Psalm 95: The Rest of God

Read Psalm 95.

I’m tired, and I’m not talking about the one-off, that-was-a-bad-night, I-had-to-get-up-super-early kind of tired. I’m talking about a persistent, day-after-day, bags-under-my-eyes, live-or-die-by-my-mug-of-coffee tired.

You see, my wife, Laurin, and I both work from home, and we have three small boys. And so, there’s a lot of crying and screaming at our house. There are always toys and bits of food to pick up off the floor. There’s usually someone with a boo-boo demanding to be picked up and held. And the kids make it hard too.

I crave rest, but it’s not as simple as getting to sleep in for a few extra minutes on a Saturday or planning a weekend road trip away from the normal grind. As we saw in Psalm 92, there’s a deeper rest than mere time off. True rest is found in God’s presence. Here in Psalm 95, the psalmist gives us insight into the supernatural nature of the rest we crave.

Centuries earlier, the Israelites in the wilderness grumbled against Moses and against God—over and over again. At a place called Meribah, in particular, they tested the Lord. “They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst’” (Exodus 17:3). You may recall what happened next. God had Moses strike a rock, and out of it flowed water for everyone to drink.

Happy ending, right? Maybe that’s what the complaining Israelites thought, but that’s not how God saw that day.

Moses “called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (v. 7). The whining of the Israelites wasn’t really about thirst; it was about something far deadlier. These people, who had seen the plagues of Egypt and who had crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground, doubted God was present with them when they had a physical need that wasn’t met immediately.

What was God’s response, besides giving them what they needed? “I declared an oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’” (Psalm 95:11). These Israelites were the generation that God kept in the wilderness, who never got to enjoy the promised land. But the “rest” God refers to is more than just “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).

The author of Hebrews sees in this psalm a key to one of the great mysteries of the Bible, a thread of redemption that runs from the first pages of Genesis to the final judgment of God. The rest denied to those early Israelites was not just the land of Canaan; it was the eternal rest for which humanity was created. The land was only a picture of it, an earthly preview of a heavenly glory.

The rest our souls need is none other than the rest God entered into on the seventh day: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2; see also Hebrews 4:4). God didn’t need a nap. Instead, He created a space for rest where we could join Him. This rest was—and is—our inheritance, our birthright. But our first parents rejected it. They chose to test whether God’s words were true, whether His heart was good.

Will God really provide for us? That was the question that swirled in the hearts of Adam and Eve. But this question was really no different than the one the Israelites asked at Meribah. It was also the question the psalmist, identified as David by the author of Hebrews, warned his readers about: “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, when your ancestors tested me” (Psalm 95:7–9).

If God’s rest could be found by simply crossing over the Jordan River into the land of promise, David wouldn’t have had to warn his contemporaries about their hearts. They were living in the land, descendants of the Israelites who, under the command of Joshua, received the land God swore to give them. Therefore, this rest must be something else, something that’s still available to the people of God. “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).

The way into God’s rest hasn’t changed. It comes by trusting Him. That was the case with Adam and Eve. It was the case with the Israelites in the wilderness. It was the case with the people of David’s day. And it’s the case for New Testament Christians, including all those who follow Jesus today.

Let’s never forget Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He has secured the rest our spiritual ancestors never could, and He offers it to us freely. One day, when we stand before the Lord at the final judgment, He will look at “the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” to see whether we’ve truly trusted His Son (Hebrews 4:12). But it will be Jesus’ faithfulness, not our own, that grants us entry into the fullness of God’s rest.


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4 thoughts on “Psalm 95: The Rest of God

  1. Good morning, John. As an elder, I can tell you that what you’re going through right now with your family won’t end soon, especially if you have very small children. I can remember having days in my young motherhood where I simply had to sit down and stare out a window because I was so exhausted. I thought that at the end of my work years and going into retirement I would get some of the rest that I fully deserved. Not so! I always heard my parents say they had more to do in their retirement then they did when they worked. I always thought that was so odd, but I find that it is so. I am 77 years old, I’m on the go constantly; it keeps me young. When I retired at the age of 65, I decided that I would really have a good prayer time everyday. I have done so now for 12 years. While I was working I would set the alarm early, but it seemed that I always had distractions. These 12 years have been my rest. Some say that prayer and prayer time is a difficult discipline, but I have found it to be a great reward, a great rest and a great gift from God. Thank you for your post today it was really quite lovely. I encourage you and your wife to have a date night, or get a babysitter for overnight (maybe grandma) and sleep! It’s a very important. I know how it feels to be so tired, in your bones, all over everywhere. Blessings during the season of Our Lord coming. I love your posts and read them everyday. I don’t usually write a long reply, but this morning you really spoketo me. Thank you, John, and blessings on your day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s super-kind! Thank you—and now I’m going to try and get some rest. 🙂

      Like

      1. You made me laugh out loud!
        Blessings, Michelle😇🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow John, you have answered a question on my mind for a long time. God did not need to rest so why the resting on the seventh day? I appreciate the studies you are doing so much.
    Dave

    Like

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