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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 42 - Hebrews 3:2 - The Rest of God Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Rest Of God.


"My rest."-Hebrew 3:2.



     It may seem strange that God should speak of rest or unrest for Himself. Yet He does so; and our business is, not to evade the announcement, but to ascertain its meaning.

     He speaks of rest in connection with previous labour as when He tells us that, after the work of the first creation, He rested, and was refreshed. He speaks of rest in relation to trouble; as when it was said of Noah's sacrifice, 'The Lord smelled a sweet savor;'-literally, a savor of rest;-and the Lord said, 'I will not again curse the ground any more' (Genesis 8:21); and when He said, by the mouth of Zechariah, 'These have quieted my Spirit' (Zechariah 6:8).

     We speak truly, then, and scripturally, when we speak of God's rest, and God's unrest.

     There is rest in heaven. No labour, no disquietude, no tumult, no tempest there. There was rest throughout the universe before creation existed. Among the angels, before they left their first estate; and on earth, before man broke off from God, there was rest,-rest for the creature; rest for the Creator. There is still rest in heaven,-rest among the unfallen; but on earth there is unrest. And it is to the existence of this that God refers when He asks, 'Where is the place of my rest?' (Isaiah 66:1;) and when, pointing to Mount Zion and His sanctuary, He says, 'This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.' Let us consider-

     I. God's unrest.-It is not an unrest like ours,-an unrest of confusion, and weakness, and uncertainty. Still there must be something which can only be made intelligible to us by some such expression. It is this something which is indicated in these words: 'It repented the Lord that He had made man upon the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.' It is this that is implied in such expressions as these: 'How shall I give thee up, O Israel?...Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together;' 'Is Ephraim a dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him.'

     From the hour of man's rebellion this state of unrest has existed; indicating the conflict between grace and righteousness, between hatred of the sin and compassion for the sinner. When God finished His six days' work He 'rested;' for this earth, then untainted, was such as to afford Him this blessed Sabbath rest, while the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy. He could then 'rest in His love, and joy over it with singing' (Zephaniah 3:17). But that Sabbath soon came to an end; God's rest was soon broken; and the scenes of evil and darkness which earth has increasingly exhibited, age after age, have only tended to aggravate the unrest. God abhors these spectacles of wickedness, and in them His soul cannot rest. It is because of these that He has not found a rest or a resting place here such as heaven affords, and such as He intended earth to be. Not that man's rebellion and misery have disturbed the profound and ineffable tranquility of the divine bosom, or made the infinitely blessed One less blessed than before. That cannot be. And yet He intimates to us that the rest which He had expected to find on earth, and because of which He had created it, was nowhere to be found below. So awfully have the waters of sin's deluge overflowed it, that, like the dove of the ark, He has found no resting place anywhere, at least in the manner and measure which He might have done. All is sin;-sin; and this hinders rest; for holiness cannot rest in the midst of sin. What fellowship can righteousness have with unrighteousness? What rest can there be where wrath and the curse are working, where grace says, Spare, and righteousness says, Destroy? What rest can there be for such a God as ours in this vast lazar-house of disease; this haunt of death, and dwelling-place of corruption; this battlefield, on which is waged the unceasing warfare with the principalities and powers of hell?

     II. God's rest.-The dove of Noah, amid the dark waste of devouring waters, found one resting-place-the ark: so God, in the midst of earth's wide and long deluge of sin, found in every age a spot of which He could say, 'This is my rest.' In patriarchal times, both before and after the flood; the altar of the burnt-offering was the place of resting. There, where the blood was poured out, in token of sin at once punished and pardoned; there God rested in His love. In Jewish times there was first the tabernacle, and then the temple, with altar and mercy-seat, with blood and incense; and there God found the rest which could be found nowhere else. It was of Mount Zion, and of the temple, that the words of the Psalm were spoken, 'This is my rest: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.' It was from that temple that the 'savor of rest' came up before Him, in which He delighted. From every other spot there came up only the 'smoke in His nose' (Isaiah 65:5).

     But yet these were not real. They were but shadows of the true, and they only ministered rest, as prefiguring the true temple, the true altar, the true blood, and the true incense. It was in Jesus only that Jehovah found rest; and it was this rest of His soul that He gave utterance to when the voice came out from the glory, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' Here, then, it is that God has found His true resting place. In Jesus His soul rests; not simply because of His perfection, but because of His sin-bearing character and work; because in Him the conflict between grace and righteousness is brought to a perpetual end; because in Him wrath finds its exhaustion, and by Him the curse is borne; because in Him all that could trouble holiness, and displease righteousness, and exasperate the law, is put out of the way; because on Him the angry waves and winds have spent their force, and died away for ever; because in Him there is at once the punishment and the pardon of sin, the condemnation, and the deliverance from condemnation; so that all that had broken God's blessed rest was taken away, and all things prepared for being restored to that holy state in which they were, when God's rest was first broken in upon by sin. From the cross of Christ there has gone up the savor of rest,-the sweet-smelling savor in which God delights,-by which His ,anger is turned away; so that He can now 'rest in His love,' where, but for this, He could only have poured His vengeance as a consuming fire.

     III. The soul's rest.-The soul's rest can only be found where God has found His. There is unrest in the soul of the sinner. He is like the troubled sea, which cannot rest. He is tossed up and down; driven to and fro. He is a wanderer like Cain. He is weary and heavy laden. Sin troubles him. He goes about asking, Who will show me any good? God pities him, and has provided a resting-place. Where God rests, there the sinner finds rest. The altar, with its sprinkled blood, was the place to which the eye of the sinner was first pointed for rest and he was invited to rest where God was resting. Now it is the cross of Christ that is the rest pointed out by God;-the sure and abiding rest. There, where God has found rest, the soul of the sinner finds it. There he finds deliverance from other things that troubled his soul. There he sees sin condemned, yet sin forgiven. There he finds God pacified, and righteousness taking the sinner's side. Everywhere else there is storm; here there is calm. He hears the voice of God, inviting him to rest here, say, Let thy soul rest where mine is resting; let that which has 'quieted my Spirit' quiet yours; let the reconciliation of mercy and truth, in which I am rejoicing, be that in which you rejoice; I can meet you righteously and honourably, and you can meet me safely and surely here: look where I am looking; be satisfied with that which has satisfied me. He hears, too, the voice of the crucified Son of God saying to the troubled waves of his soul, 'Peace, be still;' and to himself, 'Come unto me, and I will give you rest.' Here, then, is the soul's resting place; here is the refuge for the tempest-tossed. The sinner needs no more than what he finds here, to calm every tempest of his soul; and if he remains still ruffled and troubled, it is because he refuses to be satisfied with that rest with which God is so entirely satisfied.

     There shall yet be rest for creation; rest for this tempest-troubled earth; and this shall flow forth from the same source as that which gave rest to the soul. The whole earth shall rest: Israel shall rest; the Church shall rest; Christ shall rest; God shall rest. For there remaineth a rest for the people of God. It shall be glorious.

     It is not every kind of rest that will do for a troubled soul. Peace which is no peace, and rest which is no rest, are but too common. But all this is vanity and falsehood. Only God's rest will do. It is sufficient, and it is free. The sinner needs only to accept that which God has accepted. He hears God saying, 'This is my rest for ever;' and he takes up the divine words and says, 'This shall be my rest for ever, and here will I dwell.'

     This rest, which the soul gets in fixing its eye on Him in whom God is resting, is a sure and perfect and everlasting rest. It is divine rest, and yet it is altogether suitable to meet every part of human unrest. It is God's own rest; for as He speaks of giving us His joy and His peace, so He speaks also of giving us His rest; so that the rest which we get is not merely divine, as being God's gift to us, but as being of the very nature of His own rest; nay, His own rest itself.

     It is rest poured into the troubled spirit by God Himself. It is rest from knowing that God is now altogether for us, and not against us; nay, that all things which were against us are now for us, and that forever. All things that broke our rest, or that might hereafter have broken it, have been made to contribute to our rest, and to the establishment of that rest forever. Heaven and earth and hell have all been laid under contribution, and made to further and consolidate this rest. Heaven and earth may pass away, but it cannot pass.

     That which man's weary, empty soul is seeking for in vain is here, only here. That which can uproot all doubt, which can dispel every cloud, which can soothe each misgiving, which can remove every fear, nay, which can place us beyond the possibility of any return to these troubles and uncertainties, is here, only here;-in Him who is God's rest and ours;-God's rest, and therefore ours!

     Nay, and in us too God has found a resting place, by reason of our connection with Him with whom faith has identified us. He dwells in us, and we in Him. There is a mutual resting and indwelling. He rests in us, and we in Him. He says of us, and we of Him, 'This is my rest for ever.'