Dear Mishpochah in Yeshua,
Is there a person on this planet who does not enjoy a little rest? I doubt it. Rest for mankind has been in the heart of God since creation. That is why He ordained that one day of seven would be a shabbat, שבת (shah-BAHT) Hebrew for rest. God created man on the sixth day, so the very first thing that man did (on Day Seven) was REST. Rest is one of the Lord’s priorities for His children. It is also a gift. I love the way shabbat is spelled in English. Right in the middle of the word we find the Hebrew word for “daddy”; “abba”—shABBAt. Our Heavenly Father wants us to receive and enjoy His gift (matanah מתנה [mah-tah-NAH] in Hebrew) of rest.
Modern men—and women—seem to have a difficult time resting, especially “Type A”; people like me. So when I was invited to join some friends for ten days of “R & R” in snowy Utah, I hesitated. Ten days off? No teaching on Zoom, Bible Club teaching, Jewish Jewels newsletter correspondence and personal ministry, condominium responsibilities, ministry at my son Jonathan’s congregation, Women of Wisdom Zoom with our synagogue, baby sitting twice a week, and sorting through ten to twenty pieces of personal mail per day? I prayed and realized that since Yeshua took time out to get alone with God and be refreshed, I should take the plunge. I bought my ticket.
Packing for ten days out west, which would include skiing, helped me understand more fully Hebrews 4:11 from the KJV: “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest…” One suitcase with ski boots inside tipped the scale at 50 lbs. I was not feeling very restful when I arrived at Miami Airport. Traveling without my husband Neil is still challenging for me. I had prayed (a lot!) for the Lord to help me in my travels. As I arrived at curbside, a skycap approached me and took my suitcase. He then ushered me past a crowd to an outside check-in desk. He got behind the desk, asked for my ID, took my suit- case, and gave me a boarding pass. At this point, I was astounded and said to him: “I must ask you something. Are you an angel?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “I thought so.” A man behind me was laughing— in disbelief, I think. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to tip angels, but I did.
Long story short: God opened the treasury of snow (see Job 38:22) and 24 inches of snow fell in one day. Seeing a world blanketed in white, being snowed in, was wonderfully restful. Spending evenings sharing with my friends Chrissy and Gary about Yeshua and painting seashells was also my idea of rest. Not so restful was toppling over on skis four times in one day into deep snow and having to extricate myself from the powder. At the end of my ten days in Utah, my arms and my leg muscles were shaky. A week later my muscles were still weak. I went for a regular checkup and asked my doctor what he thought was wrong with me. (I had also competed in a condominium Senior Olympics swim the morning after I arrived home and had been to a water aerobics class.) The doctor looked at me and said, “You’re exhausted.” To which I said, “OK, but can I go to water aerobics tomorrow?” He said, “Absolutely not!” I said, “What do you want me to do?” He said, “REST—and take magnesium twice a day for your muscles.” I did—and slept 9-10 hours a night for a week. I did enjoy the rest! It is true that sometimes we need to rest after “vacations”!
Shalom שלום (shah-LOME) is the Hebrew word for peace and includes the idea of total well-being, body, soul and spirit. Wholeness. Completeness. Much more than the cessation of strife. Rest, in the Hebraic, biblical sense, should be accompanied by Peace. “Shabbat Shalom” is the typical greeting all over the world on Friday evenings and Saturdays as Jewish worshippers bless one another with these words.
The seventh day shabbat is called a “holy Sabbath” to the LORD (Ex. 16:23). Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is called a “sabbath of solemn rest” (Lev. 16:31). Yom Teruah, also known as Rosh HaShanah, is a “…sabbath rest, a memorial of blow of trumpets, a holy convocation” (Lev. 23:24). Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, includes a “sabbath rest” on the first and eighth day of the feast.
God even ordained that His land would have a year of rest: “but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard” (Lev. 25:4). The divine calendar that God gave to His people included times of REST/SHABBAT as holy days throughout the year. Sabbath peace was not to be only a once a week experience.
God’s plan for Israel also included rest from their enemies. “But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide…” (Deut. 12:10-11, see also Josh. 21:44).
Does Israel Have Rest?
As I write this letter, at the beginning of April 2023, Israel is not at rest. There is massive unrest in the streets as tens of thousands of protestors stand in opposition to proposed judicial reforms. Some fear civil war, as the country is deeply divided about the government’s plan to increase its control over the judiciary. Many fear that a divided Israel looks like a weak Israel in the eyes of Israel’s Arab enemies. Israel is also experiencing escalating violence on multiple fronts, including rockets launched from Syria and increased Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
What kind of birthday celebration can Israel enjoy as the nation turns 75 years old on May 14, 2023 (on the secular Gregorian calendar)? A bittersweet one, since few nations celebrate with Israel. The Arab nations call Israel’s 75th anniversary “Palestinian Nakba Day.” (Nakba means “catastrophe” in Arabic.) Unfortunately, the U.N. agrees with them, recognizing the reality of Israel as a modern state to be a cause of mourning, continuing its anti-Israel bias.
In addition to being surrounded by enemies bent on her destruction (Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah), the nation also has to contend with what the World Jewish Congress (WJC) calls the “meteoric rise in global anti-Semitism.” False and libelous allegations are continually being made that Israel is an apartheid state. Holocaust denial is also on the rise. The government of Australia recently decided to withdraw Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The WJC commented on this, “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel, the site of its parliament, supreme court, ministerial offices and president’s residence. West Jerusalem has been part of Israel’s territory since the State was established in 1948.”
Online hate is yet another reason why Israel has trouble resting in 2023. Holocaust denial and distortion are widespread in social media. College campuses are hotbeds of anti-Israel rhetoric. In 2022, Berkeley law students voted to ban speakers who support Israel’s right to exist. Student groups routinely intimidate Jewish students on campuses, likening Zionism to discrimination. The WJC commented: “Their goal is simple: to malign and vilify Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Is God Resting?
God’s specialty is moving from darkness to light, from chaos to rest. You can be sure that as the country of Israel wrestles with concerns about its future, with no separation of powers between its legislative and executive branches of parliament, God—the Righteous Judge—is confident of victory in His Land. Throughout the Holy Scriptures, the Lord expresses His love for Israel. “…a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deut. 11:12).
Israel has a future because God says so in His Word. He declares His future plans for Israel over and over through the prophets. Consider Jeremiah 31:35-36: “Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The Lord of hosts is His name): ‘If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.'” Concerning the Land of Israel, God makes it clear that the Land belongs to Him and He has given it to the children of Israel through their Fathers. Some call Psalm 105 Israel’s deed to the Promised Land. “O seed of Abraham His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance…” (Ps. 105:6-11).
God has spoken. He is moving behind the scenes, as He has for 75 years, to fulfill His plans and purposes for His chosen nation. Of Jerusalem He proclaims, “And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech. 2:12). Miracles will continue to happen in God’s Land until the Messiah returns and the Mount of Olives splits in two (Zech. 14:4). God is resting.
Nuakh: I Will Give You Rest
As I researched the word “rest” online, I came across an excellent article in HWL (Hebrew Word Lessons) which explained that the word nuakh, נוח (NOO-ahkh), is another word for rest. A resting place is m’nukhah, מנוחה (meh-noo-KHAH). I knew that the name Noah נח (NO-akh) means “rest,” and that his name is very symbolic since there was rest after the flood. In addition, a dove was sent out by Noah from the ark to find a “resting” place.
Noah labored hard to build the ark, but then had forty days of rest in preparation for the new world that the Lord had ordained. I wonder if there is a parallel with Matthew 24:37-39, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Lots of activity, work, partying, and finally—REST. NUAKH…and a NEW BEGINNING FOR MANKIND.
“Then the ark rested ותנח (vah-tah-NAKH) in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4). Note the connection between “rest” and the number seven. First, a flood. Then, rest. In the natural realm, we are experiencing a flood of evil. Great darkness is covering the earth (Is. 60:2). Men are calling good evil and evil good. Our world is in a state of unrest, but rest (nuakh) is coming! (Perhaps in the seventh month with the return of our Messiah.)
Yeshua, Our Resting Place
From the very beginning of His earthly ministry, the dove rested on the Messiah Yeshua. “After being immersed, Yeshua rose up out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Ruach Elohim descending like a dove and coming (nuakh) upon Him. And behold, a voice from the heavens said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased!'” (Matt. 3:16-17 TLV).
The Ruach HaKodesh (Spirit of God) rested, as a dove, on the Messiah. The article about nuakh in HWL says it beautifully: “When the dove rested and put her full weight on Jesus at His baptism, it was like the promise of hope. He was the olive branch…the One on which the dove rested and the One who would bring great peace. Yeshua was the rest that the whole world needed.”
This rest had been prophesied through Isaiah when he proclaimed the rest that the Ruach HaKodesh would bring through the ingrafted Word of God: “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, to whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,’ and, ‘This is the refreshing’; yet they would not hear” (Is. 28:11-12). Isaiah also spoke of the coming Messiah’s resting place: “‘And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious'” (Is. 11:10).
The Call To Rest
When Yeshua gave His famous call to rest, as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, He was speaking to teachers of the Law who diligently tried to live for God. Each day, these pious Jews symbolically put on two yokes—the Yoke of the Torah and the Yoke of the Kingdom. The Yoke of the Torah included attempting to observe all 613 commandments of the Law (a human impossibility). The Yoke of the Kingdom included attempting to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength. This is the “Shema” of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.'”
Imagine the reaction of the Pharisees and Sadducees when they heard Yeshua say, “‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take MY YOKE [emphasis mine] upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For MY YOKE is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Our Messiah took all the weight of our sin upon Himself so that we don’t have to!
Rest For The Soul
There is a rest and a resting place, even in the midst of life’s turmoil—an internal rest that comes from the Ruach dwelling in our hearts through faith in the Messiah. A rest for the soul that is found in the presence of God (Ps. 23:1-3). A rest in the heat of the day when we are weary (Song of Songs 1:7). A rest found in walking in ancient paths of godliness. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…'” (Jer. 6:16).
There is a rest that comes from ceasing from our own works and trusting in God’s works through Messiah. “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest…” (Heb. 4:9-11). Faith in the Word of God. Trust in the Son of God. Dwelling in the Presence of God. All doorways to Rest. This is the rest promised by the Prophet Isaiah “…In returning and rest you shall be saved…” (Is. 30:15).
The Presence of the Lord, through His Ruach is foundational to rest. God made this clear to Moses when He told him, “‘… My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest'” (Ex. 33:14). Knowing that God is with us in every situation brings peace and rest to our souls. He knows all. He is in control, moving behind the scenes for our good. Yeshua said, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). That true statement is the source of our rest, both in this world and the next. The dove has landed on US.
Future Rest For Israel
Jerusalem is referred to in the Bible as the eternal resting place of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His Word will come to pass: “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: This is my resting place מנחתי זות (ZOTE meh-noo-KAKH-tee) forever; here I will dwell for I have desired it” (Ps. 132:13-14). Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem as we celebrate the Giving of the Law and the Giving of the Sabbath during Shavuot 2023.
Resting in Yeshua,