The Present Truth : January 21, 1897
“My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Exodus 33.14
It was with these words that God encouraged Moses to lead the people of Israel forward after they had so grievously sinned in making and worshipping the golden calf.
The Rest of Christ
In our study of the rest that God promised His people, it will be well to remember that the promise here recorded is identical with that in Matthew 11.28. Rest was promised, and could be found, only in God’s presence, which was to go with His people. So Christ, who is “God with us” (Matthew 1.23), and who is with us “all the days, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28.20), says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The rest that was offered to the children of Israel in the desert is the very same rest that Christ offers to all mankind, rest in God, in the everlasting arms—for the only begotten Son “is in the bosom of the Father.” John 1.19. “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66.13
But God always was and is everywhere present; why then do not all people have rest? —For the simple reason that as a general thing men do not recognize His presence, nor even His existence. Instead of taking God into account in all the affairs of life, most people live as though He did not exist. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for He that cometh to God must believe that He is.” Hebrews 11.6. This shows that the general inability to please God, and so to find rest, arises from practical unbelief that He exists.
How can we know that God exists? —Ever since the creation of the world, the invisible things of God, namely, His eternal power and Divinity, have been clearly revealed in the things that He has made (See Romans 1.20), so that those who do not know Him are without excuse. It is as Creator that God reveals Himself, for the fact that He creates marks Him as the self-existent God, and distinguishes Him from all false gods. “The Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols; but the Lord made the heavens.” Psalm 96.4, 5. “The Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting King. . . . The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by His power, He hath established the world by His wisdom.” Jeremiah 10.10-12. “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121.2. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 124.8. Now since rest is found only in God’s presence, and His presence is truly known and appreciated only through His works, it is evident that the promised rest must be very closely connected with creation.
The Rest and the Inheritance Inseparable
This we find is the case, for the rest and the inheritance were always associated together in the promise. When the children of Israel were being instructed in the wilderness, they were told: “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and when He giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there.” Deuteronomy 12.8-16. So also Moses said to the tribes that had their lot on the east side of Jordan: “The Lord your God hath given you this land to possess it; ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all that are sons of power. But your wives, and your little ones, and your cattle . . . shall abide in your cities which I have given you; until the Lord have given rest unto your brethren, as well as unto you, and until they also possess the land which the Lord your God hath given them beyond Jordan.” Deuteronomy 3.18-20. The rest and the inheritance are really one. Our inheritance is rest, in the place of the weariness that sin brings. In Christ, who is “God with us,” we find rest, “in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him that worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” The Holy Spirit is the first fruits of this inheritance, until the purchased possession is redeemed. “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.” Psalm 16.5. He is both our rest and our inheritance; having Him, we have all.
We have already seen the children of Israel in the land of promise; the land, and therefore the rest, was theirs, for we read this statement of what was true in the days of Joshua: —
“And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that He swore unto their fathers; and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” Joshua 21.3-48
Joshua Rehearses God’s Faithfulness
But if we should stop here, we should fall into grave error. Passing by one chapter, we come to the record of what Joshua told “all Israel” and their elders, their judges, etc., “a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about.” Joshua 23.1, 2. After reminding them of what the Lord had done for them, he said: —
“Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward. And the Lord your God, He shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the Lord your God hath promised unto you. Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside there from to the right hand or to the left; that ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them; but cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day. For the Lord hath driven out from before you great nations and strong; but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand; for the Lord your God, He it is that fighteth for you, as He hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God. Else if ye do in anywise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you; know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you. And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth; and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing had failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof. Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the Lord your God promised you; so shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until He have destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you. When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which He hath given you.” Joshua 23.4-15
The Rest Assured Only to Faith
In this portion of Scripture we have further evidence that the inheritance is the promised rest. We are plainly told that God had given Israel rest, and that this talk occurred a long time after that; yet in that very talk they were told the conditions upon which they might surely have the rest, and upon which the enemies that were still in the land would be driven out. It all depended on Israel’s faithfulness to God. If they should go back from serving the Lord, and go after other gods, then they were to know for a certainty that God would no more drive out the remaining nations from before them, but those nations should continually harass them, and the Lord would utterly destroy them from off the face of the land which He had given them.
Now how could the children of Israel be said to have rest from all their enemies, and to have the land in possession, when those enemies were still in the land, and there was a possibility that the enemies might drive them out, instead of being driven out? The Scriptures themselves afford the answer. For instance, when all the kings of the Amorites threatened the Gibeonites, who were in league with the Israelites, the Lord said to Joshua, “Fear them not; for I have delivered them into thy hand.” Joshua 10.8. What did Joshua then do? —He went and took them. He did not doubtingly say, “I don’t see any evidence that the Lord has delivered them into my hands, for I haven’t them;” neither did he foolishly say. “Since the Lord has given them into my hand I can disband my forces and take my ease.” In either case he would have been overcome, even after God had given him the victory. By his activity, Joshua showed that he really believed what the Lord said. Faith works, and continues to work.
In like manner the people were told that God had given them the victory, while at the same time they stood outside the high walls and barred gates of Jericho. It was true that God had given them the victory, and yet it all depended on them. If they had refused to shout, they would never have seen the victory.
In Christ we have the rest and the inheritance; but in order to be made partakers of Christ we must “hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Hebrews 3.14. Jesus says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16.33. Yet in the very same talk He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” John 16.27. What! peace in the midst of tribulation? Yes; for take notice that He says, “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” To have tribulation, and yet not be troubled; to be in the midst of danger, and yet have no fear; to be in the heat of battle, and yet enjoy perfect peace, —truly this is giving in a far different way from what the world gives.
The Warfare Already Accomplished
Listen to the message which the prophet Isaiah was commissioned to give to Israel when they were passing through the most trying experiences, a message that is for us even more than for the men who lived when it was spoken: “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.” Isaiah 40.1, 2. Glorious assurance! The warfare is accomplished, the battle ended, the victory won! Shall we conclude therefore that we may safely go to sleep? By no means; we must be awake, and make use of the victory, which the Lord has won, for us. The conflict is against principalities and powers (Ephesians 6.12), but Jesus has “spoiled principalities and powers,” and made a triumphant show of them (Colossians 2.15), and has been raised to sit in heavenly places, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1.20, 21), and God has also raised us up with Him, to sit with Him in the same heavenly places (Ephesians 2.1-6), equally high above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. We may, therefore, and certainly ought to say, from the heart, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Lessons From the Psalms
David understood and rejoiced in this victory when he was hunted like a partridge on the mountains. Yet one time he was hiding in a cave in the wilderness of Ziph, and the Ziphites came to Saul and treacherously revealed his hiding-place, and said, “Now, therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king’s hand.” 1 Samuel 23.15-20. Yet David, knowing all this, took his harp and composed a psalm of praise, saying, “I will freely sacrifice unto Thee; I will praise Thy name, O Lord, for it is good. For He hath delivered me out of all trouble.” Psalm 54.6, 7. Read the entire Psalm, including the introduction. So he could sing, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” Psalm 28.3. The third Psalm, with its expressions of confident trust in God, and its note of victory, was composed while he was exiled from his throne, fleeing before Absalom. We need so to learn the twenty-third Psalm, that it will not be mere empty words when we say, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
The Strong Man Overcome
The victory that hath overcome the world is our faith. Oh, that we could realize and ever bear in mind the fact that the victory is already won, that Christ, the Mighty One, has come upon the strong man, our adversary and oppressor, and has overcome him, and taken from him all his armor wherein he trusted, so that we have to fight only with a conquered and disarmed foe. The reason why we are overcome is that we do not believe and know this fact. If we know it, and remember it, we shall never fall; for who would be so foolish as to allow himself to be taken captive by an enemy without armor and without strength?
How many of the blessings that God has given are lost because our faith does not grasp them? How many blessings has He given us? —“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” “His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” 2 Peter 1.3. And yet, notwithstanding the fact that all things are ours (1 Corinthians 3.21), we often act as though we had nothing. A man, a professor of religion and a leader in the church, once said when these texts were repeated to him for his encouragement, “If God has given me all these things, why don’t I have them?” There are doubtless many who will read their own experience in this question. The answer was easy; it was because he did not believe that God had given them to him. He couldn’t feel that he had them, and therefore he didn’t believe that he had them; whereas it is faith that must grasp them, and a man cannot hope to be able to feel a thing that he does not touch. The victory is not doubt, not sight, not feeling, but faith.