And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat (Mark 6:31, NKJV).
Jesus was in constant demand from the crowds. His apostles had just returned from their limited commission (Mark 6:7-13, 30). Finding a “deserted place” where one can “rest a while” is important to ”recharge our batteries” and return to our work with renewed vigor. God rested after finishing His work of creating the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:1-3). God commanded Israel to rest from their labors every seventh day (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). Every seventh year their land was to rest from planting and harvesting (Lev. 25:1-7). Every fiftieth year, Israel’s land was to rest during the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-11). Rest should have a calming, comforting, and reassuring effect. Rest also reminds us to trust the Lord for our strength instead of ourselves. Israel anticipated the rest God would give them from their enemies in the promised land (Josh. 1:14-15; 23:1). Christians look hopefully for eternal rest (Heb. 4:8-10; Rev. 14:12-13). With these blessings in mind, we will be taking a short time to rest from our daily regimen of writing Sword Tips. We believe this respite will invigorate us to count our blessings and thank the Lord for His provisions and promises in Christ. We plan to resume the daily Sword Tips in early June. I appreciate your interest in these daily offerings.
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16–19, NKJV).
Read today’s passage again, carefully. The writer has urged Christians to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Israel’s sins and failure to enter the rest of the promised land warns us (Heb. 3:6-15). Now, he summarizes for emphasis; Christians can fall and fail to enter God’s rest like Israel. (1) Israel rebelled after hearing God’s word (v. 16). We must hear God’s word, but that alone does not bring our souls into God’s rest. (2) God’s people do not escape wrath and punishment when they sin and rebel against God (v. 17). Israel’s sin stirred God’s wrath against them, and they died in the wilderness. Even so, Christians who “depart from the living God” will face His wrath (Heb. 3:12-13). (3) Without obedience, God’s people do not enter God’s rest (v. 18). Disobedient, rebellious Israel stands as a stark warning that Christians cannot live in disobedience without forfeiting eternal rest (Heb. 2:1-3; Matt. 10:28). (4) Unbelief is identified by disobedience (v. 19). Far from separating unbelief and disobedience, the Holy Spirit joined the two here. Unbelief produced Israel’s disobedience and God’s punishment (the forfeiture of Canaan’s rest). Even so, belief produces obedience leading to God’s eternal rest in heaven. Let us learn and live the lesson of Israel in the wilderness, lest we fall short of God’s rest like they did (Heb. 4:1, 11).
9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him (Matthew 12:9–10, NKJV).
The enemies of Jesus looked for opportunities to accuse Him and destroy His credibility. They carefully watched to see if He would be so bold as to heal on the Sabbath (Luke 6:7). With a disabled man before them, they confronted Jesus in the synagogue, asking whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath (implying that to do so would violate the Sabbath’s work prohibition, Exod. 20:8-10). Jesus explained the law allowed them to show mercy toward animals on the Sabbath; How much more so was it, therefore, “lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:11-12). With that, Jesus healed the man’s hand (Matt. 12:13). His accusers were enraged and left to plot His demise (Matt. 12:14; Luke 6:11). Consider these tips from the text: (1) Those faithless men could not heal the man. But, they could have shown him mercy. Instead, they saw him only as a tool for their devious design against Jesus. (2) Only a person sent from God could work such healing as this (John 3:2). They refused to be convinced by the power of God they saw. Like them, we must learn mercy and show it every day (Micah 6:8; Matt. 9:13). (3) Mercy and truth have met in the Son of God (cf. Ps. 85:10). The Lord of the Sabbath mercifully heals our souls from sin and gives us entrance into eternal rest when our work on earth is over (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 4:8-11).
3 The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7 Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:3–7, NKJV).
Hebrew tradition ascribes Psalm 116 to Hezekiah upon his deliverance from death by Yahweh (Isa. 38). Others view it as a psalm of thanksgiving on the occasion of some other imminent peril (Spence, Pulpit Commentary, Psalms III, 70). Three attributes are ascribed to the Lord in thankful praise of His salvation from the “trouble and sorrow” of death and despair (v. 3). (1) God is gracious (v. 5). His “throne of grace” is ever accessible to our pleas for help in times of need (Heb. 4:15-16). (2) God is righteous (v. 5). He has promised to hear and answer our prayers (1 John 3:22; 5:14-15). He is upright to keep His word. (3) God is merciful (v. 5). His compassion compels Him to protect and secure us in our time of danger and doubt (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 13:5-6). Christians learn to cast our anxious cares upon the Lord because we know He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7). God still hears us and delivers our souls from the sorrow, despair, and terror of sin and death. Our souls rest in God’s character. He will deliver us from every evil work (Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 4:17-18). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Let us rest in God and praise Him, for He has dealt bountifully with us in Christ Jesus (Ps. 116:7).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15, NKJV)
When death takes loved ones, we ask, “Why?” and “How could this happen?” It is not that we do not know the answers (death comes to us all, Heb. 9:27). Such questions come to our minds because we are left to grapple with our loss. That is natural. The gospel teaches Christians how to deal with death by developing God’s point of view of death. The death of God’s saints (holy ones) is a valuable event in God’s sight. Even at the moment of our loss, it also can be precious to us. Saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). They have lived their lives by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). A living hope has lived in them (1 Pet. 1:3). When God’s people die, He blesses them with rest from their fleshly toils and adversities (Rev. 14:13; Lk. 16:25). To “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” than this physical realm. So, we accept patiently and joyfully the passing of beloved saints, knowing the assurance of God are real and received. And so, we press on by faith while living in the flesh, anticipating eternal realms of glory with God and His saints. Thanks be to God that death is our doorway to everlasting joy. Are you ready to die? When you live holy as God is holy, you are (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7–8, NKJV)
In contrast to the one who trusts in man (verses 5-6), the person who trusts and hopes in the Lord, is as a mighty tree, planted by the waters. Its roots grow deep and wide, nourished by the water and strengthened by its refreshment. It survives seasons of heat and drought, flourishing and bearing its good fruit. So are those who put their faith and hope in God. God is our Life-giver, who also sustains us through life’s trials and difficulties. And, more than physical sustenance, the Lord has prepared for us a better place than this world of shadows and sorrow. A heavenly dwelling place awaits all who put their trust and confident expectation in Jesus (John 14:1-6). Far from having blind faith, our eyes are wide open as we see from afar the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:13-16). Walk by faith. Trust the Lord, and rest your hope in Him.
“There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22, NKJV)
At first glance, it seems counterintuitive that the wicked have no peace. On the surface, it often appears not to be so. But, what appears to be so is not always the truth of the matter. The psalmist began to envy the wicked when he saw their prosperity. It appeared to him that they live and die in abundance, without experiencing life’s pain or suffering (Psalm 73:4-9). It appeared the wicked were at ease, while the righteous struggled to survive (Psalm 73:10-14). But, looks can be deceiving. When he contemplated their end, his eyes opened to see their demise (Psalm 73:15-20). He remembered the Lord was His comfort, strength, and counsel (Psalm 73:25-26). And so, he resolved to continue to put his trust in the Lord God, and declare all His great works (Psalm 73:28). He rightly judged that “those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert you for harlotry” (Psalm 73:27). Truly, there is no peace for the wicked. Living in the selfishness of sin leads to eternal agony. Come to Jesus, and have rest for your soul (Matt. 11:29).
1 The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. (Isaiah 57:1–2, NKJV)
Because Israel’s watchmen were blind and silent, the righteous among them perished. There was no mercy in the land; sin and suffering had taken control of the land. The death of the righteous was a blessing in disguise. By death, the righteous were extracted from the impending calamity of judgment brought on by the nation’s sins. We can get so wrapped up in thinking about life here and now, that we forget the blessing death will bring. For sure, death brings sorrow of loss and separation. But Christians see it as much more. For the righteous, death gives passage away from merciless evil, to a place of rest and comfort (Luke 16:19-25). Let us view death as an exit and an entrance. Death is our exit from a sin-filled world, and our entrance into joyful peace. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). May we walk in uprightness, and see the blessedness of death’s deliverance from pain, into an abiding rest for the soul.
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9–11, NKJV)
Jesus reminded His disciples that now is the time for diligent work in the service of God (Jno. 9:3-4). Now is not the time to rest. God has created good works in which we must walk (Eph. 2:10). So, we must not be sluggish and neglectful, but energetically obedient in doing the will of God. Notice in verse 11 that obedience is equivalent to being “diligent to enter that rest” that awaits us, since not to be diligent amounts to disobedience. Here is another place where faithful obedience is defined as the “work” we do – not to earn heaven, but as our dutiful, faithful obedience to our Master. Death brings blessed rest “from their labors” to those who die in the Lord, and “their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Please do not confuse the diligent work of obedience with an attempt to earn one’s way into heaven. Obedience to the Lord is our faith doing His works, all the while anticipating our eternal rest.