They had come so far only to let fear rule them at the penultimate hour.
Had they only trusted in God, they would have—at long last—had rest. Instead they gave in to fear and turned their backs on the LORD.
Last time we looked at the Fourth Commandment as a metaphor: our six days’ work is to be obedient and remain faithful to God. The seventh day is rest that only God can provide—heaven.
What Not to Do
After being freed from Egypt, Israel had been traveling through the desert for quite a while, and they were tired. God promised them rest in the form of a land of their own where they could settle and live.
On the threshold of reaching that Promised Land, Israel sends spies to scout it out.
Problem is, it is filled with big, mean-looking men. After forty days the spies come back and give an exaggerated report about how strong the opponent is.
Israel becomes afraid and starts to curse Moses and God for leading them all the way through the desert just to be slaughtered by foreigners:
‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’ Numbers 14:1-4
They were ready to return to the land where they were slaves! In spite of everything the LORD had done for them, they still doubted that He could defeat their enemies.
In case you are keeping score, this isn’t the only time the Israelites lamented leaving Egypt (Exo.15:24, 16:2, Num. 21:5, et al.). In all they grumbled ten times (Num.14:22), but the final straw was when they did not trust that God would deliver them the land promised them.
As a result, God said that Israel would wander the desert for forty more years until all of the current generation passed away (except for Caleb and Joshua). In short, they would not enter God’s rest (Num. 14:29-30).
Our Work Is Faith
If the Fourth Commandment is a metaphor, then Egypt is too.
In this context, Egypt represents sin.
Turning back to Egypt means turning our back on God and embracing sin.
God promises us eternal rest, but our job is to believe in that promise, to trust that He will provide even when there are giant men standing in the way.
Therefore our “work” is simple (but not easy):
To sacrifice our own fears and desires and follow Him. In short, to be obedient:
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
How do we enter that rest? By obedience to God.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:9-11
This is where faith comes in.
You see, Israel couldn’t see the end game. They didn’t know how God was going to defeat their enemies, so they did not believe.
And it shouldn’t even be that hard to believe—especially for the Israelites who witnessed the plagues, the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea.
The God who created heaven and earth, the God who brought us out of Egypt, who saved us from our sins when we did not deserve to be saved, can follow through on His measly promise to take you to heaven and restore you.
I don’t mean to be sacrilegious, but saving us and bringing us to heaven is nothing for God. It’s simple! Do you think anything is hard for God?
There is one thing: watching humans in bondage . . . especially those who voluntarily return.
God wants us to rest.
The Fourth Commandment makes that abundantly clear.
This commandment has practical implications in that it is good for the body, but how much more important is rest for the soul? If you rest your body you get tired again the next day, but the rest that God offers is everlasting.
And the hour of eternal rest is near.
Don’t give in to fear and turn your back on God.
Persevere in your faith, and you will be richly rewarded.
Remember the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Seek the rest that God provides, and you will never be weary again.
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