The rest of God. These words roll off my tongue and fills me with a refreshing hope. Many believe that we will rest when we enter heaven. However, the rest of God is for this life, and not only the one to come. (Mark 10:30)
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. Life can be hard, and the trials we face drain the ever-loving life out of us. Sometimes, bad things happen 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 in His provision, and to know whatever trial they faced from that time forward, they could trust Him. He is so faithful. Job suffered terribly at the hand of the Accuser… but through it he came to know the God that knit him together:
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. (Job 19:25 NASB)
“God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are 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 knows our hearts; for every heart lays open before Him. He tests us so that we see and know what is in our hearts. When we trust God and His provision for us during the times of testing, and remain obedient to Him, we then 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 listen to the voice of God to hear 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. 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 (KJV), represent a place of refreshing. The language of twelve and seventy is purposefully written by the Holy Spirit in all His wisdom. Twelve Palms ~ one for each tribe. Twelve speaks to the twelve tribes and twelve apostles ~ God’s perfect number for government. Seventy is the number prior to increase, and it also represents the number of nations on the earth after the flood (Genesis 10), and of the seventy elders of Israel. Jesus later sent out the seventy as His harbingers. (Luke 10:1) Though the place He brings them is refreshing, He has much more in store for them. If they remain obedient, and trust Him to guide them to the promise land, a much grander rest awaits them.
God does not promise a trial free existence ~ quite the opposite. Jesus warned that believers will have trials in this world, but He has overcome them. (John 16) When we learn to trust in Him, He will lead us to 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 witnessed God defeat their enemies and bring them beside still waters to rest. God will perform on our behalf as well. 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 moment ~ but He has a greater land waiting for us, a greater purpose, if we continue to trust in Him and His 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.