Throughout their journey to the Promised Land, God’s people questioned his provision, rejected his gifts and doubted his goodness. Finally, they forfeited the Promised Land itself when they doubted God’s ability to give it to them. God withheld the provision, the sabbath rest he had offered them:
And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt? And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him? So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.
But this ritual of rest was not the true and ultimate sabbath. Like the sacrificial system and the law itself, the weekly sabbath observance was a foreshadowing of what would come in God’s new covenant with his people. The sabbath was fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection, when he made complete provision of all we need for forgiveness and righteousness before God. He made it possible for all those who trust in him to rest permanently from the requirements of sacrifice. To rest from striving to attain salvation from sin by keeping the law. No need for further spiritual toil to satisfy the requirements of his holiness. “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:9-11). This is the true rest, and all Christians have entered into this permanent state of spiritual rest. But many of us don’t realize it.
The opposite of exhaustion, sabbath rest is ultimately trust in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. It’s also a lifestyle that rests from efforts to provide for ourselves what God has already provided, a life built on faith that he will give us all we need. It means resting from our efforts to make our own way toward heaven, to control what has not been given to us to control, to make provision for what he has not provided, to make ourselves lovable or valuable through what we do.
This kind of sabbath is not encapsulated in a weekly observance; it’s a permanent spiritual condition to enjoy. When we dwell in worry instead, we reject God’s rest just as his ancient people did. We opt, instead, for spiritual exhaustion. Our rest, through Jesus, is for every day and every aspect of our lives. Worry is a special kind of toil that attempts to wrest control from God, to provide for ourselves, to store up for the future. Sabbath rest, on the other hand, is acknowledging our own limitations and leaving provision in God’s hands.
When Jesus used that analogy about sheep without a shepherd, he was traveling throughout the region around the Sea of Galilee. He created a stir by preaching and healing people he met. Vast numbers came to see him, and he was moved by their aimless desperation. Read that description again: “They were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). What an apt description of our culture! May we place our trust in him and instead conform to these words: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
We are not sheep without a shepherd. For people who claim to trust in God, worry is unnecessary, hypocritical and insulting to him. As one friend told me, “Worrying for me boils down to not holding on to that fact that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing and everloving Father. I often have to remind myself that he knows when a bird falls from its nest and that he clothes the flowers in the field.”
This post was excerpted from Chapter 3 of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry. If you want to read more, you can find the book here.
Taken from Anxious by Amy Simpson. Copyright(c) 2014 by Amy Simpson. Used by permission from InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.
© 2015 Amy Simpson.