What is God’s rest?

Hebrews 4:1-13 speaks of God’s rest. It tells of a rest that we are invited into, that those who wandered the wilderness never found and that God completed at the time of creation. But what is God’s rest? And if it was completed since the beginning, why do so many strive for it and never find it? 

God finished the work after creating the world and mankind and then rested. You and I are invited into that same rest. See, God created all things, looked around and said, “It is good.” Then creation — mankind — said, We want better. Adam and Eve wanted to be more like God and to know all that God knew. Rather than stay innocent, they desired to know the difference between good and evil instead of resting in what was simply good. They took what was not theirs to take and lost the rest that God had provided them. Their days would be filled with working the ground for survival and learning to access from the earth what was for their good and what was not. 

Not wanting to leave mankind to fail on their own, God stepped in and gave the law. This law was the measure by which they would learn to decipher the difference between good and evil. It gave structure and order but did not provide rest. Instead, what was discovered is that they could not on their own follow every letter of the law. Goodness eluded them with every bad decision. 

Hebrews 4:3 (MSG) says, “Remember that God said, Exasperated, I vowed, ‘They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.’”

Why did God hand them a law that was impossible to live up to?

Here’s the thing: God had already completed the work. The rest had already been given. But mankind could not understand, so God broke it down for us. We were handed a list of rules that outlined the very thing we asked for, the knowledge of good and evil. Then once we realized that no amount of striving would be enough to live into the goodness and forsake the evil, God asked if we’d had enough. 

It’s as if God was saying, “OK, I think you’ve got it now. It’s impossible without Me. So here’s My kid, Jesus. He’s gonna give you access back into My rest, the rest that never left you but has always been just outside of your reach.” 

Jesus came to this earth and fulfilled the law, the very law we could not fulfill, in order to restore us back into God’s rest. 

So what is God’s rest? It’s grace, it’s goodness, it’s the place where you are so focused on God that the overflow into your life is good. When we hand over the reins and say to God, “Not my will but Yours,” then we are in a place where we begin to align our desires with His and rest into His goodness.

God’s rest is a place we can never get to through works. No matter how hard we strive, no matter how many “good” deeds we do, without His grace we will never get there. To enter into God’s rest you simply accept Him into your life, admit you can’t get there on your own and accept the gift of God’s grace that has been available to you since the very beginning. 

For a more in depth study on God’s rest, read "Near to the Heart of God: A Study on the Book of Hebrews," chapter 9.