This morning, as our medical team prepared for another day seeing patients, we prayed.
We first read Psalm 95, a psalm of praise that ends with a compelling admonition. The psalmist praises "the Rock of our salvation" and celebrates God's creativity, power and sovereignty. Calling the people to worship God, the psalm reminds them that they are a flock under God's tender care.
Just as the reader is beginning to enter into worship, picturing green pastures and still waters, the tone of the psalm changes dramatically. The author reminds the people that they were unfaithful to God, they forgot all about Him, they sinned. The psalm ends with these distressing words from the mouth of God to those who reject Him, "They shall never enter my rest." (Psalm 95:11b)
The book of Hebrews, an eloquent summary of the Old Testament promises in the context of the coming of Christ, speaks of the awaited "Sabbath rest" promised to God's people. The author assures us that "the promise of entering his rest still stands," (Hebrews 4:1) but stresses that the message of Christ must be combined with faith to lead us into that rest.
The word "rest" can be somewhat misleading here, since we might think of it as a passive state. Perhaps we picture taking a nap, putting our feet up at the beach or gazing at the stars at night. Yet, we are told in Hebrews 4:11 to "make every effort to enter that rest," the rest that comes when we combine the message of the gospel with faith.
So, which is it? Do we nap or do we strive to enter into rest? Do we believe one day and then put our feet up and say, "I'm done. I've arrived." I guess we can choose to do that - but only if we want to end up like those who rejected God.
As we discussed at the end of our prayers this morning, this psalm is full of good news to those who know the whole Bible. Very simply, Jesus is our rest. The story of God's plan to redeem this sinful world does not end with God's admonition in Psalm 95:11 because Jesus came. His life, death, and resurrection changed everything.
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus beckons the weary and burdened to come to him. He lets us in on a new, life-changing reality. As we yoke ourselves to him, we find rest. He does not want us to merely come to him and "put our feet up there," so to speak. He urges us to take his yoke upon us and learn from him, for he is gentle and humble in heart. As we do this, as we live with our eyes fixed on him, learning his ways, pondering his wounds, his suffering, his obedience, his life of complete surrender, we find rest for our souls - because we enter into a relationship (see Matthew 11:28-30).
As we ponder the reality of Jesus, we recognize our own. We are sinful. Hungry. Empty. Lost.
As we begin to know him, we experience his holiness. He nurtures our soul and we are no longer hungry. He fills us with life and we are no longer empty. He gives us a new home and we find that we are no longer lost.
Jesus assures us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. In him there is life - abundant life. Why would we choose our burdens, our fears, our selfish wants when we can have, living in us, the author of life?
Today I choose Jesus anew. I choose his life in me. I choose his peace. And as I do, I enter into his glorious rest.
May he bless every patient I had the privilege of treating today as well as every reader of this humble rest stop of faith.
Dr Mari, ©2011