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.
GOSPEL OF MATTHEW: REST FOR THE SOUL
Jesus Christ notably talks about ‘rest’ in Matthew 11:25-30. He frames rest in terms of those who know His Heavenly Father and those that follow after Him. The source of the rest, as in the other passages of the Bible since the book of Genesis, is God the Father. He offers this rest. It is only in a relationship with Him that rest comes to those He has created. Rest is hidden from those who do not know God. This is consistent with the theology of rest that we have discussed from Exodus, Psalms, and Isaiah.
Matthew 11:28 (ESV) says clearly: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the first time (of 12) that the Greek word behind ‘rest’ is used in the New Testament. Jesus reveals Himself by will of the Father and those who know Jesus come to Him and lay down the heaviness of life. The hard work of living is made light and restful inside a relationship with Jesus. Jesus states that in Him ‘easy rest’ is found. This ‘easy rest’ is in contrast to the heaviness of life outside of the will of God the Father. This is not something that is natural… it must be learned from Him. This rest reflects the nature of Jesus which is humble and lowly. It is a rest for the soul.
The contrast of rest with the world or living outside of God’s presence is definitely present in the New Testament and especially in the Gospels. Many times (7x) the phrase ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ is used to describe the chaos and emptiness and pain of those who are apart from God’s rest. God is rest. Christ is rest. Outside of a relationship with Jesus is seen as empty, painful, and angry.
Jesus specifically points out in Matthew 11:29 (ESV) that “rest for your souls” is in view. It is important to note that the rest that Jesus teaches (and offers) in Matthew 11 is a direct fulfillment of everything promised in the Old Testament. In Christ, is fullness and peace and safety for souls and truly being set apart for God. In Christ and only in Christ!
QUESTIONS TO THINK ON
Keeping the other blogs in mind, how is the idea of ‘rest’ consistent in Scripture?
How does Jesus tie ‘rest’ to Himself and to God?
Can a person have ‘rest’ apart from Jesus Christ?