Have you entered your Sabbath rest?
There is a rest that goes much deeper than just physical rest. It’s God’s gift of rest for our souls. When Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden, they knew God face-to-face. They did not lack anything. Their souls rested in their trust in their supreme Creator who knew all their needs and who always provided generously. The Lord is the Source of perfect peace and perfect rest.
Psalm 62:5-8 ESV Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
This rest was broken once Adam and Eve sinned against God. As a result of betraying God and allowing Satan to corrupt their hearts, man and woman reaped painful curses of labour, strife, and anxiety instead. They had chosen to follow the wrong master, that is the devil who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
What is the Sabbath rest
There is a “Sabbath rest” that God’s people have the privilege of enjoying, which Hebrews chapter 4 covers rather extensively that refers back to the days of Creation.
Hebrews 4:9-10 ESV So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
God spoke all the plans for creation into existence within six days, after which He rested. God knew that once He had released His Word, then all of creation would follow suit and gradually come into formation according to His plans. Sabbath was the day He rested from His creation work.
Genesis 2:2-3 ESV And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Sabbath rest for God’s people, however, does not refer to a day. Rather, it is a state that we enter into. It is where we rest from all our own efforts and plans, and rest in God’s perfect efforts and plans.
Our souls find this rest when we lay all our heavy burdens down before Jesus, and take His yoke upon us — meaning that we stick so closely to Him that we go everywhere He goes. We no longer enforce our own will and quietly follow His.
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God promises to be gentle with us. He will do all the heavy lifting. All we need to do is to humble ourselves and obey Him as His Spirit leads us.
Isaiah 30:15,21 ESV For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” … And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
To some people, the idea of being yoked to Jesus may feel like a form of slavery or a tragic loss of freedom, yet this is furthest from the truth. Jesus is humble, gentle, compassionate, and forever faithful. At the same time, He has the highest authority in all creation. It is, in fact, where we will find the greatest liberty for our souls!
Matthew 28:18 ESV And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
We will find that we will:
1. Cease from ruminating and planning
God makes perfectly orchestrated and perfectly timed plans. He sees all possibilities across inter-dimensional time and space, and chooses the best outcome for everyone.
Psalm 18:30 ESV This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
2. Cease from trying to prove ourselves
The Lord will show us what is good in His eyes. We don’t have to strive to please human beings or prove ourselves anymore, because the only One we seek to please is God Himself. We will even cease from trying to please ourselves because we recognise our own hearts are deceitful. Jesus will show us how to please His Father and do His will.
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
John 4:34 ESV Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
3. Cease from striving
God will help us prosper and succeed when we seek to fulfil His will with all our hearts. We will witness doors open for us without us having to push. We simply need to ask the Father to help us. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
4. Cease from fear and anxiety
We no longer have to worry about making the right choices in life, when God makes every decision for us. His choices are perfect — not just for now, but also for eternity. The Lord will even give us the words to say when we feel stumped in conversations!
Luke 12:12 ESV for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
5. Cease from accusations and taking offence
When we follow Jesus so closely, those who unfairly and maliciously accuse us will actually make the grave mistake of accusing Christ. We find that we no longer take offence so easily when it is no longer personal. Whoever attacks us, attacks Christ. Whoever neglects us, neglects Christ. We find we will have more compassion for our enemies and attackers because they do not know what they are doing and the punishment they storing up for themselves.
Acts 9:1-5 ESV But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Matthew 25:44-46 ESV Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
6. Cease from shame and sorrow
Our identity and lives are gradually transformed by Jesus’ constant influence and guidance in our lives. The things that used to bring us shame will be turned into testimonies of God’s grace and power to transform and redeem us for His glory. God exchanges the shame of our past for a double portion of joy and blessings.
Isaiah 61:7 ESV Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.
God’s Sabbath rest is like no other.
Here is an illustration of how it can feel like.
In every violent cyclone or hurricane, there is a column of relatively still air in the centre, called the eye wall, where the weather is calm. It is the safest place to be in during a violent storm like a hurricane, even though it feels counter-intuitive to seek to even be inside a hurricane. Everything we see around us is in danger of being destroyed. Yet inside the hurricane is where we will be suspended, set apart from the world, encased in calm safety.
The eye wall is where we experience God’s awesome power, as well as His perfect peace, even through we cannot see too far ahead of us because of the strong whirlwinds around us.
This is an illustration of what it feels like to trust God to keep us safe in the midst of great danger from all sides.
1 Kings 5:4 ESV But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune.
Perpetuating the curse of restlessness
Throughout history, God has invited people into His rest but yet we have kept resisting Him. Why?
Hebrews 4:6 ESV Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,
God’s Word shows that we deny ourselves of God’s rest when we
- Harden our hearts and resist the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 3:7-8) — Our hearts go astray to follow the ways of this world instead
- Disobey God because of our unbelief in His perfect character and purpose (Hebrews 3:12) — We do not trust in His way of doing things
- Are deceived by our own sinful hearts (Hebrews 3:13) — We think our ways are more reasonable, more logical, more immediate, more comfortable, more secure, and therefore, superior
- Lack mutual exhortation (Hebrews 3:13) — We don’t receive regular encouragement and correction from a community of believers to stay faithful to God’s commandments
- Fall away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) — We backslide without even knowing
The Israelites’ downfall in the wilderness came about because they did not fully trust God or know His heart for them. It was the same mistake that Adam and Eve made.
We are not much different today. We can place more faith in man-made GPS systems than we do in trusting God’s directions and commandments. Yet man-made systems have no ability to ascertain the future dangers, imminent road blocks, or scammers ahead of us.
Hebrews 3:7-9,12-19 ESV Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.… Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
Like the foolish Israelites who hardened their hearts against God, and resisted His counsel and direction, we can end up wandering through life never feeling settled, because we have failed to trust and obey God completely. We don’t enter His promised land of milk and honey.
Psalm 95:10-11 ESV … “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”
Beware the demonic narratives that keep us from entering our Sabbath rest
All our lives, we have been fed a narrative that says we need to keep advancing. Our world seems to be run on statistics that aim for greater and higher. Such striving is actually a veiled disguise for greed and selfish ambition.
James 3:14-16 ESV But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
It is driven by the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life. God’s Word warns us that this type of wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” It is not difficult to see how our constant comparing, chasing, and striving leads to restlessness. We may not call such worldly striving evil, but God does.
1 John 2:16 ESV For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
As believers, we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God and not to be conformed to such patterns of the world. Conformity is another way of being yoked. We are to be conformed to Christ, not to the world.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
It is only when we stay yoked to Jesus that we can experience His Sabbath Rest, which He reserves for those who trust and obey Him.
When we reach heaven, we want to be able to say to Jesus, “Thank you for leading me through many storms on earth and keeping me safe in the centre of Your Sabbath Rest. You kept me from being destroyed by various dangers and enemies, I never needed to fear. You provided all I needed, I never needed to be anxious. You guided me on how to live righteously, I never needed to prove myself to anyone. You have kept my feet from stumbling because I trusted in You. You have truly been the good Shepherd and Overseer of my soul!”
Psalm 116:5-9 ESV Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
1 Peter 2:25 ESV For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
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