His promised rest

A sermon preached at Elijah Ministries on 5th December 2009

Gosh… another year has just flashed by… it’s flabbergasting how quickly time flies. And as we get older, it just seems that time speeds up faster and faster. Time is so short, so precious…

And as we come to the end of another long, hard stressful year, we praise the Lord, because we move one year closer to the return of our Lord Jesus. Amen?

It’s also that time of year, where everything shuts down and where everyone is sick and tired of work and in desperate need of rest. And can you remember when you said last year, that 2008 was the most stressful year ever, and that your personal stress couldn’t get much worse? Well guess what? It just did!

Have you had a bad year? Filled with stress, uncertainty, upheaval and distress? Does it feel like you’ve been on an emotional roller coaster this year? Maybe even a physical one, with trauma, sickness and ill-health?

Are you in desperate need of a rest? I know I am…

and, it’s this rest that’s been put on my heart today… the title of today’s sermon is ….His promised rest. His Promised Rest.

Turn with me to Hebrews 4… and keep a bookmark there…

Hebrews 4:1  Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (2) For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard, did not combine it with faith. (3) Now we who have believed, enter that rest, just as God has said, So I declared an oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest. And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.

 

 (4) For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words:  And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.  (5) And again in the passage he says,  They shall never enter my rest. 

(6) It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them, did not go in, because of their disobedience.

 

(7) Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:  Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. 

 (8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken about another day. (9) There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters Gods rest, also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (11) Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

 

There is no doubt about the overriding theme of Hebrews 4.
Rest is mentioned 11 times in 11 verses.

Now while the focus of this chapter of Hebrews is rest, isn’t it strange that nothing characterizes the modern world more than… unrest.

Wherever you look, there is unrest…

More than half of Africa is at war, either involved in cross border conflict or internal civil war. Darfur in the Sudan, Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Chad, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea… to mention just a few.
Then there is the Middle East, with Israel, the Gaza strip, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq… Afghanistan.
And then half of the former Soviet Union is at war with itself during what is being termed the 2nd Chechnyan wars.

It’s interesting to note that the common denominator in almost all these conflicts is…. Surprise, surprise… Islam. There are very few wars in the world today where Islam is not involved. The goliath of Islam marches relentlessly on towards Armageddon.

And because of the fall of governments and destruction of infrastructure caused by these widespread wars, Civil unrest often follows in it’s wake. The resultant instability and lawlessness gives rise to the crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide, wherever you look.

Then beneath this civil unrest – there is social unrest.
The world has it’s fight against terrorism. In South Africa, we have the fight against lawlessness, crime and corruption.

 

The accounts of Racism and hate crimes in this country are staggering. From apartheid to reverse racism, there is hatred, bitterness and unrest brewing everywhere. The recent xenophobia with it’s displays of the most shocking hatred and lack of compassion is a terrible shame on our country.

Violent crime is on the increase with criminals becoming more and more brazen due to a seemingly impotent justice system.

And then, there is the unrest everywhere, caused by the lack of service delivery.

Then just beneath the social unrest, there is… personal unrest.

The global economic meltdown has put strain on everyone’s finances – businesses are closing down in record numbers, liquidations and insolvencies by the hundreds. This has lead to even more unrest – more poverty, joblessness, more financial stress, more marriages in trouble, more unhappiness…

…more unrest... and this unrest affects us all.

What on earth is next, you might ask?

Generally, it’s life in the big city… and as they say, life here in Gangster’s Paradise is not for sissies…! It’s this fear of the unknown, this fear of what possibly can happen next, that leaves people feeling insecure, disoriented, alienated… and above all…. Restless, and without peace.

For people in the world, these circumstances point to a Life with no meaning – it’s just full of uncertainty and unrest. It’s a dog eat dog mentality out there.

And it’s at times like these, that we’d like to follow David’s heart, when he was in trouble; as he said in Psalm 55:6  David said,  Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest

The prayer of the escapist – to run away from it all… to fly away… where all our  problems disappear… don’t you wish you could sometimes do that…? To just abscond, to go AWOL, to just run away from it all?


Well don’t think about that too long, because that’s where most drug addictions start… where people want to escape their problems, they turn to anti-depressants, alcohol and feel good drugs, rather than face up to their problems and deal with them.

But rather than turn to the world, to drugs and psychologists, Hebrews 4 offers a much better hope in dealing with stress and restlessness. In fact, it’s more than a hope… it’s a promise.

Hebrews 4 Verse 1, the KJV says:  a promise being left to us, of entering into his rest

The NIV puts it this way: The promise of entering his rest still remains..

But to gain some insight into this rest, lets just quickly examine the original text of these words…

The word for rest here is the Hebrew word nuach (noo'-akh) – which means:
- to settle down,
- to rest from being weary or tired; or, literally
- to cease from work that is finished.

It’s the Greek word Katapausis
It’s described in various ways in the Bible -
It’s just the same as when the Ark rested on Mount Ararat after the flood;
just as Israel, under Joshua, rested from war in the Promised Land of Canaan.

This rest is intimately linked with the Sabbath rest. 

Look at Verse 9: There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
10 for anyone who enters Gods rest, also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

In verse 9 this Sabbath rest is the Greek word Sabbatismos. It refers to a future rest, a permanent and final resting place. And that place is heaven.

 

But then, have a look back at Verse 3:

Heb 4:3  For we who have believed do enter into rest,

 

Do enter into rest is written in the present tense. It doesn’t say will enter, as in the future. It says do enter. And that means that that rest is available… now.
When you believe, you can enter His rest. Now, today.

 

So this passage refers to rest in the most amazing way --- both present and future ---
This rest is a home for the exile, a mansion for the pilgrim, a sabbath for the weary.
And if you look at this promise midrashically - in our lifetime, there are many sabbaths, but eventually, there shall be one – one perfect and eternal sabbath -

 

The heavenly sabbath:
rest from weariness, sorrow, and sin; no more tears or unhappiness, just perfect rest in the completion of God's new creation. We will share in the renovated creation. And nothing can break the sabbath of eternity. 

 

And it’s interesting that Judaism calls this future rest "the day which is all sabbath."

 

There is a perfect and eternal rest in heaven, but it is available now.
Is everyone with me so far?

 

But please take special note of the following 2 verses:

 

Verse 6 of Hebrews 4:
 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their ….unbelief.

And Verse 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, by following their example of …. unbelief.

 

The word used in the KJV in both these verses here, is unbelief, but some other translations use the word disobedience or mistrust. We have studied this before, but to believe and to have faith, is to believe that the promises of God are true. If you don’t believe that the promises of God are true, there is no point to your faith – then you are living in unbelief.

 

Mistrust is the same as unbelief, is the same as disobedience, is the same as rebellion.

This is important, because when we live disobedient lives, we are in rebellion, and our testimony to the world brings Christianity into disrepute - it brings shame upon our Lord. 

You see, all too often we call people to faith, but not to obedience;
to be saved from hell, but not to be saved from sin.
It’s a serious problem. There isn’t enough emphasis on obedience – on obeying Christ…….


But the promises of God are true! ……. ! Amen!? As Bill Randles often says: Is anybody here today?

The promises of God are true, and if you can’t trust the Lord, then your unbelief will certainly stop you from entering into His rest.

 

But to understand this Promise better, we would do well to study some of the Old Testament background into the subject…

At the time of the Exodus, God promised rest to Israel. He promised that he would provide them a home in Canaan, free from war and oppression. This was a promise he had made to Abraham. God’s promised rest to Israel was the rest found in the Promised Land.

Just after Israel exitted Egypt, Moses brought them the 10 commandments and many other Laws… and during the giving of those laws, Moses said to Israel…in:

 

Deuteronomy 12:10  But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land that  the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you, so that you will live in safety.

 

Then, later on in the book of Numbers, we see the Nation of Israel camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. The people had received God’s laws and they were preparing to accept their inheritance – on their way to the Promised Land.

 

But then, the complaining began…in Numbers 11, the Lord, in His wrath, sent fire upon those who began complaining in the outskirts of the camp. It was only Moses’ intercession that stopped the fire.

 

Then, the people started complaining about the food. They were sick and tired of manna - They wanted meat to eat.

 

Keep your place in Hebrews and turn to Numbers 11.

 

Numbers 11:18

 18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed: “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.  19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days,  20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”

 

Despite the miracles they had seen, despite the blessings and deliverance they had been given, by being freed out of slavery, despite the promises of God…. Israel were still completely lost in their unbelief.

The ungrateful human nature – what an indictment on mankind. Always so ungrateful and forever complaining…  no wonder they incurred God’s wrath.

 

Verse 21:

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’  22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

23 The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 

That’s an interesting comment. Is my arm too short? says the Lord. And this is the crux of the matter here…
Is He capable of delivering on His promises? ….
Do you truly believe that God can keep His promises? …That His Word is true?
You must believe this, failing which there is no point to your faith…
and unbelief leads to serious consequences…

 

Verse 31 Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction.  32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out, all around the camp.  33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 

 

The consequences of unbelief… many never entered His rest.

 

Then in Chapter 12, Miriam and Aaron complained against Moses, and the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy.

 

It’s interesting to note that all this happens within 3 years of Israel being delivered out of Egypt – the ungrateful human heart!

After Miriam was healed, again through Moses’ intercession, the Israelites moved on to Kadesh, ready to take the Promised land.

 

In Kadesh, Moses sends out 12 spies into Canaan to assess it’s strength.

 

In Numbers 13, we read how the spies bring back an evil report of how the land is filled with giants that they could never defeat. Only Caleb remained faithful and urged the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land.

 

In Numbers 14, in their unbelief, the entire nation of Israel complains bitterly about their circumstances and they all want to return to Egypt. Go to Numbers 14…

 

Numbers 14:5  Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.  (6)  And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jefuneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:  (7)  And they spoke unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.  (8)  If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which flows with milk and honey.  (9)  Just don’t rebel against the LORD, neither fear the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.

 

And what happens when you preach the Word of God? Verse 10:

(10)  But all the congregation wanted to stone them.
Please don’t stone me!

 

And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.  (11) The LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people provoke Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?

 

And then we see the consequences of Israel’s unbelief… verse 22

(22)  Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;  (23)  Surely they shall not see the land which I swore unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:

 

Verse 30:  Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb and Joshua.  (31) 'Your children, however, whom you said would become prey - I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected.  (32)  'But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness.  (33)  'Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.

 

 

 

Unbelief and mistrust leads to rebellion and separation from the blessings of God. And here we see Israel forfeit their Promised rest because of it. A goodly response to the chastisement of the Lord would be to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and then to repent, but after hearing about their fate, Israel rebel even further – they take matters into their own hands yet again, and immediately attempt to try take possession of the Promised Land…

 

The problem is, they were separated from the Lord; they went without the Lord’s presence, and on the other side of the mountain, they were met by the massive Amalekite army, who crushed them in a devastating defeat, with many more deaths.

 

And so we see how that entire generation, with the exception of Caleb & Joshua, rebelled against God. The last straw came here at Kadesh, when through their unbelief, Israel doubted the Lord’s promises - they mistrusted Him, and refused to enter the promised land.


Now, the Lord is long suffering and patient, but there comes a time, where His patience runs out… as it says:

 

“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,"

 

And so, Israel forfeited their inheritance, the blessed promise of God.
They forfeited their promised rest, leaving it to the next generation to inherit.

 

It is important to realize and understand, that it is through disobedience, mistrust and unbelief that the promise of entering His rest will be denied.
Don’t let that happen to you. Never give up on the truth that the promises of God are true… because that is what determines your faith, and you need faith to enter His Rest.

 

But as if all that wasn’t enough, it unfortunately doesn’t end there for Israel.

As we have learnt before in another lesson, Israel went back into the wilderness;  Then Korah the Priest became jealous of Moses’ position and dared to oppose him, and in so doing, rebelled against God.

 

This story is told in Numbers chapter 16.

 

 

While Israel was camped in the wilderness of Paran, Korah led a group of 250 priests and prophets of the congregation, against Aaron’s claim to the Priesthood, and against Moses’ claim to lead Israel. As punishment for their rebellion, God caused the earth to open up and swallow the leaders and all their property, and a fire from the Lord came down and burned the 250 prophets to death.

 

After this, you’d have thought that Israel would have learnt their lesson by now… But this was sadly not the case.

After seeing with their very eyes, the wrath of the Lord and His miraculous destruction, the very next day, the congregation of Israel continued to complain yet again, about Aaron and Moses. 

 

Turn with me to Numbers 16

 

Numbers 16:41  But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, "You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD'S people." 

(42)  It came about, however, when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared.  

(43)  Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting,  (44)  and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  (45)  "Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in an instant." Then they fell on their faces.

 


 (46) Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer and put fire from the altar in it, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!" 
(47)  Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. 

(48)  He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked.

 (49)  But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah.  (50)  Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting, for the plague had been checked.

 

But in amongst all this disobedience and destruction, there is Hope…

 

Just as Aaron made atonement for the people, so Jesus has done so for us. Jesus takes His stand between the dead and the living, as the sacrifice for our sins, to check or check the judgement of God that we all so richly deserve.

 

 

Turn with me to Joshua 21…

 

There really is hope…

 

Joshua 21:43NIV

 

So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. (44) The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. (45) Not one of all the Lords good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

 

Let me read that again… underline it in Red in your bible:

Verse 45: Not one of all the Lords good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Isn’t that amazing?…. (Is anybody here today?)


And that’s the basis of our faith – the fact that the promises of God are true! Hallelujah!

 

Turn with me to Psalm 95….

 

Many centuries later David warned his people not to forfeit God’s rest.

 

Psalm 95:7 NIV … Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, (9) where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. (10) For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, they are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.  (11) So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.“

 

How is that possible? Israel had already entered their rest, they had been living in the Promised Land for 300 years already. And yet, 300 years later, David warns the Israelites:  TODAY, if you hear my voice - it is present tense - So the rest referred to in verse 11 cannot refer to the Promised land – it refers to something much deeper…

 

Something that is available to us all…. TODAY, if you hear His voice. 

 

So what we see, is that Hebrews parallels the OT experience of God’s people.

 

·        In the Old Testament, God redeemed Israel from Egypt and he intended for them to pass through the wilderness, as pilgrims, to the rest of the Promised Land in Canaan.

·        Today, God, through Jesus, has redeemed us from sin, and he intends us to pass through this life, as pilgrims to the perfect rest in Heaven.

 

Genesis 2:2 reads:

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (3) And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

So we see God Himself enter into rest. But even though God entered his rest at the beginning of human history, do we have to wait until the end of time to enter His rest?

 

Is this promised rest entirely future?

 

No, the future is already present in Christ. The end has already begun with Jesus and his first coming. This is the perspective of Hebrews.

 

Go back to Hebrews and Chapter 12

 

Hebrews 12:14

14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 

 

This is an important concept to grasp. Without rest there is no peace, and without peace, there can be no rest. The commandment here is to live in peace with…. all men. Not just those who you like. Not just your friends. It says all men… and that includes your enemies.

And that’s a really difficult one, because it includes taxi drivers and the Home Affairs Department.

 

But seriously, we need to be very careful of the testimony we portray – a Christian cannot be a bigot, filled with hypocrisy and racism.

 

 

Verse 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 

Are you becoming bitter about what is happening in this country? – guard against it, because it will end up defiling you. Rather rely on the Grace of God. Trust in Him, because He IS IN CONTROL!

 

 

Verse 22 notice the present tense:

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,  23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,  24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

 

The Present tense here suggests that we have come to Mount Zion, that we can have this now, that we begin to enter into God’s rest now.

 

Go back to Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:3 Now we who have believed, enter that rest, just as God has said,  So I declared on oath in my anger,   They shall never enter my rest.    And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.

 

Hebrews 4:10  for anyone who enters Gods rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

 

God entered into his rest on the 7th day of Creation, when He rested from his labours. The very same is true for us.

 

We enter into the heavenly rest when we stop our earthly labour – when we die. But…

 

As God completed the work of creation and entered into his rest, so…

Christ has completed the work of salvation & entered into his rest.

But we also enter into God’s rest through the finished work of Christ. It is through Christ’s work that we become saved, not our own. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves… it is only through the finished work of Christ that we can enter His rest.

 

This is the essence of the gospel.

 

Isn’t it tragic that so many who are convicted by their sin are desperately engaged in their own struggle to try atone for their own sins, by their own good works.

 

It is finished.

Jesus bore our sin, our guilt and our condemnation.

There is nothing left for us to do but rest assured in what he has done – and that’s what it truly means to enter into his rest, in this lifetime.

I’ll say that again:


There is nothing left for us to do, but to rest assured in what he has already done for us.

 

 

Turn with me to Matthew 11

 

In Matthew 11, we see that Jesus issues a great invitation...

 

 

Matthew 11:25  At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.  (26)  "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.  (27)  "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 

 

Verse 27 is Matthew’s equivalent of John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one come to the Father except through me.”

(28)  "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  (29)  "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (30)  "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

In this passage in Matthew, Jesus makes it clear that the intellect of the person hearing the Gospel has absolutely no relevance. Jesus praises His Father for revealing His truths to mere babes.

In it’s context, the Pharisees were proud and arrogant in their knowledge, and yet they never really understood what the Truth was. The Lord’s choice is to reveal His truths to those who are lowly, meek and humble, whose hearts are ready to receive it.

And then Jesus says that it is only He himself who is capable of revealing that Truth.

Now this sounds like it’s a very exclusive privilege, doesn’t it?
Like it’s only a privileged few who have the honour of being chosen?

Jesus says “No one can know the Father unless I choose to reveal Him.

Then in the next verse, we see just how exclusive this choice really is.
Jesus shows us what love really is, when He issues this great, general invitation:

Verse 28 " Come unto Me, all who labour, all who are weary, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Now who isn’t weary or heavy laden? I think we all are, especially at this time of the year. But in order to qualify, the earlier verses show our need to be humble.

The requirement here, is all those who are weary and heavy laden.
All those who are labouring, toiling, all who are burdened, all who are tired… for whatever reason.

It’s obvious that various life circumstances would make one weary – physical work, suffering, hardship and persecution being just a few of them; but the one most often overlooked in a Christian’s life is our struggle with our own sinfulness:

Slavery to sin is one of the most burdensome of all human problems.
Guilt and condemnation and slavery to sin, is an awful burden to carry.

Another way that we toil and become burdened is through trying to please God through our own efforts, our own works. Very often, we try put God in our debt – by doing good, we expect something in return, we expect him to pay us back for our good deeds… 

But God is Sovereign and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. And when we give up the continued humanistic desire of always wanting to be in control of our lives, and give that control up to the God of the Universe, only then can He begin to work His goodness through us. Only then can He deliver you from your slavery.

And many of us Christians – we toil and become burdened. We are so busy, we work so hard, we toil and strive – eventually we find that losing our focus leads to losing all the joy of the Christian life. We become caught up in a fog of unbelief, through which we can’t even see God – so we go through the motions, saying all the right things, doing all the right things, but we’re not really focusing on God, we’re not really trusting in Him. We’re not really God control over our lives.

 

We are not striving with His power; we are flailing away with our own power, in our own strength. And so very quickly, we become weary, burdened, and we wonder how on earth our burdens will ever ease. Where am I going to find the energy and strength to get through today? Sound familiar?

 

These – and many others – are our burdens. But Jesus calls us, whatever our burdens, whatever our struggles, to come to Him. He says…. come!

 

And then, He promises something really special…

 

Verse 28 " Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you…  rest.

 

He promises us rest, refreshing rest, as Psalm 91 says in the shadow of His wings. He will enable us to find peace, to revive us – revival in our own personal lives, with the ever-refreshing peace of God. That Peace that surpasses all understanding…

 

Verse 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

This yoke represents a few things.

 

A yoke is a heavy, straight wooden bar that was fastened to the foreheads of cattle, which joined them all together and kept them working together as a team. A yoke is a symbol of slavery, bound tight with no hope of freedom. This yoke can represent many things, one of which is your sin.

And this yoke, in the context that Jesus uses it here is also linked to learning, as He mentions in verse 29 – take my yoke upon you and learn from me.

The yoke of the Law of Moses was an enormous burden, because no-one could ever keep the Law of Moses. And that’s one of the reasons that the Old Testament was written – to show people that no-one could keep the Law, that no-one could save themselves; that everyone needs a Saviour. The entire Old Testament points to the desperate need of mankind for a Saviour.

 

And in the bible it says that to be under the Law, you are a slave to it… but here Jesus says take my yoke and learn from it… take my teaching, take my New covenant, and you will find rest for your souls, you will find freedom.

 

John 8:36 says:  If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.

 

verse 29:

(29)  "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

 

And isn’t this what we are all searching for… rest for our souls?

Come to me – and you will find what you’ve always longed for:

True rest. True peace.

 

This is the great gospel invitation: “Come to Me!

 

There are no prerequisites, just humility; no degrees required, no entry exams to pass.

Just …. come to Me, … all of you – and you will find true rest.

 

If ever there was a generation that felt life's load, it must be surely this one. Stress seems to be at epidemic proportions, and that stress is fuelled by the events that we're seeing taking place right across the globe –

The catastrophes of mankind over the last decade are enough to cause men’s hearts to fail them.

And the big question that we have all asked is - what's next?
What can possibly happen next?
Will the next disaster affect me, will it affect my city, will it affect my home, my family?
When will I become a part of the Crime statistics?

These burdens and fears that people today have to carry, just add to the personal unrest, maybe even chaos, that many people are feeling. Where it seems as if the whole building of your life is giving in and crashing around your ears? Is your life filled with burdens? Mysterious illnesses, personal tragedies, turmoil and strife in your life.

I wonder… is that you today?

Well, I want to tell you this morning: you are not alone! Often, these type of circumstances are made worse by the feeling of being the only one who has these problems… Why me Lord? Why me?

But these words of the Lord Jesus Christ show us, that He speaks to all humanity - - He shows us that these problems of being laboured and heavy laden, experiencing the weighing down of life's load, it’s a universal problem. Everyone experiences this unrest to varying degrees.

And maybe it's not even a crisis, Maybe it's just the commonplace things that have taken their toll on you. It has been shown that there is often more stress in the prolonged pressure of Monday to Friday, eight-to-five life, than in a sudden calamity.

Maybe you're just fed up with life! And you don't know how to cope any more!

Well, I want to tell you - that in this text, Matthew 11 verse 28, there's a personal invitation to you from Jesus Christ, and He says, the God of all creation says: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'.

This is truly the great invitation, Christ is announcing to you today that He will embrace you - but more than that: if you come to Him, He will embrace your burdens too. The burdens that you're carrying today that are personal to you, or general to all humanity, I don't know what they are, but He has promised that if you come to Him, He will carry them for you.

 

Jesus can lift the burdens of your life, whatever they might be. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

 

He can set us free and forgive our sins, so that we can rest, not only in the glory of who he is, but in the assurance of what he has done.

 

The Christian life is not feverishly struggling to achieve our own salvation. It is resting from what Hebrews calls dead works.

 

Are you enjoying rest now?

Are you grateful and filled with the joy of what Jesus has done for you?

 

It will be consummated in Heaven, but it begins here and now.

 

Where is this promise of rest to be found? In the pages of scripture.

 

Entering His rest, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation, the theme of rest can be traced through the entire Bible.

God is speaking to you – in the present –
through what he has spoken – in the past, in the Bible.

 

That’s why it says in Psalm 95

Psalm 95:7 …which was written many centuries ago, says:
Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts.

 

 

And as we all go into the holiday period, I urge you to follow what Hebrews 4:11 says:

(11) Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

 

In closing, please turn with me to Psalm 62.

 

This is my prayer for you today:

 

Psalm 62:5

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

(6) He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

(7) My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

(8) Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

 

May you be blessed with God’s Peace this holiday season.

Amen.