“‘Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls'” (Matt. 11:29, NKJV).
How does taking His “yoke” bring rest to our souls?
This offer points to a personal dimension amid the much larger one of Jesus’ mission to free people from the enemy. His words are actually adapted from Jeremiah, who promises people rest for their souls if they return to the religion of their fathers, instead of the paganism of the surrounding nations (Jer. 6:16).
The concept of rest is very rich in Scripture. It starts with God Himself. He rested when He finished His work of Creation (Gen. 2:2). His rest ushered in a Sabbath rest that was celebrated weekly. Rest was also celebrated through the year during the annual feasts (for example, Lev. 16:31), every seven years in the “Sabbath of the land” (Exod. 23:11), and every 50 years in the jubilee, when slaves were freed and debts forgiven (Lev. 25:10).
Rest could be appreciated when God was present with His people (Exod. 33:14), where there was neither “‘adversary nor evil occurrence'” (1 Kings 5:4, NKJV), nor an enemy (Deut. 25:19). Rest was enjoyed in the land that God gave His people (Josh. 1:13), especially when the people returned from captivity and exile (Jer. 30:10). Rest was also shared in hospitality with strangers (Gen. 18:4), and in enjoying stable family life (Ruth 1:9, Prov. 29:17).
However, rest is absent for God’s people in captivity (Exod. 5:4-5, Lam. 1:3). Rest escapes the wicked, who like the troubled sea, cannot rest (Isa. 57:20). The only rest that such people can look forward to is death and the grave (Job 3:11, Job 3:13, Job 3:16-18). Revelation 14:11 also has a powerful warning about rest for those on the wrong side of the great controversy in the last days.
The rest Jesus offers is a very generous package. It includes the gift of the Sabbath, allowing us time out with the Creator. Christ’s offer of rest recognizes our lost condition and restores us in every way. And when we slip up (as we do) we still have the assurance of a place of rest at our Savior’s side.
What are ways, besides the Sabbath, that we can learn to enjoy the rest that God offers us? How do we find rest for our souls in Jesus? See also Rom. 4:1-6.