A STUDY ON REST AND WORKS





As mentioned in the previous study of the Shunanem woman, the first mention in the Old Testament for the word rest is found in Genesis 2:2: "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done."

The Hebrew word for rest in this verse is shabath and means "to cease, desist, rest (from labor.) It is where we get the word Sabbath.

Another Hebrew word translated as rest is sha'an and means "to lean on, trust in, support, to trust in God, lean, lie, rely, rest on, stay." This word is found in Genesis 18:4: "Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree."

This verse occurs after Abraham received the Covenant and was circumcised. I'm sure there are many lessons to be mined here, but for now, what I see is a pleasant picture this one verse depicts of rest: sitting in the shade of a tree after a journey, with a little water being brought to you to soak your feet. Remember, the Living Water is our Rest. This word sha'an is the word translated as lean in the Proverbs 3:5-6 passage: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."

The first mention for the word rest in the New Testament is found in Matthew 11:28-29: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest in your souls."

Notice rest is used in both verses.
The first word in the Greek is anapauo and means:
      1. to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect      
          his strength
      2. to give rest, refresh, to give one's self rest, take rest
      3. to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation

Strong's definition is to repose (literally or figuratively (be exempt), remain); by implication, to refresh:—take ease, refresh, (give, take) rest.

The second rest mentioned in verse 29 is anapausis and means "intermission, cessation of any motion, business or labor. Rest, recreation."

Jesus is offering rest to us. He says He will give rest to those of us who labor and are heavy laden if we will come to Him. He says if we will take His yoke upon us we will find rest for our souls.

Our souls need rest. We know from 1 Thessalonians 5:23, that we are made up of three distinct parts, spirit, soul and body. In the actual Greek there is an and separating spirit from soul, and soul from body. We know from Genesis 1:27 that we are created in the image of Elohim, Who is one God, Who manifests Himself in three different ways: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So Adam was created as a being with 3 different dimensions: spirit, soul and body. The spirit has different needs, purposes and functions, as does the soul and the body. The spirit's needs are for mercy, grace, forgiveness...the things we receive from God. Adam enjoyed close fellowship with God, thus all his needs were met. The spirit's function is to allow us to relate to God. The purpose of the spirit is to determine our identity. We normally think of our bodies as our identity, but the body just gives us the personification of our identity. Who we are, our identity, is our spirit. The soul’s purpose is to determine with whom we identify. It is our personality, but it is not our person. It is where my mind, my will and my emotions are housed.

The body's needs are for things like food, water, vitamins and nutrients. It's function is to relate to our environment. Adam's body had everything he needed in the perfect environment of the garden. The soul's needs are for things like significance, self-worth and satisfaction. Some describe them as love, acceptance and worth. We all want to feel accepted, and loved...like we fit in and belong. We all want to connect with other people. Adam had all these things in the garden, also. He was significant because he was the only creature made in the image of God. He had significance and satisfaction because he had the job of naming the animals and had a relationship with his wife, Eve. The soul's function is to allow us to relate to others.

God told Adam that in the moment he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would die. But did he? We know his body did not die at that moment. His soul also did not die at that moment. What died was his spirit. The definition of death is to cease to function. Adam's spirit ceased to function when he ate of the fruit, so he could no longer relate to God. The Bible tells us that now he and Eve were naked and ashamed. For the first time, they knew shame. They had not known shame before, but now they did. Their spirit no longer could function, so he realized he no longer measured up. He and Eve had to do their own works to try to meet their soul's needs to try to measure up, now, so they sewed fig leaves to cover themselves. And now, because we are born in Adam, this is true of us, too. We are born sinners, full of shame and die from sickness and eventually go to Hell unless something happens to change our eternal destiny.

So God had to do something. And, of course, it's the marvelous story of His plan for a Savior. God sent His Son to give His life for us, so He could give His life to us, and then live His life through us. But for now, the point to this is now we are all born in Adam. We are born sinners. When we are born our spirits are dead and only become alive and functioning when we receive Yeshua as our Savior. So we are born with souls that are in control, trying to make our worlds work for us, trying to get those needs met until we are saved and can operate in the spirit. This operating from our souls is what the Bible calls flesh. God has taken care of the sin that separated us from Him and given us new spiritual life. But the fleshly ways we learned to get our needs met while in Adam are still part of our soul life. Although we have a new identity in Christ, we still tend to resort to the flesh in order to get our soul needs for love, acceptance and worth met. We all have to learn how to walk in the spirit and not after the flesh. [1]

The point now from Matthew 11:29 is that our souls need rest from trying to get all these needs met on our own. Cessation. HE is where we find what we need. Look back at the Thessalonian passage. Notice the order: spirit, soul and body. This is the opposite of how we are programmed to think. We think of ourselves as a body who has a soul and spirit. But in reality we are a spirit, who has a soul that lives inside a body. I’ve heard an analogy used that we are like a computer. The hard drive is our body. The software is the soul and spirit.

From the time we are saved until the time our bodies die, we go through the process of sanctification, whereby the Lord transforms us into His likeness. While positionally, we are already in His likeness, He makes that true experientially during this time. But we continue to struggle with our flesh. Remember, the three enemies of the Christian are the world, the flesh and the devil. According to Romans 12: 1-2, it's a moment by moment process of presenting ourselves to Him. Surrender. And this is where rest comes in. Rest for our souls, where our souls cease from business and labor, and our spirit is the one who is in charge. Our spirit is where the Holy Spirit dwells and is in charge.

There are other words translated rest that teach us more about different kinds of rest that are offered to the believer. One of the main lessons of the book of Hebrews is on entering God’s rest. Hebrews 3 talks about how the Israelites, after having been delivered from Egypt, did not get to leave the wilderness and go into the Promised Land, (except for Joshua and Caleb) because of unbelief. The Promised Land is spoken of as God’s rest here in Hebrews.

Hebrews is warning the Hebrew Christian’s (and us) not to let the same thing happen, but “Today is the day to enter that rest.”

The word for rest here is katapausis: A putting to rest
      1. Calming of the winds
      2. A resting place
1. Metaph, the heavenly blessedness in which God dwells, and of which He has promised to make persevering believers, in Christ partakers after the toils and trials of life on earth are ended.

Strongs: from katapauo:  To make quiet, to cause to be at rest, to grant rest, to lead to a quiet abode,
to still, restrain, to cause (one striving to do something) to desist. To rest, take rest. Reposing down - abode, rest

There are many things we could explore from here, but those are for other lessons. For this lesson, we are going to continue to look at rest and works.

Hebrews 4:9 says “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
This rest is sabbatismos:  A keeping sabbath. The blessed rest from toils and troubles looked for in the age to come by true worshipers of God and true Christians.

Strongs: a derivative of sabbaton - the 7th day of week which was a sacred festival Sabbath day.
The repose of Christianity (as a type of heaven) - rest.

Hebrews 4: 10 says “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” This rest is the above word katapausis. Notice the verse says rest “from his works.” Here’s the point I want to make: when we enter into the Lord’s rest, we cease from our own works. This is major! There is such a lack of understanding of this in the church today. Because our souls were so use to trying to cover our shame and measure up and try to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Even though we are saved and have a new identity, our soul still wants to do what it’s been doing. We want to work and serve in the church and community. And don’t misunderstand...work and service are good. But not if we are doing it to try to measure up or to make us feel good about ourselves, or to try to impress people, or to gain brownie points.

Let’s look at works. The passage we just read says that if we have entered God’s rest, we have ceased from our own works just as God did from His. But we know that James tells us that faith without works is dead. So what is going on here? Look at Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Wow! Our good works have already been prepared.

First of all, we are His work, shaped to completely transform in Christ Jesus and He has already prepared the works ahead of time that we should walk (A. to make one’s way, progress, to make due use of opportunities. B. to live, to regulate one’s life, to conduct one’s self, to pass one’s life.) Don’t miss this: God has prepared the good works that we are to walk in, to conduct our lives in. How do we know what these good works are? How do we find out?

We can gain much by studying Mary and Martha. We all know the story of Jesus going to their house and Martha was concerned with much serving. In fact, she was so busy serving, that she was distracted. Serving is a good thing, right? Aren’t we all called to serve. It’s a very noble thing, right? Martha is upset because Mary isn’t helping her. Where is Mary? At the feet of Jesus. And Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the good part that will not be taken from her. It’s at the feet of Jesus that we find out what the good works are that He has prepared for us beforehand. And they may not look like what we thought they should look like. In John 12: 1-8 we see Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus had recently brought back to life from the dead. Jesus is in their home again and eating supper with them. Martha is still serving, Lazarus is one of the ones sitting at the table with him. And Mary takes a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anoints His feet with it and wipes His feet with her hair. And the house is filled with the fragrance. What an extravagant act of worship, again at the feet of Jesus. I believe this picture of all three, Martha, Lazarus and Mary, is a picture of what our relationship with Him should look like. We serve, we fellowship, but most of all, we worship.

Matthew 26 tells of a woman who came to Jesus with an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and poured it on His head. Mary is not mentioned here, probably to protect her from persecution. But that’s a lesson, too. God’s good works designed for us will cause attention to Himself, not to us. The disciples are indignant and see it could have been sold for much to give to the poor. But Jesus says, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

The word good is kalos: “beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable.  Beautiful to look at, shapely, magnificent. Good, excellent in its nature and characteristics and therefore, well adapted to its end.
      1. Genuine, approved
      2. Precious
      3. Praiseworthy, noble

Strong’s: valuable or virtuous (for appearance of use, worthy)

The word work is ergon: Business, employment, that which one is occupied. Any product whatever, anything accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind. An act, deed, thing done, the idea of working is emphasized in opp. To that which is less than work.

Strong’s: to work, toil (as an effort or occupation) by implication, an act —deed, doing, labor, work.

Mary did a good work that was the only act memorialized. Jesus said it was for His burial. That sounds preplanned to me. It’s not necessarily the kind of good work that we think about, but the Lord called it good. That’s what I want Him to say about my works.

Remember Luke 13 — Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Work is not about legalism.

John 4: 34: Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.

John 17:4: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do.”

John 6: 28-29: Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

John 9:4 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day, the night is coming when no one can work.”

There is an urgency expressed in the Bible that we need to work now while there is opportunity. We know the night is coming and that time of opportunity will be closed. Hebrews urges us that today is the day. I believe that the Lord had works that were finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3) for the Israelites to accomplish once they entered the Promised Land, but only Joshua and Caleb got to do them. The rest of the Israelites never got to do the good works designed for them because they didn’t enter His rest.

So if our good works have been designed and finished from the foundation of the world, how do we know what they are? How do we do them? Mary shows us. Jesus tells us that when she broke her alabaster box of costly spikenard and anointed His head and feet, that she had done a good work. Mary was always at the feet of Jesus. And that’s where we find the good works designed for us — at the feet of Jesus. When we are broken in surrender at the feet of Jesus, He teaches us His greater truths. He prepares us for His works. He is our greater work. Our ministry is to Jesus, our King of kings and Lord of lords. A time missed with Him will be lost forever. We might have another opportunity to sit at His feet again, but we might not. Today if we have that time, we need to take it, because this particular time will never present itself again. Today is the day. The poor we will have with us always. If Mary had not seized that opportunity when she had it, it would have never been, because Jesus was caught up in a mad scurry of events leading to His death and there was no other time for this to have happened. It’s a lesson for us to start the day at the feet of Jesus, drink in the Living Water, eat the Bread of Life, and as a result, find out what His work is for us that day.

There are works that last and works that are burned up. The ones that last are the ones that make it into the kingdom. Paul, in urging the Corinthians to grow up and mature, warns them about this. 1 Corinthians 3: 11-15: "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (notice 2 groups of 3 here) each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

I think it’s possible that many Christians have spent a lot of time in service to missions or teaching Sunday School and various other ways and may be surprised to have their works burned up, simply because they were done out of impure motives instead of spending time at the feet of Jesus and letting Him plug them in where He designed them to be. Please don’t misunderstand this crucial point. I’m not saying that serving in these ways is wrong. I am saying that serving in anyway to try to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, or to try to show other people how noble we are, or even to try to please God in our own way is a work that I believe will be burned.

We please the Lord most when we sit at His feet and learn from Him and about Him. We develop communion and communication with Him. We find rest in Him. We find who we are in Him. Then He begins to show us where He would have us serve. He lays things on our hearts, He opens doors. And they were all already designed for us from the foundation of the world. If He chooses to just keep us at His feet for longer than we think, then that’s up to Him. That is not wasted time. It is preparation. Remember Moses in the desert, Joseph in prison.

I've heard it said the deepest expression of love is devotion, not service. The greatest enemy to devotion is service. Remember in the passage of Martha and Mary, it says, “Mary also sat.” That means that Martha sat at His feet, some. Jesus told her that one thing was needed...choosing that good part which will not be taken from us.

It was the fragrance of Mary’s fellowship with Jesus, her communion with Him that filled the room. Not the fragrance of her service, but something much more costly. She was misunderstood. If we are totally devoted to Christ, we will be misunderstood, too. But there should be something in our life that is misunderstood. There are some things born at the feet of Jesus that won’t be understood. It may cost you. People might say, “what a waste.” What matters is what Jesus says. Choose the good part that will not be taken from you.

[1] Timothy Gunter, Lay Counseling Training Manual

NJKV Bible, Blue Letter Bible Outline for Biblical Usage, Strong's Concordance also used as references.



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