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When You Need Rest that a Nap Can’t Give

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The fence outside my window drips wet. Beyond it is a cold, gray sky. What happens when the walls you’ve built up start to crumble? When the plans you’ve made start cracking? When the tired isn’t the kind a nap can cure?

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

Jerusalem was surrounded by walls. These walls offered protection, boundaries, limits. They protected the people, and they protected the temple within. But at the time of this message from Isaiah, the walls have been destroyed by Israel’s enemy. When His people feel forsaken and defeated, their God is reminding them that even in the midst of very dark days, He has not forgotten them. Bricks and mortar can crumble, but His children are still engraved on the palms of His hands. El Roi still sees them.

Divine rest doesn’t mean that situational circumstances are good. It doesn’t mean happy-go-lucky all the time. And it doesn’t mean a week-long vacation to the Caribbean. Pain splits us. Dreams shatter. Things don’t work out like we hoped they would. And right there in the middle of that rubble, He is whispering to them and to us that we are still in the palm of His hand. No matter what our circumstances, our unmet desires, our prayers that seem unanswered—our names are still engraved on the palms of His hands.

What does it look like to be temple-building, to have divine rest, to Sabbath? It’s not laziness because the Bible is clear that we are supposed to persevere, to press on. No, temple-building is our caring about one thing—being in His Presence.

“One thing have I asked of the Lordthat will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

God gave the regulations around Sabbath in the Old Testament to help His people carve out time to be in His presence. In the New Testament, God came to dwell with His people in Jesus Christ, thus making Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath. His Presence walked among us. He ate and drank, walked and talked, bled and died. And then at Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit came to dwell within those who believed. From beginning to end, it was about His Presence. It was about God Almighty dwelling among His people. Our Sabbath comes when we rest in His presence. Temple-building happens when we spend time in God’s Word, when we pray Scripture, when we worship alone and worship together, when we gather and break bread with people, when we remember how He broke and poured.

Remember Martha and Mary?

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42, emphasis mine

Mary chose the good portion. Mary could rest with a contentment that came not from what she had done but what the One she worshiped had done. 

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5, emphasis mine

Every day we have a million choices for how to spend our time and where to place our attention. When the Lord is our chosen portion, we can choose to get off the rat race and stop keeping up with the Joneses. We can be content in who we are because of Who we worship.

God’s Word isn’t about a self-help book. It isn’t a new diet, a new organization strategy, or a new way to declutter. The gospel isn’t about self-help at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. The gospel is about Jesus doing what we could NEVER do. And that’s where our rest comes from. He did what we could never do. Now, God invites us to sit before Him and bask in Who He is. To open His Word and allow Him to do His work within us.

Jesus Christ came to dwell with my rubble self. I will never be able to do anything good enough to earn His Presence. He knew that, and He bled grace. Sabbath is my thank you. Sabbath is my rest from performing, from achieving, from striving. Sabbath is my invitation to be a dwelling place for God Almighty. To build the temple for His Presence.

*This is part 2 of a series on rest and Sabbath. Part 1 can be found here. 

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