The first day of summer is not officially here until June 21st. However, you’ll have a hard time convincing students. Give it a try; you just may hear those immortal words of Alice Cooper ring out, “School’s out for summer!” (Did you just sing them in your head?)
Summer vacation is a wonderful time of year. Do you remember sitting in the last class of the day, clock ticking, counting down the final seconds until that last bell rings. Joy, excitement, even relief begins to flood your adolescent mind. What does the summer have in store? What adventures will come? Summer vacation always feels long, filled with endless possibilities. I miss those days.
At the same time, I recognize now that those feelings of looking forward to an extended period of rest are God-given. That may seem like a strange idea to you. “How can the desire for summer vacation be God-given?” It’s not vacation, but the desire for rest. Each book in the Bible addresses the idea of finding or entering into God’s rest.
As God began to lead His people through Moses, He made special promises. “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14) As long as Israel was faithful God promised to be with them, guide them, and bless them. (Deuteronomy 28:1) The “rest” God promised was prefigured in the giving of land. God would provide land where His people could live and worship freely. Throughout the first six books of the Bible we see this march toward and eventual conquering of the land of Canaan (later called Israel). By the end of the book of Joshua, because of the promises of God and the faithfulness of the children of Israel, His people finally entered into the land, into God’s rest. “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers.” (Joshua 21:43-44) All of God’s promises to the people had come to fruition.
So shouldn’t Joshua be the last book of the Bible? (That would make reading the Bible in a year a whole lot easier!) The problem is sin continued to reign in and among the people. In fact, the book following Joshua is Judges, which has an eerie refrain summarizing the basic idea of the whole book, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) Sin is something that affects more than just the surface level of who we are and what we do; sin is at the very core of our being. Throughout the pages of the Bible, the people of Israel are a clear example of the deep-seated nature of sin. Sin continued to interrupt the nation’s covenant relationship with God, and they received consequences; namely, a broken relationship with God. A restlessness of wandering, not finding peace or comfort, because true and lasting peace can only come from God.
We read the words of God in the Psalm 95, “I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Again, this broken relationship must be restored if the people were ever to enter into that ultimate rest. So how do we usually go about achieving a desired outcome? We work for it! That’s exactly what the nation of Israel did. They tried to be as religious as they could to earn “rest” from God. However, no matter how hard we work, we always fall short. (Romans 3:23) “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.” (Psalm 40:6) God always values to have our heart more than anything we achieve in our own power. While we may think we can try our best to meet God’s standards, the reality is God wants us to trust Him because we humbly accept that we cannot.
So how is it ever be possible to enter God’s rest, that rest we are so inclined to desire, of which remembrances of childhood summer vacations are shadows? Only through faith. “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:1-3) This is yet another layer to the amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ Himself is our rest! He achieved what we could not so that we can receive His benefits.
So this summer, as you see kids having fun and taking it easy, think about your desire for rest. Take some time to consider the call of Christ and His offer of the kind of rest you will never find apart from Him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ