Throughout the Old Testament, we see many examples of God giving rest to His people. During that time, they enjoyed seasons of abundance, prosperity, and inner peace (Isaiah 14:3). They did not have to be fearful, sorrowful, or weary, because there was no war, nor evil occurrences. It was a time of emotional and physical peace. An example of rest took place throughout King Solomon’s reign. God gave Israel rest from their enemies all around, so that they enjoyed peace and quietness (1 Chronicle 22:9).
When the Lord rescued Israel from Egypt, He had promised them that they would rest in the land they were crossing over into. But that promise came with conditions. They were to keep His commands, and not follow in the practices of the people that they were driving out, as they were to be established as a holy people. If they obey God, they would enjoy a lavish lifestyle in a land already flowing with milk and honey. God’s blessings would begin as they enter the land since they were walking into the abundance that they did not have to work for. Through them, God’s power would be seen, and the Gentile people would come to know that He is God and fear Him (Deuteronomy 6:10-11, 11:27, 28:1-14). If they did not obey, they would not enjoy the rest, but curses will follow them (Deuteronomy 11:28, 28:15-68).
The promise of rest.
- So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant.
- He would also give them favor, by causing the inhabitants to fall under great fear and dread, as Israel took position of the land. (Exodus 23:27, Deuteronomy 11:24-25).
Importance of the land and its position
God intentionally chose the land He was giving to Abraham’s descendants. Deuteronomy 11:12 Tells us that God cares for this land, and His eyes are upon it all year round. Ezekiel 20:6 describes it as the most beautiful of all land, and Ezekiel 5:5 tells us that God had set Jerusalem in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. This was the place that Israel would settle in, with God’s temple in the center, and they would no longer have to worry about oppression, homelessness, and lack. However, many of them did not live to enjoy the promise. God swore, that they would not enter His rest because of their unbelief. So, those who rejected His words died. (Psalms 95:9-11, Numbers 14:23, 32:11, 14:28-29, Ezekiel 20:15).
The Israelites were a defiant people who complained and provoked God often, therefore Moses warned them to be careful not to forget God after they have enjoyed the blessings in the land (Deuteronomy 6:11-12). Sadly, it did not take long for them to disobey, they intermarried, made covenants with, and began practicing the evil culture of the people. So, God handed them over to their enemies time and time again but would rescue them whenever they cry (Nehemiah 9:28). And even though He reminded them that returning and resting in Him is what would save them, they never listened (Isaiah 28:12, 30:15). Therefore, a rest remains (Hebrews 4:9), because God’s rest was never properly established through Israel. But Isaiah 11:10 promised that the rest would come through Jesus, the root of Jesse, and His rest shall be glorious.
The whole idea of rest was really intended to teach the Israelite first, then the Gentile people through them, that they would never be weary nor have unfulfilled needs when they make Him their God. From the beginning of time, resting in Him was His plans. He would take care of us even better than an earthly father does for his children. That is if we obey his commands.
So, in Canaan, He gave them a head start. And because His eyes were upon that land, the curse of Adam (Genesis 3:17) seemed to be lifted off Canaan. They would not have to toil, instead the land would produce in abundance because the soil would be rich like a fertile woman in her youth. Therefore, they would be successful in whatever they would do, and in turn, would honor God in gratitude for their blessings, while becoming reliant on Him for His goodness. Think of young children, who are not quite self-sufficient, but still needs their parents for everything from providing meals, clothing, protection, shelter, and medical care, as well as being available whenever they are hurt, needs comfort, reassurance, encouragement, and a teacher for shaping in every aspect of life. That is when a child has the greatest dependency and is how we must be in our relationship with God.
God still wants to fulfill His promise
The Old Covenant promise of rest was to be fulfilled in Canaan. But in the New Covenant, the rest that remains, God establishes through Jesus, since in Him all things are fulfilled. Anyone who believes in Jesus, and become saved, will partake in this rest (Hebrews 4:3). But those who hear the gospel and harden their hearts, will not enter, but die because of unbelief, like those in the wilderness who God swore will not enter His rest (Hebrews 3:7-12).
Some believe that this rest that remains takes place after we die, because we, like God, would have rested from our physical works. Although it may seem that way, Jesus teaches that the Father is always working (John 5:17), even if He did cease from His work after the creation, to establish and teach the importance of physical rest
Jesus gave 2 important scriptures to help us understand the rest.
- Rest from Burdened – According to Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus will give us inner peace for our weariness, that is, if we put our trust in Him to take care of us.
- Rest from Worrying – Matthew 6:25-33 & Hebrews 4:10 reminds us that we must rely on God for our provisions and not on our own self-efforts, because He already knows what they are, and is more than capable of providing them.
Perfect rest is obtained through Christ Jesus
The only example of perfect rest is seen as scripture describes the 1000-year reign of Jesus. This rest is a glimpse of what eternity with God must look and feel like, with God’s sanctuary set in the midst. During the 1000 years, all people, even the Gentiles would flow to the sanctuary to worship Him because they would finally recognize Him as the only God. Christ Jesus has obtained this glorious bliss for us, and it will be awesome (Isaiah 53:5).
The Covenant of Peace would be fully active in the 1000 years, and the earth and those in it shall be at rest from evil, war, and lack. There will be no weeping, sicknesses, and diseases. People will live out their full years, and a child who fails to reach 100 years will be considered accursed. Children, even infants will play around dangerous animals and snakes, and would not be harmed, because even the animal will not fear but will be at peace. Isaiah 11:6-9; 32:18.
During this time, Jesus would be King over the earth. A new government and justice system will be established, and He will judge between nations (Isaiah 9:6). God’s ways will be taught, and because the earth will be filled with His knowledge, all shall walk in His judgments, observing His statutes, and doing them (Isaiah 11:9, Ezekiel 37:24).
Satan will be locked away for the 1000 years so that he will have zero influence on earth (Revelation 20:1-3). Those on the earth will rest from temptation, evil influences, and things that will cause hurt and harm, so that the world could live in peace, and enjoy the fullness of God’s goodness (Isaiah 11:6-9; 32:18).