“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” ~ Exodus 33:14
In the months following the miraculous exodus of the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt, Moses found himself in an unlikely and unenviable position. As he led the people through the wilderness, they constantly moaned and complained about how bad things were for them. They had quickly forgotten how much they had suffered in Egypt and dared to gripe about their living conditions after God had led them out of slavery. On more than one occasion God offered or threatened to wipe out the entire ungrateful bunch and start over with Moses and a new nation. Moses often ended up pleading to God for mercy and patience with the rebellious and ungrateful Israelites.
In one poignant moment, Moses pleaded for God to protect the people and continue to guide them. He then prayed, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people” (Exod. 33:13). That’s quite a daring prayer. Moses boldly asked God not just to grant favor to his rebellious people but also to grant it to him as their leader. He prayed that God might take him on as his very own student. I envy Moses’ boldness before God and must confess that I have prayed this prayer for myself on many occasions.
God’s response to Moses was far beyond anything Moses may have hoped for: “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Exod. 33:14). The promise of God’s presence must have been music to the ears of Moses and his wandering people. God wasn’t obligated to just hang out with them. If he chose to abandon them, they’d be sitting ducks for the marauding nations that inhabited the lands around them. The promise of God’s presence brought with it the guarantee of his provision and protection for his people. Moses must have been humbled and thrilled.
But it’s the second part of God’s promise to Moses that really merits our interest here: “I will give you rest.” This latter promise is the result of the former: “Because my presence will be with you, because you’ll know my protection and provision, you’ll have rest.” There’s a cause-and-effect relationship here: God’s presence yields God’s rest.
The Hebrews knew that by rest, God meant not only the protection of their boundaries from invading hordes but also the emotional, mental, and spiritual confidence they would have knowing that God was irreversibly with them. Rest meant that they could stop worrying about what might happen tomorrow and what enemy might be waiting for them around the next corner. And don’t overlook this point: rest was inseparable from God’s presence. One always accompanies the other.
Now let’s jump from Exodus to Matthew in the Bible, about 1,400 years later. Jesus stood before a group of weary spiritual seekers and invited them to enter into a relationship with him. What did he promise? “I will give you rest.” That was no accidental statement by Jesus. Any good Hebrew knew what God had promised Moses and the Israelites back in Exodus. Those words were some of the sweetest ever spoken by God to a person or a people. So when Jesus said them, he fully understood the implications of what he was saying.
Imagine the murmur that must have moved through the crowd as listeners turned to each other and said, “Did he just say what I think he said?” No one, and I mean NO ONE, quoted God as an equal and lived to tell about it. When Jesus invoked the “I will give you rest” promise, he was saying that he had the same ability to bring peace, protection, and provision to people’s lives as did the God who’d spoken to Moses in Exodus. He was saying they were one and the same—that his presence was the same as God’s presence, and his rest the same as God’s rest.
Setting aside the obvious theological implications of Jesus’ statement for just a minute, let’s think about the implications for our lives and faith. In his invitation to road-weary spiritual seekers, Jesus offered to be to them what God was to the nation of Israel while they wandered in the desert. He promised to those who followed him that he would be their shelter, defender, leader, and provider. And with those things would come the mental, emotional, and spiritual rest that can occur only when a person knows with absolute certainty that God is his or her advocate, not an adversary.
This brilliant note is from an awesome book called “10 things Jesus Never Said” by Will Davis Jr.