satisfied needs, where the toil of the day passes as clouds in the sky, before it resumes its clear shining in the diurnal log-book.
Such is the NATURAL character of spiritual rest, its supportive comforts, its environmental joys, and THIS environment, so often simply forgotten by environmental writers, it is that of the care, provision and peace of God. In this, the SPIRITUAL environment always transcends any other, when it is with God indeed that man walks; as God transcends His creation. His word is both first and last, as He Himself is both Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1-2).
Without this, man is unfounded, though built, confounded though rich, inane though highly educated and has either a glib parody of truth for his wiles, or a loitering carelessness on confused ultimacies, that nothing supports.
On the contrary, as Proverbs 8:34-36 puts it, direct from Wisdom, that of God:
"Blessed in the man who listens to Me,
Watching daily at the posts of My doors,
For whoever finds Me finds life,
And obtains favour from the LORD;
But he who sins against Me wrongs his own soul;
All those who hate me love death."
The favour, the sense of the presence, the awareness of the good aid of the Lord, of His supervision and surveyal, availability and strong desires for goodness and great supply of mercy and truth (Micah 7:18-19), it is like a perpetual cloud covering from harsh sunshine, and like convenient rain to end a drought, and do justice to Spring! To be alive, then, it is good, and the trials are spurs to receipt of more mercy, more endurance and more company from the very pleasantness and power of God. Life abundant is His gift, for man is geared for it, while leers and sneers put the vehicle of life out of gear.
Then if you know the Lord (as seen from Psalm 37:3-8), " REST IN HIM, wait patiently for Him." indeed, " trust in the Lord and do good," (as befits this, and flows freely from Him), "dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."
There is a place for rest, for holiness, for grace, for vision, for the divine splendour in its uttermost reliability concerning His people, that is, His saints as those to whom Paul often speaks in writing to the Churches; and there is a space for the heart of man, where he may be encompassed by God in his ways, as is the earth by its atmosphere, without which it could not live.
There is a place for grace (Ephesians 1:6), and blessed are those who find it. It is more than an atmosphere, which though it is to pass, lasts long; and better, for it is an eternal actuality, starting in the nature of God, in His surpassing character, moving in the provisions and procedure in purity for His creation, covering the consequences of this marvel of a creation, man in His image, protective even when he fell, this kindness coming like ice in Summer's heat, in His Gospel.
For this, He actually came to do the work, as in the creation He likewise did all, and in these terms He comes again, the kindness of the One crucified for grace's need to freely pardon (Titus 2-3). There is even a mace for rule, when the Lord of all glory arrives and the earth is filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11).
There is a time to test, a time to govern, a time to indicate, a time to vindicate, a time for creation and a time for correction, a time to rise or fall, and a time for thrall, when the due results appear; there is a time for blessing, and for what inhibits grace and gives it no place; there is a time for cursing; there is a time to repent, which is all the time, and there is no time for fooling with faith (cf. Hebrews 6 and 10).
But there is no place for the old heavens or earth (Revelation 20:11), which in their day are to "flee away", just as Jesus Christ Himself made clear and declared (Matthew 24:35). It is the word of God which remains (I Peter 1:21-22), and most mercifully, His saving work (Isaiah 51:6), that eternal life gifted in grace to its place in the hearts of those who believe in that Saviour (John 5:24, I John 5:11-12), who alone is on offer to the inhabitants of this earth, while it tarries, before it is shaken (Hebrews 11:27) and lost. What is NOT lost is that to which man may come freely, under pressing and indeed passionate invitation from the Lord (Matthew 22:1-14), the rest, the redemption and the reliability of His faithfulness in His New Covenant, in His blood, whereby His life gives pardon, His word gives security (John 10:9,27-28) and His love gives its amazing grant.