Rejecting God’s Rest.
“God has told his people, ‘Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.’ But they would not listen.” – Isaiah 28:12 NLT
Jesus Himself said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT). He was offering an invitation to escape the weary pursuit of self-righteousness and religious observance. He was inviting the Jewish people of His day to discover a way to come to God without trying to earn their way into His good favor. They were wearing themselves out with self-effort and futile attempts at keeping God’s law, and had been going it for generations. All the way back to the days of Isaiah, the people of God had been trying to work their way into a right relationship with God, but had failed. They had committed spiritual adultery, turning to false gods and placing their hopes in their own military might or alliances with other countries. Rather than simply trust God, they came up with all kinds of alternate plans. Even when God told them He was going to have to punish them for their unfaithfulness, they came up with plans to escape His judgment. In their hearts they said, “We have struck a bargain to cheat death and have made a deal to dodge the grave. The coming destruction can never touch us, for we have built a strong refuge made of lies and deception” (Isaiah 28:15 NLT). Listen to how The Message paraphrases this verse: “We’ve taken out good life insurance. We’ve hedged all our bets, covered all our bases. No disaster can touch us. We’ve thought of everything. We’re advised by the experts. We’re set.”
But they were placing their hope and trust in the wrong thing. They were building their future on a weak foundation. Their attempts at self-salvation were never going to work. Rather than rest in God, they were going to keep trying to save themselves – from God’s judgment and from death. But Isaiah gives us the only hope for any man – Jew or Gentile, in Isaiah’s day and in ours. “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness. Since your refuge is made of lies, a hailstorm will knock it down. Since it is made of deception, a flood will sweep it away” (Isaiah 28:16-17 NLT). This was a message from God regarding the coming Messiah. One day He would send His Son as the rock-solid foundation upon which every man and woman could build their lives. He would live a life of justice and righteousness. His sinless life would be the measurement by which all men and women are judged. But simple faith in Him would provide rescue from destruction and escape from death. “The Scriptures provide precedent: Look! I’m setting a stone in Zion, a cornerstone in the place of honor. Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation will never have cause to regret it” (1 Peter 2:6 MSG). Yet even when Jesus came to the people of Israel, they would reject Him as their cornerstone and Messiah. “Then Jesus asked them, ‘Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit'” (Matthew 28:42-43 NLT). Rather than find their ultimate rest in God’s Son, the people of Israel would reject His offer of rest and continue to try and earn their way into God’s good graces. Rather than build on a the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, they would work relentlessly to build their lives on a shaky foundation of self-effort and self-achievement. God’s offer of rest still stands today – for Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus still calls out, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Father, thank You for Your offer of rest. We still need it today. Even after coming to salvation through Christ, I can still find myself trying to earn favor with You through my own self-effort. I wear myself out trying to do good things that I think will make You love me more. I lose sight of the fact that You have already shown Your love to me by sending Your Son to die for me. I can’t do anything to make You love me more. Help me to find rest from my own self-effort and relax in the knowledge that Your Son has done it all for me. Anything I do to live in obedience to Your Word is out of a sense of gratitude, not obligation. I obey because I am loved, not to be loved. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men