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Finding Rest In Christ

By Dennis Pollock


I have always found the Book of Ruth a great blessing to read. It has drama, romance, and a happy ending. In today's study we'll look at one aspect of this amazing book, actually one particular word. And that word is "rest." Before we get into the study, let me give you a little background.


In the beginning of the story, we find a Hebrew woman named Naomi who left Israel during a time of drought with her husband and two sons and lived in the land of Moab for some years. During that time things did not go well, and Naomi lost all the men in her life – her husband and both her sons died. Naomi was left an elderly widow and apparently for a time, lived with her two daughters-in-law who were now young widows.


Then Naomi heard that things were better in Israel. The rains had returned, and life was back to normal for the Jews. Naomi determined she would return to Israel. At least she would be among her own people. Both her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, loved her, which speaks well for this godly lady. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law often can barely tolerate each other, but in this case, there was affection and a bond of love. Both the young ladies acted as if they would return to Israel with Naomi, but Naomi did not think it wise. She told them:


Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband. (Ruth 1:8-9).


Finding Rest


Orpah decided to go back to her own people and live among them, but Ruth would not be persuaded. She told her mother-in-law that she was going with her. And so the two made their way to Israel. The point I want to focus on is the statement: "The Lord grant that you may find rest." The Hebrew word used here has the literal meaning of rest, but it was often used to denote security – a comfortable, secure place of peace and prosperity.


If anybody needed this kind of rest, it would be a couple of widows living in those austere times. Life was hard enough for families, but it was nearly impossible for widows, particularly if they had no grown son to take care of them. Naomi's wish for her two daughters-in-law was that they might find a secure place of comfort in life with a new husband who could love them, provide for them, and defend them.


Two chapters later in this book, we find the term "rest" used once again. After Naomi and Ruth make it back to Naomi's hometown, Ruth goes out to "glean" in the fields to provide some food for herself and her mother-in-law. She comes home with more grain than expected and reports how kind the landowner has been toward her. Apparently, that put some thoughts in Naomi's head, and she immediately began to plan how she might turn this kindness into something more. She tells Ruth: "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?" (Ruth 3:1).


A Secure Place


"Security" is the word the New King James Version uses, but the actual Hebrew word used here is identical to the word used earlier. It is literally "rest" but with the meaning of a secure, safe place of prosperity and peace. Naomi did not want to see Ruth become a penniless beggar or a lowly gleaner for the rest of her life, barely feeding herself and living on almost nothing. She wanted a bright, happy, and prosperous future for her daughter-in-law and concocted a plan for Ruth to meet Boaz, the wealthy farmer who owned the field, in the hope that marriage would result. And, with God's help and grace, it worked out just as Naomi hoped. Boaz did indeed marry Ruth, and both Ruth and Naomi never had financial struggles again. Ruth got her "rest," and Naomi enjoyed the fruits of it as well.


I believe there is something in this idea of rest for every one of us, widows and non-widows, men and women. We all need rest! We all crave a safe, comfortable place in life where we can live out our days peacefully, without constant crises and dramas. I am probably more keenly aware of this than many, due to the fact that I have moved and changed jobs, careers, and ministries numerous times in my life. I know what it is like to be like Ruth, without a steady income, without strong roots, and envious of people who had them. I have experienced times when it seemed I was surely on the verge of collapsing, economically and emotionally. During those times I have felt a great need for "rest."


I have also experienced times of prosperity and abundance. I have lived in nice houses and worked at good jobs and in wonderful ministries. I have had many occasions to thank God for the rest He has provided and the blessing of not only being able to make a comfortable living, but to have meaningful, fulfilling work and ministry as well.


How to be Abased / How to Abound


The apostle Paul seemed to be saying that this had been his situation when he wrote:


I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)


Most of us can identify. Hardly anyone hasn't had a few scary seasons in their lives, along with some seasons of relative peace and stability. But for some, the crises and the dramas outweigh the peaceful, stable, comfortable times. Some unhappy people seem to be always going through a crisis; and when that crisis has run its course, another follows hard on its heels.


Continual Crises


It is an unhealthy way of life. God has made us all fairly resilient and most of us can manage some tough times here and there without suffering any permanent damage. But when crisis follows crisis and stress follows stress, we can sink under the weight of continual trauma. We owe it to ourselves to be like Naomi, to seek for ourselves a place of rest and security that will endure.


For Ruth it involved going down to the threshing floor where Boaz was sleeping, lying down at his feet, and then, asking him to marry her. It is unlikely that any of us will find (or should attempt to find) rest in that fashion. But the principle still holds: we should all seek rest for ourselves. We cannot merely pray for it. We probably are going to need to do some things under God’s direction.


It could be as simple as finding a good job that pays well, which will enable us to pay our bills on time and keep us from constantly fretting over having enough money to feed ourselves. It may involve going to college or enrolling in a trade school. But God's rest for us involves more than just money. It involves those blessings that will enable us to enjoy our lives and have enjoyable days, one following another. Some marriages produce this; others work in the very opposite fashion. Where there is love, respect, and affection in relationships, we are far more likely to enjoy rest and develop day to day routines and rhythms which are pleasant and comfortable. Proverbs says: "Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife." (Proverbs 17:1). A home where Mom and Dad constantly fight with each other, and where children learn early to express their anger freely and often is not a place of rest.


Prioritizing Rest


In order for us to have rest in our homes and in our lives, we must seek that rest, and if we are to seek it, we must value it. Just like Naomi saw rest for Ruth as a necessity, even to the point of telling her to do something that women almost never did, we, too, must so prioritize a life of rest, stability and peace that we will do whatever we can legitimately do to obtain it. And of course, we must pray for it.


Stability is much preferred over instability. Orderly, peaceful lives where we can establish positive, godly, pleasant routines and relationships make for fruitfulness and contentment. Such a life is worth the price (or prices) we must pay. Discipline, hard work, conservative financial practices, biting our tongue when we want to lash out, allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced by the wants and needs of our loved ones, healthy eating, exercise, living responsibly, acting prudently – all these are a part of the price for stability and a life of rest and security. They do not guarantee that we will not have some painful and scary seasons arising in our lives. But they make it far more likely that those times will be temporary, and that the majority of our days will not be filled with dramas and crises. We do our best to control what we can, and we trust God with the rest.


Security of the Soul


Up until now we have been looking at rest and security in a physical sense, but the ultimate rest goes much deeper than this. All of us live in a state of spiritual unrest until we find our rest in Jesus Christ, who tells us: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28).


No matter how well-organized your life, no matter how financially secure you are, regardless of how responsibly you live, if you have not come running to Jesus Christ for the saving of your soul, you are living in a precarious position. And even though you may not consciously recognize your danger, your spirit will know it, and you will experience a strange uneasiness throughout your life. If you fill your days with noise and excitement and fun and a quest for money, you may be able to drown out and override this uneasiness most of the time, but in your quiet moments it will return. As good as things are with you, as carefully as you have been in planning and organizing every detail of your life, something is not quite right.


And of course, that is precisely the case. You are still living in a sinful and selfish state. You are outside of Christ and without hope. You may have rest and security in the physical realm, but in the spiritual realm there is turmoil. To use Biblical terms, you are "without God and without hope;" you are "children of wrath" and "vessels for dishonor." The good news is that all of this can be changed in an instant. You can be transformed from vessels of wrath to vessels of mercy, from sons of disobedience to children of the Heavenly Father, destined to live forever with God in heaven.


Here is the ultimate rest; this is the security of the soul, that place of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. It comes through Jesus, as a result of His death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection three days later. As the old hymn declares: "Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my Savior am happy and blessed," and that rest endures forever. Run to Jesus, believe on Him, and receive eternal life – and rest.




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