Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, “The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Joshua 1:13; Hebrews 4:8–11
With typical evocative succinctness, C. S. Lewis orients us to our world:
The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
– The Problem of Pain
In so many words, Lewis calls us to recognize both the glories and the limitations of this place.
On the precipice of war for the land promised them, Joshua reiterates what this land represented: a place of rest for the people of God. The storyline of their existence as a people teemed with tension. Their forbears had experienced estrangement from God ever since Eden had closed. A new generation of His people emerged in several inauspicious fits and starts. Then, thinking Egypt to be a refuge from a famine, the people found themselves enslaved by the very people from whom they’d sought help. Even after their liberation from slavery, Israel’s obstinacy left them to wander in the wilderness. This was a people who longed for a home.
So the land would be a bona fide rest for the people of God. But the idea of such a land would be a kind of rest for the people of God long before they ever set foot there. The hope of the future rest would lighten the present burden, and, as we were reminded Sunday, would strengthen them for the battles before them.
Due to their infidelity, Israel’s rest in the land was short-lived, but that did not mean the Lord’s promise of rest had failed. The author of Hebrews appeals to David’s anticipation of a rest for those who would not harden their heart toward God (Hebrews 3:7–4:11). This is an interesting comment by David since he was king of those already in the land—a comment Hebrews notices. If David is in the land and yet heralded a rest yet to come then there must be, Hebrews argues, more to God’s promise of rest than what Joshua understood.
There is, in fact, another rest that awaits the people of God. It is a rest grounded in the work of the Son; a rest appropriated by faith in the Son; and a rest experienced fully once we see the Son face to face (1 John 2:28–3:3).
But even if that experience remains a future reality, its reality presses backward into the present. Like it did for Israel, the hope in His promise of rest makes the burdens we carry a bit lighter. We know that a day awaits when those burdens will at last be lifted fully and finally. It makes the battles we face a little less threatening when we trust a day awaits when those threats will cease.
Joshua, the Lord Jesus, and Lewis all would have us look forward to a real rest. In the meantime, they’d have us savor the sweetnesses God gives us, and seek the righteousness that comports with the Day when we shall enter that rest. To do either of these things requires the help of the Spirit. So ask. Ask that the further horizon seen only by faith might press backward into the sense of your circumstances today. Ask also that the goodnesses He’s given you now might grant you a glimpse of the rest yet to come.