Until They Enter Rest

Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go…”

Joshua 1:14-16

This is the passage of scripture that God gave me for this week. This is the life of a follower of Jesus. We have been given rest. We have been given our inheritance of salvation and continue to receive more and more of the inheritance of the Kingdom of God.

Now our role is to help others take possession of the land that was given to them. We are to fight for others so that they may enter this rest. We are to fight for others as they set out to take possession of the land that was made ready for them by God. For any part of our inheritance that we’ve recieved, we help others recieve it. For any part of our inheritance we have yet to recieve, we allow others to fight for us as we go after it and take possession of it.

And as we go our heart-cry is the same as theirs. We say to Jesus, “Whatever you tell us to do we’ll do; wherever you send us we’ll go!” This is not just the life of ministry. This is the life of every believer. This is what every follower of Jesus is called to.

The apostle Paul said it this way to the Corinthians:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Who are you fighting for? Who are you helping to take possession of the land that was set apart for them? Who can you comfort today with the comfort you’ve received from the Lord?

Fighting by not Fighting

Jehoshaphat was king of Judah (the southern kingdom) in the time when Ahab was king of Israel (the northern kingdom). Armies from Moab and Ammon came to war against Judah, and King Jehoshaphat didn’t know what to do.

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said:

“…Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, … a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

2 Chronicles 20:3-5, 12-17

There are times we need to put on the full armor of God, stand, and fight. We often too easily give up and give in. To be faithful to the Lord, there has to be a certain amount of fight in us. We don’t fight against people; we fight for people. We fight for the Lord. We fight not against flesh and blood but against our real enemy, Satan. Those who tend be passive and tend to retreat, hide, and avoid the fight need to learn how to fight.

But for those of us who are natural fighters, this passage above is a necessary correction. Some of us grew up with the message that no one was going to fight for us. And we learned early that we’d have to fight for ourselves if we wanted anything accomplished in this world. So we grew up fighting anyone and anything that tried to get in our way.

And even after we became Christians, we kept fighting for our rights, our cause. We fought anything that seemed unfair or unjust. We fought anyone that seemed to cross our boundaries or even our preferences. We started to become like a boxer beating the air.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air”(1 Corinthians 9:26).

God built us to be fighters. He wants us to be fighters. But in order to learn to fight the right things in the right way, we must learn how to be still and let God fight for us. We must reach a moment in our life when we realize the battle is too much for us. We must lean into dependence on the Lord. We must lay down our weapons and take up our worship. We must rest as we wait upon the Lord and watch as a battle we would normally race into resolves itself because the Lord went ahead of us and fought for us.

It reminds me of a scene from the movie Braveheart. William Wallace is totally out-gunned and outmatched by the British cavalry. His Scottish army waits as the cavalry advances at full speed. And instead of yelling, “Charge,” Wallace yells, “Steady…Hold…Hold…Hold…Hold…”

If they want to win the battle they must stand still. They must let the other army charge at full speed. And when the time comes, they will pull up long spears and stand their ground. The key to their victory is not fighting at all but instead, dropping their swords and shields, holding their ground, and letting the enemy ruin itself.

Sometimes, like Jehoshaphat’s army and Wallace’s army, we must do the same. “For the battle is not your’s, but God’s.” Sometimes we must “hold” long enough to let God move in and do what He wants to do. Sometimes we have to quell our natural tendency to fight, and instead trust. Trust that there is Someone who will fight for us. Trust that we don’t always have to be the one fighting for ourselves. Trust that the Lord will be with us, going before us, and fighting our battles.

Are you in a season where you are called to fight? Or are you in a time when the Lord is telling you to trust that He will fight for you?

Learn from Jesus

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus’s yoke of teaching was not a heavy burden. To take on Jesus’s yoke–his way of living in the Kingdom–is not about laboring to perform for God. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. We get to come to Jesus, off-load our shame, guilt and sin, and receive from Him peace, joy, comfort and love. It’s an incredible exchange that we have available to us every day because of the price Jesus paid on the cross.

Many of us have read this passage a number of times and found encouragement and comfort from it. Life in Christ was never meant to be wearisome. If the burden of following Jesus starts to get too heavy, it means we are carrying too much. It means it’s time to take a trip to the cross where we can lay our burdens at Jesus’s feet and allow Him to carry them for us. When we spend time with Jesus we can find rest for the deepest part of our being–our souls.

One thing that is important to notice is that Jesus doesn’t say, “Take my yoke upon you and learn about me…” No, He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” Jesus is alive! Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. When we read scripture, we don’t just learn about Jesus. We learn from Jesus.

Learning about Jesus is an important first step, but learning about Him is confined to what Jesus did in the past. Learning from Jesus is about imitating Him with our life today. Learning from Jesus is allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us now. It is about hearing from Jesus about our lives today. We will never find rest for our souls if we are only learning about Jesus. Rest for our souls comes when we learn from Jesus.

When we allow Jesus to teach us and guide us today, in the present moment, when we learn from Jesus, we’ll find that He will lead us beside quiet waters as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

Entering Rest

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…

Hebrews 4:9-11

When we enter into Christ, we enter the Sabbath-rest purchased for the people of God. We can rest from trying to earn salvation. Our good works won’t earn us a right standing with God. Our striving won’t conquer sin and death. Jesus did that for us by His death and resurrection. So now we can rest in Him.

Have you ever tried to rest at night but your soul was restless? Have you ever gone away on vacation only to return more tired than you were when you left? Physical rest is essential to the Christian life. But physical rest is only a picture of what is supposed to be happening in our soul. Jesus offers us true rest for our souls. He said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

A yoke would sit on the shoulders of two beasts of burden as they worked the field. Jesus is offering to walk next to us and give us an exchange. He will take our heavy burden off of our shoulders if we will take his light burden upon ours. We will find rest for our souls if we continue to walk with Jesus.

This is why the writer of Hebrews tells us to “make every effort” to “enter that rest.” It takes effort and diligence to enter the rest offered to us by Christ. Jesus did the work for us so that we we can rest in Him. Our part is to put forth the effort to enter that rest.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the people of God:

This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls
.
    But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I appointed watchmen over you and said,
    ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
    But you said, ‘We will not listen.’

Jeremiah 6:16-17

Jesus is the good way. He is the ancient path. If we walk with Him and remain in Him, we will live with our souls at rest. Apart from Him, we will feel a deep restlessness in our heart and mind. It’s not just about believing in Him but about remaining in Him. It’s not just about faith but about obedience. This is how we make every effort to enter that rest. Jesus said:

If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

John 15:5