The rest of God ~ the phrase rolls off my tongue and fills me with a refreshing hope. I am in a place of needing rest ~ like a large glass of water! Many believe, rightly so, that this rest is when we enter heaven; but the rest of God is for this life also.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 NASB
I love the New Living Translation:
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Jesus’ purpose for us is to have an abundant life; not just in heaven, but on earth now. How do we enter the rest of God? Life can be, and is, so hard and the trials we face can drain the ever-loving life out of us. Sometimes, bad things happen to us because we live in a fallen world, and other trials are allowed as a test:
Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. (Exodus 15:22-25 NASB, emphasis mine).
God healed the waters so they would learn to trust His provision and to know whatever trial they would face from that time forward, they could trust Him.
“God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the reliable ones… we might have produced down-right joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely so confident in Him, no matter what was ahead.” Oswald Chambers.1
God does not test us so that He can know our hearts; He knows what is in our hearts. He tests us so that we can see what is wrong in our hearts. When we trust God and His provision for us during the time of testing, and remain obedient to Him, we are able to enter into His rest. The writer of Hebrews reminds us:
Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know my ways’; as I swore in my wrath, ‘they shall not enter my rest.” Hebrews 3:8-11 NASB
We must stop and hear the voice of God to know what He is saying to us:
“When we pay attention in the silence, we open up space where we can meet with God. Unlike prayers where we do all the talking, Jones describes the listening posture of prayer as ‘a daily willingness to place ourselves on the threshold and wait there.’ Indeed, he goes on to suggest that cultivating quiet in our lives becomes the time when we move from the agitated periphery of our lives, identifying with our lives without qualification or added information to simply a silent interior space. ”2
And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters. (Exodus 15:26-27 NASB)
I love this last verse when God leads them to the twelve springs and seventy date palms; the imagery is amazing. Palm trees are a symbol of victory, and represent perseverance. The springs, or wells of water in the KJV, represent a place of refreshment. Twelve is the number of divine government, representing the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles. Seventy is the number prior to increase, though the place He brought them was refreshing, He had much more in store for them. If they remained obedient, and trusted in Him to take them there, a much grander rest awaited the Israelites.
God does not promise that we will never have another trial, quite the opposite; Jesus warned that believers will have many of them, but that He has overcome them for us (see John 16). When we learn to trust in Him, we will continue toward our land flowing with milk and honey, a greater rest than the palms and the springs. The place He brought them to is a place of refreshing and victory. They had just witnessed God defeat their enemies and brought them to rest. God will do the same for us. After the trial, He will lead us on to the place of rest and refreshing, and He will allow us to encamp there for a bit. He has a greater land waiting for us, a greater purpose if we continue to trust in Him; He promises.
(1) Oswald Chambers. My Utmost for His Highest (New York: Dodd Mead & Co., l935).
(2) Alan Jones, Soul Making (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1985), 62. Quoted by Margaret Manning, Silent Spaces, Slice of Infinity, Ravi Zacharias Ministries.