GOD’S OFFER OF REST
‘REST’ is a significant theological word in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, there is an emphasis on rest, the loss of rest, and rest given again by God. Rest is from God. Rest is tied to the Promised Land. Rest can also mean Heaven. The lack of rest is equated with the lack of God’s presence. Rest is a complicated word that has variations of meaning depending on the context. When we understand the theological roots of rest, we understand more about human life and the rest to which God calls all human beings.
Rest is a significant thought in Hebrews 3:7-4:13. This thick theological passage begs the believer in Jesus Christ to look back into the Old Testament through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to see the emphasis God the Father makes on ‘rest’ and how it relates to the People of God. The author of Hebrews says it related to the believers he was writing to and to the people who received the Old Testament. It applies to us now.
ISAIAH: THE PROPHETIC PROMISE
In many passages in the Book of Isaiah, he describes God’s oracles to him that have a future flavor to them. The people will be or are suffering, and Isaiah directs their view to the coming King Who will provide peace and rest for them from all that afflicts them. For example, Isaiah 14:3-4 (ESV) says: “When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: “How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased!”
In Isaiah, the prophetic (future-flavored) side of rest comes into view. It is rest now. It is a rest in the future. Isaiah is speaking to people who will be or are suffering. The prophet describes a God Who will see it all through to peace and is a prophetic word (eventually fulfilled in Jesus). The ‘now’ is not there because it was not yet finished. Rest is a promise as in Isaiah 32:18 (ESV): “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”
This is difficult for us because from Abraham to Jesus this was all promised. We stand on the other side of reality where the promises are all ‘yes’ in Christ and are fulfilled in many ways. This is why in the Book of Hebrews the author can state that the rest is upon them whereas for their forefathers it was only a promise.
Isaiah speaks to those that will have rest and peace to come (Isaiah 62:6-8). The emphasis on rest for the righteous is a greatly emphasized promise in Isaiah. Israel was suffering and challenged and the righteous in the land, like Isaiah, were aware of the consequence of Israel’s immoral behavior as a nation. So, with that would come the promise of God twofold: #1 discipline for misbehavior and #2 fulfillment of His promise that Israel under her Messiah would inherit the nations.
This emphasis is clear in passages like Isaiah 25:6-8, ESV): “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” There is rest in understanding God ultimately will keep His people safe from death. See also Isaiah 26-27 for this thought as well.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ON
What is the ‘now and not yet’ quality about ‘rest?’
How are the promises of God met in Christ?
Is it frustrating that some promises of God are realized now and some later?