Monday, July 2, 2012

Rest in Him (And He Means It!)

"It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever." (Leviticus 16: 3)

In this fascinating verse, "Sabbath of rest" is actually "shabbat shabbatown", or "The most restful of rests". When the Hebrew repeats a word, that makes it a superlative, just like Isaiah 26: 3:

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." Here, "perfect peace" is actually "shalom shalom".

Back to Leviticus 16: 3, the repetition of "shabbat shabbat" could also be read as: "Chill out! And I mean it!"

This passage reminds me of Moses’ command to the Israelites’ fleeing from Egypt:

Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”(Exodus 14: 13)

The word "afflict" in the verse from Leviticus has a double meaning, for those who do not see how "afflicting one's soul" would qualify as resting. The double meaning embedded in "v'initem", "afflict" means "humble yourselves", that we may receive more of God's grace and goodness in our lives.

The Holy Spirit speaking through Isaiah explicitly denounces such voluntary humility:

"Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?" (Isaiah 58: 5)

Instead, He wants us to draw out what we have to others:

"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

"Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" (Isaiah 58: 6-7)

This passage accords with Isaiah's later prophecies, which Jesus the Messiah confirmed before His hearers in Luke 4:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

"To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

"And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down." (Luke 4: 18-20)

We accomplish these blessed works through Jesus Christ, our righteousness, who lives and works in every believer. This truth connects with the promise of the Holy Spirit delivered to us in Isaiah 58:

"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward." (Isaiah 58: 8)

Notice how it says that our righteousness will "break forth." We do not create our righteousness, but receive it by faith (Genesis 15: 6; Ephesians 2: 4-10), but it breaks forth through our outward  imputation of faith:

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2: 12-13)

And what's the key element that enables our righteousness, and for it to break forth as the morning:

"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:"
(Isaiah 58: 13)

By resting in Christ, we effect our faith into obedience. And for the believer in Christ, we receive this rest for ever:

"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.

"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Hebrews 4: 9-11)

We rest in Him, and He works  through us: What’s not to like?

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