Is there anyone alive today who is not looking for a place of rest, peace, tranquility, freedom from undo anxiety and stress. I think it is safe to say that we long for such a place. In the Old Testament this idea was represented as the Promised land for the chosen people. But what about today, is there a promised land for the church of Jesus Christ – his body?
As Christians, we tend to think, “I’ve received Christ as my savior so I’m all set”. The problem with this thinking should be obvious. While it is true that we have been delivered from Egypt (world system) we often fail to enter that place of rest. We are content wandering through life in the wilderness and end up dying out there having never entered “our Canaan”.
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
I think we have a misunderstanding of biblical rest. I am not referring to rest as a break from work, a vacation in the mountains, nor is it getting out of debt, a better job or a night to binge on Netflix. What I am thinking of is a deep contentment of the soul, an inner peace, tranquility, a confidence that is steadfast regardless of the swirling chaos and confusion the world offers. But you ask, is that even possible in the 21st century and if so, how do I get there?
Yes, I believe it is, but it takes work to get there. One might ask, Work? I thought the New Testament was all about grace through faith – everything was already done at the cross? And while that is true regarding our salvation, can we genuinely confess that we are living in the promised rest which is available? For these two subjects, salvation and rest are certainly related, but they are not the same!
Hebrews three and four as well as the opening chapters of Joshua point us to the availability God’s rest. The two models presented in Hebrews are the creation story and Joshua leading the Jews to possess the territory given to Abraham. The creation story was six days of God’s creative handiwork followed by a sabbath. The model pictured by Joshua was to drive out the Canaanites and subsequently possess the land; inheriting a homeland which they neither built nor planted.
So, if we think about this, the creation story shows us that God created and then he rested. Similarly, Joshua’s charge (beginning with Jericho) was to lead the Jews to take possession of the land and then enjoy rest. In both instances we discover that rest is what occurs at the completion of a task. It assumes the task has been completed (creation/conquering the land). That is what God had in mind for the ancient Hebrews and it remains available for us as well, but there were some obstacles which prevented its fulfillment.
Please read Hebrews chapters three and four
as well as the opening chapters of Joshua
if you’ve not done so recently.
A Life of Wandering
I think we can agree that the people were rebellious, hard-hearted, disobedient as well as grumbling complainers even though God demonstrated his miraculous power and glory for forty years. Why could the people not enter the Lord’s provision? We might respond it was their lack of faith, rebellion, disobedience…yes those are all true, but I think it goes a bit deeper. Where do faith, rebellion and hardness of heart come from?
Do they not originate within our souls? The voice of the Lord is heard in our spirit, but the soul of man is not automatically sanctified and made holy when we are “delivered from Egypt”. In other words, the path to spiritual maturity is cooperation and partnership with the Spirit of God. Our spirits are indeed born again when we are saved, but the sanctifying work of the soul should be our lifelong pursuit as we look to the ministry of our high priest.
Why does Hebrews recite the story of Joshua for us? Is it not because we are just like them; stubborn, rebellious, and disobedient?
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience.
We now come to that famously misunderstood verse which provides the glue connecting Joshua as our example to Jesus as our high priest.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
The sword with which we fight is not intended to capture cities or to destroy people groups. Rather it is to be turned inward on my own soul to cut, divide, and separate. The word of God as a sword is an offensive weapon, but the target of that weapon is not those around me or people who grate on my nerves. The one needing to be driven out of the land is my own nature, my “old man”, my habitual patterns of behavior. Is that not what needs to die, for only then can I experience the rest which he has promised. The word of God, if I allow, will expose my motives, my hidden agendas, and the dark places in my soul.
The final verse of Hebrews 4 sums up our exposed condition beautifully. It is a blessed place to find ourselves emotionally naked and exposed by the word of God because this is where our high priest can do his best and lasting work, because he is our Joshua, our commander of the armies of heaven.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testing’s we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being my high priest, for understanding all the broken pieces of my life and graciously leading me on toward inner harmony and spiritual maturity. Please meet with me as you met with Joshua before that great battle Joshua 5:14. Lead me on and give me the courage and strength to follow you into that place of obedience and rest.