21st Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 24 – B)
October 18, 2015
“Rest in the Lord”
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
Have you noticed that people don’t rest much anymore? Adults are expected to work their forty hours and then some. There are work, 4-H, FFA, and church meetings. There are late nights working on broken equipment that has to be ready the next morning. Parents spend hours shuffling their kids to all their different activities. And between school, homework, sports, dance, band, and part-time jobs kids don’t get much rest either. Even retirees are kept busy taking care of their adult children, their grandchildren, and enjoying their hobbies. And when you do get a chance to rest, it can be hard to turn off your brain or to get a good night’s sleep. But while you may seem to be going here and there, playing cards, shopping, working, and ferrying children around and not getting any rest, there is a rest available. And it’s available right now. So I invite you, I encourage you, to come and find your most needed rest in God.
As I talk about resting we have to start by defining what we mean by the word “rest”. Is rest simply not being tired and worn out? Is rest turning off your brain and relaxing in front of the TV for an hour or two? Is rest packing up and moving to a deserted island? Maybe resting for you is fishing or working with your hands? Humanly speaking, I think most of us would find some of those things restful. We may not be able to do what we want to get some rest and relaxation, but we know what we need. The break that God offers you isn’t necessarily the rest that you want, after all, only you can slow your life down by reducing your commitments. The rest that God offers though is the one you need more than anything.
The rest that God invites you to experience today is the one that comes from having peace and relief with God. God’s not offering you a respite from your hectic schedules, although finding time to meditate on God’s Word or to sit here in the Divine Service, can be very restive. Instead He is offering you a break from being worn out by your sin. We can look all over for a way to rest our weary souls and our troubled hearts, and yet we’ll only find what we need by resting in God.
This is something that the author of the book of Hebrews tells us that the Israelites forgot. We hear, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened…As [God]…swore, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” What God is so angry about is that He led them out of Egypt, He miraculously led them across the Red Sea on dry ground, He appeared to them at Mount Sinai, and still they rejected Him. He led them all the way to the Promised Land only to hear them refuse to go in because they were scared. They doubted His power and protection, and so God said that no one over twenty years old would enter what He had promised them. They would find no physical rest as they wandered in circles in the desert for forty years. There would be no rest because they rejected the rest that God offered.
But failing to find their rest in God went further than just refusing the land flowing with milk and honey. They heard His Word, they heard His promises and saw His almighty power and yet the refused to believe. As a result of their disobedience they would be lacking both physical and spiritual rest.
As Christian, as God’s chosen people, we have to be aware that we can lose our rest as well. The author of Hebrews says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” We can refuse His rest by living in unbelief. We can lose the peace we have by doubting Him and by hardening our hearts towards what He has to say. What God expected of the Israelites was very clear and what He expects of us is vivid as well. He calls on us to obey His commandments and if we choose sin over God it means that we’re rejecting His peace.
In a verse that may be familiar to you we hear, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” What this means is that in God’s Word our sins are revealed to us. It’s not hard to hear God say that drunkards, gossips, thieves, the immoral, and the hateful will not get into Heaven and see ourselves. In Confirmation Class we call this using the Law of God as a mirror. We look into the Law and we see how we’ve violated it. We’ve all hurt others, we’ve all hurt God, and we’ve all hurt ourselves as we have broken God’s commandments. We hear God’s condemning words and we know, or at least we should know, that God is talking to us. As verse 13 says, “And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Since God sees everything there’s nothing we’re doing wrong that He doesn’t notice. We’re exposed and we will have to give an account. The Israelites who rejected God’s offer of rest perished in were buried beneath the sand. When we reject God’s rest, when we reject the Christian faith and disregard His commandments, we’ll be buried as well, buried for an eternity without rest.
So are you feeling rested right now or are you a little uncomfortable in your pew? Are you awake but not rested? I hope you aren’t rested right now. I hope you’re tired. Because only by being tired and worn out by your sin can you truly appreciate the rest that God gives you. We talked about this before, but it bears repeating. The rest we need isn’t physical, it’s spiritual. We need the rest that peace and forgiveness give. As we hear in our reading, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.” This is what we need! We need a special rest, a respite in which we lie in our Father’s arms and feel the Sin that wears us down be taken away.
We rest in God’s arms for that is where He wants us to be. He wants us to be with Him, to find peace in His Word, to know what it means to have the wearing load of Sin taken from our backs. He wants you to rest so badly, that He didn’t give His Son rest. His Son carried His own cross to Golgotha, but the weight wasn’t just wood, it was your sin and your disobedience. He then carried that extra weight in His body as He sagged under their weight on the cross. He endured Hell and torment without a break until He gave up His life. Then for three days He rested in the tomb until He emerged to be never tired again, to be alive forever. And it’s in His lack of rest on the cross and His rest in the tomb that you now find your rest. You find the forgiveness and break you need. You know rest in God and in His Word. You find your rest in His promises. No longer do your sins need to weigh you down. No longer do you have to feel lost and condemned because you do break God’s Holy Law. Rather, in His Word you hear not just Law, you hear Gospel. And that Gospel rest is yours today. Not tomorrow, not next year, not twenty years from now, it’s here for you right now. Listen to God’s Word and you will find rest.
We don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews, but through him God gives us a great talk about rest in connection to the Word of God. We said before that the Word exposes our secrets. But the Word doesn’t just expose our sin, it gives us what we need to strive towards that rest. The Word of God speaks words of forgiveness and reconciles us to God so that we have peace. The Word of God equips us so that we can fight off the Devil and his temptations to reject God’s rest. Listen to verse 12 again, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word of God is the sword we wield when confronted by Satan and his temptations. About the Word of God Martin Luther said, “The Word of God is above all things, outside all things, within all things, before all things, behind all things, and therefore everywhere.” Quite simply, nothing can defeat the Word of God. When it says you’re forgiven, you’re forgiven. When it says the Devil must flee when it is spoken, the Devil must flee. When it says you have peace, you have peace. When it says you have rest, you have rest. The Bible gives everything it says, because it is not a collection of dead or lazy words or sentences. It’s living, it’s creative, and most of all it is powerful.
With its power you are able to push forward in your life. I know I told you to seek God’s rest, but part of being a Christian is not to rest when seeking God’s rest. Don’t give up in despair. Don’t rest on your laurels or what you’ve heard in the past. With the power of God’s Word you can push forward, you can learn more, meditate more, and find God’s rest and peace when you thought it was impossible. In your hectic lives, seek God’s rest and you will find it. That is a living and active promise found in the living and active Word.
I’m sure most of you have heard the saying, “There’s no rest for the wicked”. And it’s true. The Israelites rejected God, found no rest, and perished in the wilderness. To reject God, to reject His love, forgiveness, is to reject His rest. Those who reject God not only lose rest here but for eternity as well. For you though there is rest. Not a rest from your hectic lives, although I’m positive that time in God’s word and house will give you some of that as well, but a rest that is found in the forgiveness of your sins, an eternal rest in Christ Jesus.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen