(Noah’s name means rest)
Augustine stated “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
If you have ever ‘run your heart out’ in a distance race over 400m (one lap of the track) or further, say a 5K or even a marathon, or done a hard day’s work, or been in severe pain you will have experienced the desire, sometimes almost overwhelming for the effort or pain to cease and for rest! Your body cries out “ Stop!” Weak human bodies need rest from their labour!
When we are away from home travelling, do we not long to be home? Proverbs 27:8 says “As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.” Rest, it seems to me, in Scripture has this dual meaning of ceasing from labour and being home with your loved ones. A house is only a home when those you love are there. Heaven is our home because He who loves us with an infinite love, The Lord Jesus, is there!
When God instituted the seventh day Sabbath in Genesis 2:2-3 He gave it to man as a day of resting from his labour, not to be idle, but to take time to worship His God and experience something of the perpetual spiritual rest that we now possess in Christ by faith. We have a foretaste of the rest which will be perfected in heavenly glory. It is a rest the wicked never experience as they are like a troubled sea that never rests, because of their sin and godlessness (Isaiah 57:20).
I want at this point, to quote from that excellent Expository Dictionary of NT words by W. E. Vine who in turn quotes J. Patrick in Hastings’ Bible Dictionary,” Christ’s rest is not a rest from work, but a rest in work, not the rest of inactivity but of the harmonious working of all faculties and affections—of will, heart, imagination, conscience—because each has found in God the ideal sphere for its satisfaction and development”–isn’t that brilliant!
The two main words used for rest in the Old Testament are the one derived from SHABBAT (Sabbath) and another word NUWACH to rest, dwell or let alone, with the idea of a home. The OT quotation in Hebrews 3:18 is from Psalm 95:10-11 where the Hebrew word MENUCHAH is used which means to repose peacefully, to be consoled (as in marriage) and to dwell or be at home. “Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” The unbelieving, continually grumbling, idolatrous Israelites who came out of Egypt never entered that rest of the promised land which was a figure of heaven and hence a saving relationship with God. Now we, as New Testament believers, are in the wilderness of this world but nevertheless as believers we know rest.
NUWACH in Exodus 33:14 speaks of God’s promises of His presence and rest which a new generation of Israelites would inherit. The words MENUCHAH and NUWACH seem to be used almost interchangeably,“For ye are not as yet come to the rest (MENUCHAH) and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest (NUWACH) from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; ’ (Deut 12:9).
Solomon prays,” Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into thy resting (NUWACH) place, thou, and the ark of thy strength:” (II Chronicles 6:41). Here he is quoting from His father’s inspired words in Psalm 132:8 (where MENUCHAH is used). So now with the land at peace we have God resting among his people.
In the New Testament the noun ANAPAUSIS is used by our Lord in Matthew 11:28-29 where He, speaking to His elect, calls them to Himself by His irresistible grace, from their heavy labour and burden of sin, to rest in Himself. This rest is prophetically spoken of in Isaiah 11:10 , “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” The return from the Babylonian captivity also prefigures our rest in Christ in Isaiah 14:3 “And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve.”
In the New Testament Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 speak much about this rest. The verb ‘KATAPAUSIS’ is used which means to settle down and rest. This rest is the rest from one’s vain work to earn salvation, the rest from trying in the flesh to keep the law.
MENUCHAH and ANAPAUSIS are used again where Isaiah 66:1 is quoted in Acts 7:49,”Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?” In Psalm 132 in the context of David’s sincere desire to build the temple we read these amazing verses 13 and 14, “ For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” This underscores the key covenant truth that God desires to dwell among His people and so He does. His elect church in all ages are Mt Zion, the true eternal heavenly tabernacle which is the Jerusalem above.
As believers we have the inestimable privilege that God, by His Spirit dwells in us. ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” (I Cor.3:16). Believers are the temple or dwelling place or rest of God! One of the New Testament words for temple is NAOS the root of which means to dwell.
Collectively, as an organism,the church is His dwelling, ’In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.(Eph.2:22,23)
The ANAPAUSIS rest will be our experience in the eternal state as we read in Revelation 14:13 “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
So, to sum up. Scripture speaks of a mutual indwelling or rest of God in His people and His people in Him. We rest in Christ’s finished work from our bonded labour in sin. We live our lives seeking to keep that rest of soul by obeying Christ. We look forward to eternal rest in glory from all our labour and also from the wicked who will be punished. Since all this depends upon God, we glorify Christ accomplishes all this by His Spirit who rests in us now and ultimately will raise us by His power, so that God dwells in us His glorified church forever.
1 John 4:13 ‘Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.’ Beloved saints we are on our way to perfect rest and our eternal home!
CPRC Pastor Angus Stewart is still preaching a series on ‘God’s rest.’