Closure

The Israelites’ forty-year transition from slavery in Egypt to living in the Promised Land was brought to a closure just before Moses’ death. After Joshua had been commissioned to lead Israel, God told Moses, “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:19). The reason why the LORD needed a witness against the people of Israel was because he knew how things were going to turn out. God said, “For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give them” (Deuteronomy 31:21). The Book of Hebrews talks about what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness in the context of faith and entering into God’s rest. Hebrews 3:7-19 states:

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
    and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
    they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
    ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

The Greek word that is translated testing in Hebrews 3:8, peirasmos (pi-ras-mosˊ) refers to “a state of trial in which God brings His people through adversity and affliction in order to encourage and prove their faith and confidence in Him” (G3986). After forty years of testing in the wilderness, God determined that the Israelites were inclined to go astray in their hearts and had been so hardened by the deceitfulness of their sin that they were unable to enter into his rest.

Testing usually involves us experiencing difficult circumstances or suffering because of our trust in God. Hebrews 11:4-38 focuses on some of the Old Testament saints who passed their tests so to speak by demonstrating their faith in God. It says in Hebrews 11:29, “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.” The Greek words that are translated attempted, peira (piˊ-rah) lambano (lam-banˊ-o) literally mean to take a test (G3984/G2983). The Egyptians weren’t able to cross the Red Sea because they didn’t believe in God and even though the Israelites crossed the Red Sea by faith, they later rebelled against God and refused to enter the land of Canaan when they were instructed to do so (Numbers 14:1-4). The Israelites’ experience in the wilderness shows us that faith is not just an action or a one-time act that guarantees God’s blessings for the rest of our lives, but a continual demonstration of reliance upon God that gets us from one step of our journey to the next until we fulfil our destiny. Hebrews chapter eleven concludes with the statement, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:35-40). The Greek word that is translated though commended, martureo (mar-too-rehˊ-o) means “to be a witness, i.e. testify…to testify to the truth of what one has seen, heard, or knows” (G3140). The people in Hebrews chapter eleven who suffered because of their trust in God testify to the fact that sin (moral rebellion against God) can be overcome by faith (Hebrews 12:4).

God told Moses that the song he was going to teach the Israelites would “confront them as a witness” (Deuteronomy 31:21). The Hebrew words that are translated confront, ʿanah (aw-nawˊ) paniym (paw-neemˊ) convey the idea of getting in someone’s face or telling a person exactly what you think of him. The Song of Moses begins:

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
    and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain,
    my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
    and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
    ascribe greatness to our God!

“The Rock, his work is perfect,
    for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
    just and upright is he.
They have dealt corruptly with him;
    they are no longer his children because they are blemished;
    they are a crooked and twisted generation.” (Deuteronomy 32:1-5)

The Rock that is mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:4 is identified in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians as Christ. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrownin the wilderness.” Paul referred to Jesus as “the spiritual Rock” and said that he followed the Israelites when they were in the wilderness. The Greek word that is translated followed, akoloutheo (ak-ol-oo-thehˊ-o) means “to be in the same way with, i.e. to accompany” (G190). Akoloutheo is used throughout the four gospels in connection with Jesus’ disciples following him. It says in Matthew 9:9, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow (akoloutheo) me.’ And he rose and followed him.”

Paul’s reference to Jesus as “the spiritual Rock” (1 Corinthians 10:4) meant that Christ wasn’t visibly present with the Israelites in the wilderness, but his power was at work in their lives. Moses’ song stated, “The Rock, his work is perfect” (Deuteronomy 32:4). The Hebrew word tamiym (taw-meemˊ) refers to something that is perfect in the sense of it being blameless (H8549). In Psalm 18, which is titled “The LORD is My Rock and My Fortress,” David said of God’s salvation, “This God—his way is perfect, the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless” (Psalm 18:30-32). David indicated that not only was God’s way perfect (tamiym), but also that God had made his way blameless (tamiym). David thought of himself as being in the same way with (akoloutheo) or a follower of God (Jesus). Unfortunately, David was one of only a handful of the kings of Israel that were faithful to God’s word. Within a few hundred years of David’s reign, the prophet Isaiah echoed the words of Moses’ song. Isaiah 1:2-4 states:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
    for the Lord has spoken:
“Children have I reared and brought up,
    but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner,
    and the donkey its master’s crib,
but Israel does not know,
    my people do not understand.”

Ah, sinful nation,
    a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
    children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the Lord,
    they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
    they are utterly estranged.

Jesus reiterated the point that the people of Israel had become “a crooked and twisted generation” (Deuteronomy 32:5) when he rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith. Matthew 17:14-21 states:

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus attributed his disciples’ inability to cast out the demon to their lack of confidence in him (G3640) and indicated that it only required an extremely small amount of faith for them to do miracles. Jesus referred to the people of Israel as a faithless and twisted generation, indicating that the Israelites not only had no faith in him, but they were also distorting or at the very least misrepresenting God’s word to the people around them. The problem that existed throughout the Israelites’ history was that they had a short memory when it came to the things that God had done for them and preferred to worship idols. Deuteronomy 32:15-18 states:

“But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked;
    you grew fat, stout, and sleek;
then he forsook God who made him
    and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.
They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;
    with abominations they provoked him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,
    to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come recently,
    whom your fathers had never dreaded.
You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,
    and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

The Rock is mentioned twice in this section of the Song of Moses. It says that the people of Israel scoffed at the Rock of their salvation and that they were unmindful of the Rock that bore them. These images seem to suggest that the Israelites wanted to distance themselves from their past. The people of Israel had likely gotten so full of themselves that they were too proud to admit that they had at one point needed God’s help.

After Israel’s rejection of her Messiah was addressed, the Song of Moses shifted its focus of attention away from Israel’s salvation to the end times. Deuteronomy 32:19-22 states:

“The Lord saw it and spurned them,
    because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters.
And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them;
    I will see what their end will be,
for they are a perverse generation,
    children in whom is no faithfulness.
They have made me jealous with what is no god;
    they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are no people;
    I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
For a fire is kindled by my anger,
    and it burns to the depths of Sheol,
devours the earth and its increase,
    and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.”

The LORD said he would make the people of Israel “jealous with those who are no people” and indicated he “will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21). This part of the song’s message has to do with God’s salvation being offered to the whole world. Romans 10:5-21 focuses on the message of salvation to all and restates Deuteronomy 32:21 in the context of Isaiah’s prophecy about judgment and salvation and God’s creation of new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65). Paul wrote:

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Paul refuted the argument that the people of Israel had never heard the gospel when he asked the question, “Did Israel not understand?” (Romans 10:19) and then, quoted Deuteronomy 32:21, followed by Isaiah 65:1. Paul concluded his argument with Isaiah 65:2 in which God said to the people of Israel, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” The phrase held out my hands is sometimes associated with Christ’s hands being stretched out when he was nailed to the cross, but it’s possible that it was intended to convey the open invitation that Jesus extended to the crowds around him when he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus went on to say, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

Much of the judgment of God’s chosen people that is outlined in the Song of Moses is reiterated in more detail in the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. In particular, Deuteronomy 32:23-27 corresponds with Ezekiel’s detailed account of Jerusalem’s destruction (Ezekiel 5:16-17), the day of the wrath of the LORD (Ezekiel 7:15), and Israel’s continuing rebellion against God (Ezekiel 20:23). Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem included a statement linked to Deuteronomy 32:29. Luke said, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children with you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation’” (Luke 19:41-44).

The final verses of the Song of Moses speak of a future closure that Israel will experience that coincides with the events of the Great Tribulation. Deuteronomy 32:34-41 states:

“‘Is not this laid up in store with me,
    sealed up in my treasuries?
Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
    for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
    and their doom comes swiftly.’
For the Lord will vindicatehis people
    and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
    and there is none remaining, bond or free…

“‘See now that I, even I, am he,
    and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
    I wound and I heal;
    and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
For I lift up my hand to heaven
    and swear, As I live forever,
if I sharpen my flashing sword
    and my hand takes hold on judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries
    and will repay those who hate me.

Revelation 15:2-3 indicates that all those who conquer the beast and its image and the number of its name will sing the song of Moses standing beside the sea of glass just prior to the seven bowls of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth (Revelation 16:1). Afterward, is the judgment of the great prostitute and the beast (Revelation 17) and the fall of Babylon (Revelation 18), and then, rejoicing in heaven takes place (Revelation 19:1-5). At the conclusion of the Great Tribulation, the Israelites who accepted Jesus as their Messiah will reign with Christ for a thousand years (Matthew 19:28; Revelation 20:4). This will bring God’s plan of salvation to a final closure and marks the beginning of an eternal rest for all who have faith in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:1-11).

Rest

Jesus’ target audience was what we might refer to today as the working class. The segment of the population that was overburdened by taxes and what must have seemed like a never ending daily requirements for more and more of their limited resources. Speaking to a mixed multitude of interested spectators, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). What Jesus was describing was a partnership in which the toils and hardships of life were shared between him and his followers. The yoke, a wooden crosspiece that was fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart that they were to pull, was symbolic of joint labor. Jesus wasn’t asking his followers to go it alone; he was assuring them that he would be by their side, handling life’s challenges along with them.

One of the things that Jesus was trying to clarify was God’s expectations for his children. Jesus didn’t tell his followers that they would have a life of ease, but promised them that life would be easier with his help. Jesus’ statement, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” referred to being used by God. A believer’s burden is the responsible he has for his own moral behavior and his accountability to God for making spiritual progress throughout his life (Galatians 6:4). The purpose of a yoke was to balance out the load so that a larger burden could be handled. The Greek term translated yoke, zophos means “a coupling” (2218). If you think of a couple as being complementary partners, you could say that as a partner, Jesus can provide anything that might be lacking in an individual’s spiritual capabilities.  In order to do God’s will, Jesus was saying that he could supply everything that was necessary to complete the spiritual work that each individual needed to accomplish.

The rest that Jesus invited his followers to take part in was not a vacation from work, but a type of recreation that made work less burdensome. “Christ’s rest is not a rest from work, but in work; not the rest of inactivity but of the harmonious working of all the faculties and affections – of will, heart, imagination, conscience ‘ because each had found in God the ideal sphere for its satisfaction and development” (372). Another way of describing the kind of rest that Jesus wanted his followers to experience would be collaboration. The Apostle Paul depicted collaboration as a “building fitly framed together” (Ephesians 2:21), and also said we are all “members” (Ephesians 5:30) of Christ’s body. In other words, everyone has a part to play in the work of God’s kingdom. When we all join together and do what each of us has been specifically designed by God to do best, our work seems easier and the “burden” (Matthew 11:30) of it much lighter. Therefore, doing God’s will becomes a type of rest or recreation that we want to do more often.

Rest

God designed the world to operate in a state of perpetual motion. The fact that the earth rotates at an approximate speed of 1000 miles per hour on a continual basis demonstrates that humans are wired for activity, but there is also an innate need for us to rest. The example God gave us in his work of creation was six days of activity followed by one day of rest. It says in Genesis 2:3, “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The Hebrew word translated rest, shabath (shaw – bath´) is where the word Sabbath or the concept of a day of rest comes from (7673). God intended rest to be a part of our lives, but very few people understand why it is important.

God did not need to rest after he created the world. The purpose of his rest was to acknowledge the completion of his work, to see that it was finished. The process of ending is important because it shows us that it is possible to complete something from a standpoint of perfection. In fact, the Hebrew word translated perfect, tamiym means complete (8589). When Abraham was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). In other words, God was saying he wanted to bring Abraham to a place of rest or his life to a point of completion. Closely related to the idea of completion is purpose or destiny. When we walk before the LORD, we arrive at the destination he has predetermined to be our place of rest, our perfect ending.

When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God wanted them to enter into his rest, which means he wanted them to end up at the same place he was. You could say that God’s temple was his house or his place of residence, but it was really just a marker for the entrance of his Messiah into the world. In order to ensure that his birth would occur and not be overlooked by his chosen people, God designated a specific location for his Messiah to be born. In a sense, you could say that location was God’s place of rest,  but technically it was Jesus birth, and subsequent death, that marked completion of God’s work of salvation. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

There was really only one requirement for the Israelites’ Messiah to be born. God’s people had to occupy the territory he had designated for an inheritance to Abraham and his descendants. The problem was that the Promised Land was inhabited by other people and the Israelites couldn’t get rid of them. The ongoing battle between Israel and its surrounding neighbors continued until the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. After they were released from captivity, the Israelites were reluctant to return to their homeland because they feared being overtaken again. The Jews were dispersed throughout the Persian Empire when Esther became queen. After Haman the Agagite’s plot to kill all of God’s people was uncovered and stopped, it says in Esther 9:16 that the Jews had rest from their enemies.

The defeat of Haman brought rest or completion to the Jews because his death fulfilled the last Old Testament commandment as well as prophecy related to the Israelites’ occupation of the Promised Land before the Messiah’s birth. It says in Deuteronomy 25:17-19, “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.”

Rest

Five years ago, when my dad died, I reached a point in my life where I felt it was time for me to settle down. The decade before that had been a restless one. I had moved eight times between three different states, changed jobs as many times, and battled all the demons of my past until I became free from the guilt and shame of a lifetime of mistakes. My dad had a strong influence on me when I was growing up and he was the person most responsible for my way of thinking about things. His death was fairly sudden and unexpected, so it took awhile for me to realize that my dad was really gone, but when I did, I was relieved. It was as if the dark cloud that had been hanging over my life finally disappeared and I was able to hope for the first time that my life could be different.

Prior to Solomon beginning construction on the Temple of God, a certain condition had to exist in the land of Israel. It says in 1 Kings 5:4, “But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent.” The word translated adversary, sâtân (saw – tawn´) means an opponent. In some cases it stands for Satan, “the arch-enemy of good” (7854), but in this case, satan is referring to the people surrounding Israel that fought against them to try and keep the Israelites from dwelling in the Promised Land. An evil occurrent could be a random act of violence or attack that drew the Israelites into battle. This happened continually during king David’s reign. What Solomon was probably saying was that the Israelites had no more need to fight. They were safe and secure in the land of Israel.

I believe a part of being in the will of God has to do with where we live. In order for certain things to happen, I think we have to be in the place where God has planned for them to happen. When I moved into my current residence, I felt it was the place where God wanted me to be. Knowing that I was where God wanted me to be made me feel safe and secure. I was able to settle down because I had found my place in the world and felt I belonged there.

Entering a time of rest

“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). The word translated provoked in this verse is the same word translated moved in 2 Samuel 24:1 where it says, “And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.”

It would appear that both the LORD and Satan caused David to number or take a census of Israel’s army. The Hebrew word cuwth (sooth) means to prick or stimulate and by implication to seduce (5496).

After David instructed Joab to number the people, Joab asked him, “why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (2 Samuel 24:3). The word translated delight, chaphets (chaw – fates´) indicates the prompting of the heart to take a certain course of action (2654), so you could say the LORD put it on David’s heart to number the people.

“Satan is an adversary or plotter, one who devises means for opposition” (7854). As in the situation with Job, Satan directly attacked David, but he did it through a completely different means. Satan used David to bring judgement on Israel. It is possible that God was behind Satan’s attack because it says in 2 Samuel 24:1 that he was angry with Israel. “God took direct action to test David to help him learn a vital lesson. God tests believers to help them make the right choices and not depend on their own human strength” (7854).

God was preparing Israel for a time a of rest. He wanted them to settle down and cease from military activity. (2 Samuel 22:9). As David’s death approached, a transition was taking place so that his son Solomon could establish a temple, “to build a house for the LORD God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 22:6).

David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying, Is not the LORD your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side” for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the LORD, and before his people. (1 Chronicles 22:17-18)

The word translated rest, yether implies superiority or preeminence (3499). The Israelites had tread down or subdued their enemies to the point where they no longer needed to worry about the size of their army. It was a time for them to focus on worshipping the LORD and tending to their homes and families.

David concluded his final command to the princes of Israel with these words, “Now set your heart and soul to seek the LORD your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19). In essence, what David was instructing the people to do was give their hearts to God. The idea being that they would immerse themselves in his word and learn how to do things his way. They were to discover the will of God and do it.

Harden not your heart

It is natural for us to want our own way. Everyone has likes and dislikes, preferences that guide our behavior. God’s preferences are established through election, a divine selection process that results in one person being favored over another (1589) such as with Jacob and Esau. “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13).

God’s ways are likened to a road that represents a course of life or mode of action (1870). When Jesus walked on the earth, he followed a particular pathway that he referred to as the will of his Father. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:39). The Greek word translated will, thelema (thel´ – ay – mah) means choice, “what one wishes or has determined shall be done” (2307).

In Psalm 95, God is referred to as our Maker. It says in verses 6 – 7, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” The act of kneeling or bowing down before the LORD is an act of submission. It shows that we are willing to honor his preferences above our own.

In Psalm 95, we are instructed, “To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Psalm 95:7-8). In order to hear God’s voice, we must give him our undivided attention (8085). The word translated harden, qâshâh (kaw – shaw´) means to be dense. It conveys the idea of not being able to get through to someone. “This word marks the restlessness, impatience, petulance, and irritability with which Pharaoh’s course of action was characterized while he was resisting the urgent appeals of both Moses and his own people” (7185).

Many times when God speaks to us, we don’t pay attention because we are too busy or have already decided what we think will work best for us. It took the Israelites 40 years to get to the point where they were willing to give God’s way a chance. They vacillated between going forward to the Promised Land and heading back to Egypt where they had been slaves for hundreds of years. The bottom line was they didn’t understand God’s ways and were unwilling to step out in faith (Psalm 95:10).

A cry of distress

God, the creator of the universe, has made it possible for everyone to know him and to have access to his strength. All that one has to do is call upon his name and the LORD answers. Even babies with very little intellectual capability are able to access God’s power and defeat their enemies.

David said, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightiest still the enemy and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2). The word translated still, shabâth (shaw – bath´) means to repose or desist from exertion (7673). In other words, stillness is the opposite of work, the effort to accomplish a task.

It may be hard to imagine that a baby has enemies, but from the day a person is born, there is a battle going on in the spiritual realm for the soul of that person. In the most basic form of communication, a baby is able to call on the name of the LORD and receive God’s protection. The baby that cries out in distress is not only heard by her mother, but by her heavenly father, the one who created her.

I’ve got to stop this

When the Israelites reached the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for 40 years, an alliance was formed between the tribes of Rueben and Gad and half of the descendants of Joseph that were born to his oldest son Manasseh. Each of these men, Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh, were first born children that had lost or not received the blessing that typically went to the first male child in a family. These tribes did not dwell in the Promised Land, but chose to occupy territory outside the borders on the other side of the Jordan River.

Even though they did not cross over the Jordan River with their brethren to occupy the land that they had inherited, they overcame the inhabitants of the territory they requested from Moses and were able to control the land until they were taken int captivity by the Assyrians. The difference between the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh and the rest of the Israelites is that they did not return to their homes after their captivity.

The Israelites were taken into captivity because they did not observe the Sabbath as God had commanded them to. The law about the Sabbath recorded in Exodus 23:10-11 said, “And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let is rest and be still.” Although God is perfect, he is not a perfectionist. When he created our world, he limited himself to six days of word, then he ceased from his activity. God commanded man to follow his example because he knew that we would not want to stop producing of our own free will.

Man by nature is greedy and selfish. His drive to accomplish things and be successful makes it very difficult to stop working once he gets started. The main reason God stopped working after he created the world was so that he could do something else, go on the next thing so to speak. God is not sitting idle in heaven. He is working, a different kind of work than creating the universe.

The Sabbath was designed to be a transition point, a continual shifting of gears so that progress could be made. Instead of doing the same thing over and over, a person could stop one activity and start another. The Sabbath was intended to be like a period at the end of a sentence. Without the period, the sentence keeps going and eventually becomes confusing and illogical. Many people reach the end of their work life and wonder about their careers, why did I do that for so long; why didn’t I stop 20 years ago?

The captivity of Israel was a forced rest in which the people had to leave their homes and possessions and live in the territory of their captors. The purpose of their captivity was to refocus the Israelites attention on what really mattered, their relationship with God. During their captivity, the Israelites were no longer free to worship God and could not make sacrifices to him as they had in the Promised Land. They witnessed pagan rituals and were restricted from warfare.

It is not known why no organized return took place from the Assyrian captivity, but it may have been because the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh never regained their focus. Without God’s blessing, these people lacked purpose and had no vision for their future. It is possible that once their work was interrupted by captivity, they could not start over and did not know how to do anything other than what they were told to in Assyria.

Although the Ruebenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh never returned, their land was repopulated by a mixed race of people that became known as the Samaritans. The Samaritans were despised by the Israelites and travel through their land was avoided at all costs, but during one of his trips to Galilee, Jesus passed through the land and stopped to talk to a woman that had come to draw water from Jacob’s well. During their conversation, “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life: (John 4:13-14).

The Samaritan woman Jesus spoke to was stuck in the past. Jacob’s well had existed for hundreds of years and was a symbol of the prosperity he and his family enjoyed before the famine that drove them into Egypt for survival. Since then, Moses had delivered the Israelites from bondage and brought them to the Promised Land, and yet, the woman was still living a meager existence, struggling to survive. Jesus later revealed himself as the Messiah and let the woman know that her focus on the past had caused her to miss the most important event on God’s calendar.

Paul talks about entering into a permanent rest in Hebrews Chapter 4. “For we which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:3). The rest that Paul is speaking of is not a result of our own effort, but Christ’s completed work on the cross. “God’s rest is entered when the believer is confidently assured within and outwardly lives peaceably in the assurance of God’s daily provision” (2663). This rest is prompted by a realization that we cannot reach perfection, that our own works will fall short and the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10).