In chapter 28 of Isaiah, when the drunken priests and prophets of Israel were mocking God’s prophet, saying they weren’t wet behind the ears and didn’t need to be taught, God responded through Isaiah:
Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and “This is the place of repose” — but they would not listen.
So, then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there — so that as they go they will fall backward; they will be injured and snared and captured. (Isa 28:11-13)
Centuries later. Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
On this March break, many are on a quest for rest, a change of scene, a spring tonic of sorts. It may be far away or close to home, but it’s a welcome change in most cases.
My question is, where do you go to rest?
People feeling harried, hurried and worried will take a vacation when they can in an effort to recharge their batteries. The problem is, they come back to the same place when the vacation is finished. That oft-heard cry, “I need a vacation!” is absolutely true, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. What we all need is a permanent vacation.
‘Vacation’ literally means to give up occupancy of a particular place and move to another place. Through Isaiah, God urged the priests and prophets of Judah and Israel to move away from their self-motivated place of privilege, and go to a place of hearing from God. They answered scornfully, saying they didn’t need to be taught.
Isaiah warned that they would indeed be taught, but not by God. Their lesson would come from the conquerors who would drag them off into exile.
Jesus reiterated that rest — real, soul-satisfying, enduring rest — comes only from God. It’s the rest that comes from not constantly struggling to find our own answers, make our own way, fight our own battles, forge our own destiny, and staggering under the weight of the world we’ve put on our own shoulders. Vacating the place of dependence on me and moving to the place of dependence on God is to discover a new place of enduring rest.
Going on vacation requires some preparation. I have to clean some stuff out of my luggage, like the idea that I know enough to run my own life. That’s full of holes and needs to be thrown away. What I need to take with me is a childlike eagerness to be taught by the One who knows all things and loves me beyond imagining. It helps me if I picture going through week after week after week trying to be all things to all people, feeling directly responsible for countless things and several individuals, and then being told I’m going to the beach with my Father for a rest. All I’ll have to do there is to be a kid again, soaking up the Son. It feels so good, I never want it to end.
The wonderful thing is, it doesn’t have to. When I decide to permanently vacate my old place of independence, I can bask in the Son every day, knowing He is with me and wants to guide me. Whatever load I’m carrying, He will shoulder it with me, and make it inexpressibly lighter.
Since I discovered this, I sometimes find I’ve drifted back to my old place. But it doesn’t take me long to get back to depending on God. My shoulders can sure tell the difference.
Jesus is a lot more gentle with me than I am!