Those who trust in the LORD
Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the LORD surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.
Psalm 125:1-2 (NASB)
Hymn: "My Jesus, As Thou Wilt!" Benjamin Schmolck, C. M. von Weber
On the way to school this morning, I listened to the audio version of the Book of Joshua, and the first couple chapters of Judges. It was a difficult morning, I worked a closing shift last night which didn't get me into bed until nearly 1 and, thanks to my commute on Tuesdays, I was in the car again by 5:30. I was trying desperately to keep up with my classes, and when I had the chance to take a brief nap in the afternoon, I had trouble falling asleep and ended up working on a project for a study group instead. It was all running, and while I know that I am better prepared to do devotionals later in the day, I didn't intend to push it until 10 tonight. But that's what I did.
I prayed this evening, and found my mind bending toward the desire to be better about spending time in the word and in seeking after God and His will in all that I do. The hymn I found and prayed clicked well with this, being focused on the desire to do the work Jesus wills one to do. With Joshua dealing a great deal with serving the commands of the Lord, and Judges picking up that refrain right from the beginning, I was feeling a trend. And that was great, I thought, but I wasn't considering how none of what was going through my mind in that moment really said what that will and command would be in my current situation.
I decided in my reading today to begin using a devotional I'd picked up last month at a sale a couple towns over, which included a reading plan. So I read the passages included there, as well as the ones listed for the day on this year's Catholic liturgical calendar because I just like the idea of a liturgical calendar and still haven't figured out how to read the Book of Common Prayer I was gifted last year. Psalm 125 talked about God's people standing firm and God protecting them and the blessings He has for those who seek His commands rather than their own "crooked ways."
But the rest of my reading suddenly began to take a specific turn. It included almost all of Nehemiah 13, in which Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to find some guy living in the temple, the priests breaking their oaths through marriage, and people just generally profaning the Sabbath. I noticed, in a way that I never had before, that not only does Nehemiah drive out the merchants and ensure the gates are closed for the Sabbath, but once that work is settled, he sets the priests to guard the gates "to keep the Sabbath holy." He reminds the people that they were originally driven out of the land, and the city destroyed, in large part because they failed to keep the Sabbath. He makes it a very important part of his restoration of the city, and then sets priests to guard the gates. This struck me, but I couldn't place why yet. There is a certain degree to which I still haven't.
The last bit of reading was Hebrews 3, in which the author notes the supremacy of Christ to Moses, and a warning that the people who left Egypt with Moses did not enter God's rest due to disbelief. I didn't get to Hebrews 4, that's on tomorrow's reading list, but I know where this thought process goes. Moses gave commands, one of which was to honor the Sabbath, but God promised through Moses a greater rest to come. The people took this as the promised land, which to a degree was true, but even Joshua points to a coming rest. God's rest was not yet fully realized, and even what had been realized was lost as they were taken from the land, forcing Nehemiah to enforce the institute of the Sabbath and place it among the tasks of the very people who had been commanded to serve in the temple. We can find rest in Christ because He has done the work we could not, He has brought us into the people of God, He has granted us peace and comfort and deliverance from sin and fear.
If I'm going to follow the commands of my God, as I prayed and read and pondered all day, then I must obey the command to rest in Him. He doesn't need me to run around all day, to put off my reading and my sleep. God has work for me, but He has decided that this work must be done by a refreshed, peaceful, loving servant and not from a rushed fool. God is not a taskmaster who will push and push and demand and demand, He is the source of all comfort who promises to give His strength and to carry my burdens and to bring me to the place where I can enjoy Him in true rest forever. The Sabbath is a taste, sweet as honey, of a day of rest that will never end; but we can know some of that rest now, and are commanded to do so.
These were wonderful words to a tired man.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation