Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first thirteen verses of the fourth chapter. With the verses contained in today’s passage we find the author of this epistle transitioning from the context and language in the third chapter to that which is found in the fourth chapter. What is actually quite interesting when reading the fourth chapter is that it essentially builds upon that which is found in the previous chapter, and yet it presents us with a completely different subject matter at hand. It’s actually quite remarkable and astounding that the fourth chapter begins and opens up with powerful call that is not found in previous chapter. If you read the opening verse of this chapter you will find the author issuing a powerful call and a powerful warning to those who are reading these words. When you read the first verse of this chapter you find the author calling their audience to a place of fear. While it is interesting enough the author would call the audience into a place of fear, it is even more compelling when you consider that this author directly links and connects this concept of fear with the promise of rest that was made available unto the saints and believers. The author’s intention was to call and instruct these readers to fear, lest given that there is a promise for rest, they should not enter in to that rest. In all reality, the first twelve verses of the fourth chapter of this epistle deal exclusively and specifically with the reality and concept of rest. What’s more, is that the author not only connects fear with entering into rest, but the author also connects fear with the preaching of the word of God. Even more than this—the author presents us with the reality of the word of God either being mixed with belief, or being mixed with unbelief. If you truly take a look at this passage of scripture you will find the author inviting the saints of God—not only inviting them to embrace the reality that there is a promise of rest, but also inviting them to enter into that rest.
THE INVITATION TO REST! THF INVITATION OF REST! THE INVITATION FOR REST! I find the words which the author of this epistle wrote within this passage of scripture to be absolutely incredible, and a significant challenge for us as the saints of God. The words which the author presents unto the readers in this passage of scripture should be taken and interpreted as a powerful invitation to not only experience, but also to enter into a rest that had been prepared for and promised by the living God. What is so absolutely incredible is that from the beginning of creation this concept of rest has been in existence. What’s more, is that I am convinced that prior to the creation of the heaven and the earth the reality and Von dot of rest was not even one that was manifested or even exercised. We know that after the six days of creation the Lord rested from all His works, as well as from all His labor of creation. After the six days of creation were completed the Lord rested from all His works—and not only rested from all His works and labors, but also hallowed the seventh day. It’s actually quite interesting that the very first week in recorded history concluded with an entire day of rest—a complete and total rest from all the works and labors which were committed and performed within the previous six days. We dare not miss or lose sight of the significance of this reality, for rest is always and has always been the idea of God. If we are truly honest with ourselves we will have to admit that we’re it not for rest being the desire and intention of God, we might not even have any desire to engage ourselves in the practice of it. THE PRACTICE OF REST! I have to admit that I absolutely love the idea that the Lord rested from all His works on the seventh day, and then made the seventh day holy and sacred. I absolutely love that from the beginning of time the Lord was putting into place a practice of setting apart one day during the week to rest from all one’s works and labors.
When I consider the reality and concept of rest I cannot help but be absolutely and incredibly gripped and captivated by the reality and concept that rest takes place on multiple levels and in multiple different fronts. As we enter into the realm of considering the concept of rest it is important that we recognize that rest doesn’t simply touch one single day during the week known as the Sabbath day. When the Bible speaks of rest, it touches so much more than just one single day during the week when we rest from all our labors. If you read and study the scriptures you will find that rest also touches the realm of years, for through Moses the Lord instructed and commanded that during every seventh year the children of Israel should rest from all their labors and all their fouls and all their works. In other words, that which originally touched only the realm of days now transitioned to speak of and include years. The children of Israel were to labor, and toil, and grind, and work for six full years, but when the seventh year would come, they were to rest from all their labors. What’s more, is that it would be during this seventh year the children of Israel were to allow the land to remain fallow. It would be during that seventh year when the children of Israel were to live in a place of provision by and from the Lord their God. It’s absolutely important that we recognize and understand that when we speak of rest, we are speaking of more than just a physical rest of the body, but also a physical rest of the mind, a rest of the heart, a rest of the spirit within us. There is not a doubt in my mind that this seventh year of rest was about more than just a physical rest, but was about a spiritual, an emotional, and a mental test. I do not believe for one moment that this seventh year was simply a call to bring the children of Israel into a physical place of rest—and that for an entire year—but also a rest that was internal. Oh, it would be very easy to get caught up and consumed with the idea that the rest which is available to us is merely a physical rest, and yet we completely and totally miss and lose sight of the reality that rest touches so much more than the physical, natural and temporal realm.
As is sit here this morning and consider this concept of rest, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord Himself spoke concerning rest. If you journey to the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that Jesus issued a powerful invitation to rest that is unmatched and unparalleled throughout and within all scripture. What’s more, is that I am also reminded of the words which David the psalmist wrote in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms. What’s more, is that I am reminded of the account of Jesus in the midst of the storm as He slept in the midst of the raging storm which the disciples felt threatened their very lives and existence. When we speak of this reality and concept of rest we must understand the various realms upon which it touches and moves within. While I will not delve into the aforementioned references, they warrant strong consideration in this subject matter. Consider first the words which our Lord spoke which are recorded for us in the eleventh chapter of the gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the twenty-eighth verse of the chapter we find the following words: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). In the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms we find some of the most well-known and beloved words contained within all of Scripture. The words which are found in this particular chapter within the book of Psalms are more often than not used at funerals, and generally in cases when ministers, or leaders within the church, or even well-intentioned friends seek to provide a source of encouragement within the life of an individual. More often than not these words are used at funerals and are spoken unto the living, yet I am utterly and completely convinced that these words should not and must not be limited simply to funerals when the life of an individual comes to an end. Consider if you will the words which are found and recorded in this particular chapter of the Psalms beginning with the first verse: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:1-6). The final reference which was just mentioned was the account of the disciples in the midst of the storm with Jesus in the boat with them, and yet Jesus was found sound asleep within the boat. Consider if you will the account of this storm as it is presented unto us by the apostle Matthew:
“And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” (Matthew 8:23-27).
While I will not get into each of these passages which have just been mentioned, I feel it necessary to touch on that which is found in Jesus’ words in the eleventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel. The more I read, and the more I consider the words which Jesus spoke unto those who were present on this particular day, the more I am immediately gripped by the reality that true and lasting rest first and foremost requires a coming to and a coming unto Jesus. It’s important that when we read the words spoken by Jesus in this passage of Scripture that we notice it begins with an invitation to “come,” thus signifying and suggesting that rest is something we must move ourselves toward. True and lasting rest within our lives can and will only be experienced when we come unto Jesus, and this must be a conscious and deliberate move on our parts. We must purpose within our hearts and our minds that we are going to make our way unto Jesus in the midst of all our labour. What’s more, is that within this invitation we almost get the sense that we are to come to Jesus in spite of, and perhaps even in the midst of our labour, our toil, and our work. Within this passage of Scripture Jesus spoke of those who labour and are heavy laden, and immediately prior to that He invites those who are as such within their lives to come unto Him. One thing we must recognize and understand is that this coming unto Jesus might very well require us taking a step back, and even a step away from our labour in order that we might truly enter into His presence. Can I be honest and declare that sometimes labour, toil, struggle, and work can prevent us from entering into and being in the presence of Jesus? Would it shock you to hear that it is possible that we can labour, and toil, and work, and hustle, and grind, and yet all of that keeps us from the presence of Jesus. Perhaps the single greatest example of this is found in the account of Mary and Martha when Jesus entered into their house as He was traveling into Jerusalem. If you transition to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the beloved physician Luke, you will find the account of Jesus passing through and entering the village of Bethany, and entering into the home of Mary and Martha. Consider if you will the account as it is told by the beloved physician Luke beginning with the thirty-eighth verse:
“Now it came to pass, as they weren’t, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cambered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will notice that all of Martha’s labour, and all her toil, and all her work not only kept her cambered about with much serving, as well as caused her to be troubled within her heart, her mind and her soul, but it also kept her out of the presence of Jesus. When you read the words which are found and recorded in this particular passage of Scripture you will find that instead of being cambered about with much serving, and with much labour, and with much toil, Mary chose instead to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear and listen to Him speak. While that which. Martha was doing wasn’t necessarily wrong—for she was in fact serving the Lord Jesus Christ—it wasn’t the most necessary or needful thing. In fact, Jesus neither commended nor applauded Martha for her much serving and service, but rather spoke unto her concerning her being cumbered about with much serving. With that being said, I am convinced that within this passage of Scripture we find Martha being so caught up and consumed with serving the Lord Jesus, that she completely neglected and ignored that which mattered most—namely, sitting at the feet of Jesus and simply communing with and having fellowship with Him. Can I be honest with you who are reading these words and declare that there are countless men and women among us within the house of the Lord who are cumbered about with much serving—perhaps even much serving before and serving unto the Lord Himself—and yet in the midst of their serving they are both careful and troubled. What’s more, is that while they might be serving—perhaps even serving the Lord—they are anxious within their hearts, and their minds are neither stable, nor secure within themselves. As if this weren’t enough, this position and place also causes them look upon others and what they are doing—perhaps even what they aren’t doing. Furthermore, I would dare say that there are men and women who are so caught up and consumed with serving—and even serving the Lord—that they have completely neglected and ignored that which is necessary before the Lord. Oh, there are a number of men and women within the house of the Lord who continually serve the Lord, and yet they are completely and totally removed from sitting at the feet of Jesus. SERVING INSTEAD OF SITTING! If there is one thing we must take from this particular passage of Scripture, it’s that it is possible that we can be so caught up and consumed with serving—and even serving Jesus—that we completely neglect and ignore the simple reality of sitting at the feet of Jesus and communing and having fellowship with Him.
The words which Jesus spoke in the eleventh chapter of the gospel according to Matthew begin with an invitation to come, and I am utterly and completely convinced that this invitation to come requires a deliberate break from all our labour, all our toil, all our struggles, and all our work. In fact, I would dare say that until and unless we are willing and able to come unto Jesus, and thus leave our labour and toil in order to enter into His presence, we will continue to be heavy laden. With that being said, there would be those who would read this particular verse and consider the rest Jesus was speaking of as being a physical and natural rest of our physical bodies. In other words, Jesus invites us who labour and are heavy laden to come unto Him, and He will give us rest. We seem to think that this rest is in fact a rest from all our labour, and that is in and of itself the greatest need within our lives. I would dare present unto you the reality that the rest which Jesus speaks of is not a rest of our physical bodies per se, but is more so a rest of the soul—a deep and abiding rest that touches the inner part of our being. There is not a doubt in my mind that the rest which Jesus speaks of within this passage of Scripture is a rest unto and a rest for our souls, as well as a rest for and unto our hearts and our minds. I do not believe that Jesus desires to take and remove us from all our labour and our toil, but desires that we labour from a place of rest. Did you know that it is possible to labour from a place of rest, and a rest that touches our souls, our hearts and our minds? Did you know that Jesus doesn’t necessarily desire to remove us from our labour and from our toil, but does desire that we are able to labour from that place of rest. In some instances, and in some cases, it might be necessary that Jesus take and remove men and women from that place of labour, from that place of toil, from that place of work, from that place of serving, and perhaps even from that place of ministry in order that He might bring them into a place of rest. I can’t help but think about how many ministers and leaders within the house of the Lord might very well be serving—even serving the Lord Himself—and yet not only are they careful and troubled, as well as anxious, but they are also doing so on the verge of burn out and collapse. I am convinced there are men and women within the house of the Lord who are so cumbered about with much serving, and with much labour and toil that they are on the verge of a complete emotional, mental and physical collapse, and might be on the verge of a complete and total burn out. RESCUED FROM SERVING! RESCUED FROM LABOURING! RESCUED FROM TOILING! I would dare present unto you that there are some among us today who desperately need to be rescued and saved from the place of serving, rescued from the place of labor and toil, in order that they might taste, experience, enter into and enjoy the rest that has been provided for them. Such men and women our Lord needs to take and remove from the place of serving—perhaps for a specific season of time—in order that He might not only grant unto them rest for their souls, but also that they might learn of Him who is meek and lowly of heart.
I wrote and mentioned of this reality and concept of rest touching more than simply one day during the week, but also touching the realm of physical years, and such a reality is found—not only in the Old Testament book of Exodus, but is also found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. Consider if you will the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus beginning with the tenth verse:
“And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with the vineyard, and with thy olivehard. Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refereshed. And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth” (Exodus 23:10-13).
YOUR ASS NEEDS TO REST! While this is a playful, and perhaps even somewhat of a misconceived emphasis within this writing, I am convinced that it is quite an interesting play on words—particularly and especially when you consider the language that is written and found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus. In the twelfth verse of this chapter we find in the King James Version the words “and thine ass may rest,” and while it is referencing a physical animal upon the earth, I am convinced that it has a practical application for us in this generation. There is not a doubt in my mind that countless men and women have a great need to sit their butts down, remove their butts from certain places, and simply rest. I recently heard a dialogue between Steven Furtick of Elevation Church and Dr. Caroline Leaf, and during this dialogue Dr. Leaf spoke of taking sixteen minutes during the day and simply sitting down and doing nothing but giving ourselves to silence. Dr. Leaf suggested that it is quite necessary that we being the practice of taking sixteen minutes out of our day and simply spending those sixteen minutes in silence and allowing our hearts and minds to be at rest. What’s more, is that she also suggested that we do not seek to control or manipulate such endeavors, and that we simply take those precious minutes and do nothing but sit in the stillness and in the quiet. There is not a doubt in my mind that this reality and concept our asses resting is a playful play on words, but it also has a practical application for us who are cumbered about with much serving. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus, for within this particular chapter we again find it mentioned concerning this seventh year of rest. Beginning with the first verse of this chapter we not only find the principle of the Shemitah—the period of rest which comes about every seven years—but we also find the principle of Jubilee, which comes at the end of seven sevens. Consider if you will the words which Moses writes and speaks unto the children of Israel beginning with the first verse of this particular chapter:
“And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which growth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourner with thee, and for thy cattle, and for the beast that in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat. And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which growth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. In the year of this jubilee ye shall return every man unto his possession. And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or guest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another: according to the number of years after the jubilee thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee: according to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 25:1-17).
Within the twenty-fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of Leviticus we find the principle of the Sabbath—not only as demonstrated and presented in the reality of the Shemitah, but also in the reality of the Jubilee. Once every seven years the children of Israel were to take an entire year and completely and utterly rest from all their labour, all their toil, all their work, and all their struggle. For an entire year, the children of Israel were to live in a hallowed place of rest—rest not only for their physical bodies, as well as for the land, but also an inner rest of their hearts, their souls and their minds. What’s more, is that this was to be a regular practice once every week, and then once every seven years. Every seventh day they were to rest from their labour, their toil and their work, and every seventh day they were to rest from that same labour, toil, struggle, and work. When we come to the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we find the author calling and inviting the saints of God to fear, lest a promise being left them of entering into the rest promised by God might not be entered into. THE GOSPEL OF REST! As we read the words which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote unto the saints, we find them writing concerning the gospel which was preached unto the children of Israel—a gospel which although it was preached, was not mixed with faith within the hearts of those who heard it. Within this passage of Scripture we not only find the reality of hearing the preaching of the word, and that not being mixed with faith, but we also find that in addition to coming unto Jesus the Christ to enjoy and experience rest, we must also believe. In fact, belief is directly linked and connected to our entering into the rest promised and prepared by the true and living God. Within this passage of Scripture we find the author of the epistle alluding to and referencing the reality and concept of the seventh day, and how the seventh day was in fact ordained by the living God as a sabbath day of rest. THE SABBATH! THE SHEMITAH! THE JUBILEE! Three distinct and three different realities and concepts, and yet all point to the single reality—the reality that “our ass needs to rest.” Please do not be offended when I use this playful play on words, for it presents us with a powerful call and invitation which can and must be experienced by us as the saints of the living God. This particular passage in Scripture not only points to the fact that we need to enter into, experience and enjoy the rest that has been promised by and prepared for us by the living God, but also that we must mix the preaching of the word with faith and belief. What’s more, is that we must understand that the only way we can truly enter into the rest which has been provided for us by the living God is through and by belief and confidence in the living God. Within this passage of Scripture we find the author of Hebrews again alluding to the words which are written and recorded in the ninety-fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, thus bringing us into the place where we acknowledge whether or not we are not only hearing the voice of the living God, but also choosing not to harden our hearts.
LET US LABOUR THEREFORE TO ENTER INTO THAT REST! Pay close attention to these words, for these words are a powerful invitation to us in this generation who are cumbered about with much serving. These words are a powerful invitation to us who are on the verge of physical breakdown and complete and utter burnout. These words are a powerful invitation to us who have been serving and have been labouring from a place of anxiety, from a place of worry, from a place of stress, and from a place of burden. This reality and principle of rest is designed to bring us into the place where we acknowledge and admit the reality that we do in fact need rest—not only for our physical bodies, but also for our souls, for our minds, and for our hearts. What’s more, is that this reality and concept of rest doesn’t merely touch the realm of Sabbath, Jubilee and the Shemitah, but it also touches the reality of the children of Israel entering into the land of Canaan after more than four-hundred years of slavery in the land of Egypt, and after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The rest which we find mentioned in this passage is not only a reference to the rest which was experienced in the land of Canaan, but also that final rest which we experience at the end of our lives when we pass from this realm of time and space into the realm of eternity. There is an eternal rest which still lies before us—a rest which we must continually strive in order that we might enter. When it is all said and done, it is necessary and imperative that we understand that “our ass” not only needs rest, but also needs to rest. The question is whether or not we are going to diligently strive to enter into the rest which has been promised for us and prepared by the living God.