If your boss/co-workers/husband/kids came to you today and said, “I’ll give you the choice–whole day to do absolutely nothing, or a whole day of stressful situations to deal with,” which would you choose? No-brainer, right?
Rest Sounds Best
They say, “The grass is always greener…” To a young mom, who hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in–172 years–a morning to sleep-in or a day at the spa sounds like a dream come true! To a guy who’s pulled double shifts for two months straight, a day in front of the TV with a cold drink and a large pizza sounds like a slice of heaven. But is REST really best?
What Happens When Human Nature Rests?
Let’s say a mom finally gets that full night’s sleep, or the factory worker finally gets a full-week’s paid vacation. What do we do with the rest we’re given? In my experience–and in hundreds of examples in Scripture–REST leads our human nature into sin. Bummer, huh?
Nehemiah describes Israel’s busy conquest of the Promise Land and their response to God’s lavish provision of rest…
“They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness. But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs.” Nehemiah 9:25-26
Nehemiah goes on to explain the Israelites’ on-again/off-again relationship with Yahweh that seemed to revolve around resting…
“So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.” Nehemiah 9:27-28
REST Itself Is NOT Sin!
Rest isn’t a bad thing; in fact, God set aside a special day each week for that specific purpose and called it holy!
“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.” Genesis 2:2-3
So, what is it about rest that causes our human nature to sin? What, in this good and God-ordained act of rest, beckons us to “miss the mark”–the very definition of sin?
A Lesson From King Jehoram
I’m working on edits for The Shadow of Jezebel, and part of the story concerns King Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram. He was a spineless creature, married to Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah. Jehoram was a puppet king, influenced by both his wife and his wicked mother-in-law, who were both avid Baal worshipers. When his godly father Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram went about instituting Baal worship throughout Judah, and Scripture tells us Jehoram’s kingdom became “firmly established” in his hands. CODE WORDS: he rested. Look what Jehoram did next…
“When Jehoram established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the princes of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 21:4
So Let’s Count Struggle A Joy…
I used to sneer at the Scripture in James that told me to “count it all joy when I experience trials and tesing.” Are you kidding me? But in recent days and weeks, as these passages have worked their way into my heart, I believe I’m beginning to understand what James meant.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
Choose Rest or Struggle?
I’m still not sure I could choose struggle if given the choice between it and rest, but perhaps I understand a little better why God seems so frugal when doling out the rest. The testing of my faith keeps me close to the Faith-Giver, Faith-Sustainer, Faith-Perfecter. If–and that’s a BIG “if”–my time of rest can also be disciplined to keep me close to the Lord, REST might come knocking on my door a little more often!
- Do you agree or disagree with my observations on rest? Why?
- What Scriptures minister to you when you’re in need of rest or in a place of rest?