The Rest of God

A Dwelling Place for Worshippers

I have been studying the book of Hebrews, and I never realized until this time around all of the parallels that it makes to the Old Testament. God is truly an amazing God. He orchestrated history so precisely that it is an exact mirror of Christ.

Hebrews chapter 3 is a chapter of encouragement, but also a chapter of warning. Chapter 3 is an exhortation to us to remain faithful to God. It even goes so far as to say that not being faithful to God is a sign that we have an evil heart, and that we have willingly departed from God (verse 12).

To put things into perspective on this matter verses 7-11 are a direct quote from Psalm 95:7-11. It reads:

7b Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. 10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ 11 So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”

This passage is a reference to the time of the exodus. The children of Israel had just been released from Egyptian slavery and now they were in the wilderness. Many of them had taken their eyes off of God and their freedom, and they began to rebel. As a result, they died before they could enter the promised land, or the ‘rest' of God (v.11). Even Moses himself was not allowed to enter because of sin and rebellion.

This passage shows me one thing. The hardening or softening of my heart is a direct act of my own will. No one can change my heart but me. If that weren’t the case then God would not be exhorting His people not to harden their hearts. So the question is: What is the remedy? How do I keep from hardening my heart?

The answer is found in the first seven verses of Psalm 95. Verses 1-5 deal specifically with the act of praise. Praise is not just a one-time act or attitude, but it is a lifestyle. In verses 1-5, the psalmist says, “Let us sing, shout joyfully, and give thanks.” In other words, “Let us praise!” Why do we need to praise? Because God is the “rock of our salvation”, He is “the great God and the great King”, He possesses the “deep places of the earth”, “the heights of the hills”, the sea and the dry land.

If you want to keep a soft heart before the Lord, you must first recognize who God is and what He has done. You must continually confess who He is, speak forth those things that He has done. That is how we praise.

But the psalmist doesn’t stop there. Now, in verse 6-7 he gets intimate and introspective. The psalmist says, “Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Why does he say that? Because now he recognizes his place in the kingdom of God in relation to God’s place. “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” The psalmist recognized in worship that God is the shepherd. He is the leader, and we are just sheep—servants.

It is at that point, after high praise and reflective worship, that he says, “Don’t harden your hearts.” He knew that the only way to keep your heart soft before the Lord was to live a life of praise and worship. Again, it is not just a one time act, but it is a lifestyle. Worship keeps our focus on the right things and does not allow room for evil to enter. As long as we continue to recognize our place in relation to God’s place, we cannot rebel, because we know that we would be a fool to turn our back on the living God.

As you remain faithful and keep your heart in an attitude of surrender, God has promised a blessing. To the children of Israel in the wilderness, that blessing was the Promised Land. It was a land of prosperity, flowing with milk and honey, and it was a land of safety, free from the threat of slavery. Likewise, today we have been promised a blessing, and that blessing is called the ‘rest’ of God. The Greek word for ‘rest’ means to settle down, to colonize, or to abide. Today the ‘rest’ of God is His holy presence. In the midst of His presence we are safe, free from the threat of slavery to sin, and all of our needs are taken care of.

Praise and worship not only will keep you humble before the Lord, but it will literally take you into the very presence of God. I think we are all aware of that fact, but for me, this passage just reemphasizes how much God longs to be with us. He would never turn his back on us, but we can willingly decide to rebel and harden our hearts toward Him.

Live that lifestyle of worship. Praise God for who He is, and worship Him because He is the great Shepherd. Keep a submissive and humble spirit, and allow God to take you into His rest.

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