Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the last message we saw the real meaning of the Sabbath rest, seeing that it is not merely a rest after the completion of work but that it means satisfaction. If your desire has not been satisfied, you cannot have rest. The best rest, the real rest, is the satisfaction of our heart’s desire. When we consider this matter of the Sabbath rest, we must learn what is God’s heart’s desire. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, we can see that God’s desire according to His eternal plan is to have Himself expressed and represented by man. It was for this reason that He created man in His own image and gave him dominion over all things (Gen. 1:26). When man is on the earth expressing God and representing Him, God’s desire is satisfied. When we are satisfied in our God’s desire, we are resting even as we are laboring and working. When the Bible first mentions man, it speaks of God’s image and dominion, indicating that man was destined to express God with His image and to represent God with His dominion. In other words, man has been destined by God to express Him and represent Him in His image and with His authority to set up a kingdom, a divine realm, for God’s rule on earth. This is clearly pictured in Genesis 1.
When we come to the end of the Bible, after centuries of God’s work of creation, redemption, transformation, and glorification, we see a city with God’s appearance. God sitting upon the throne has the appearance of jasper (Rev. 4:2-3), and the entire city of New Jerusalem also has the appearance of jasper (Rev. 21:11, 18a), signifying that God will be fully expressed in and through that city. When you look at that city, you will see God. There, in the New Jerusalem, God will be fully expressed. Moreover, in the center of the city is the throne of God (Rev. 22:1, 3), showing that God’s dominion also is there. In the New Jerusalem God’s image will be expressed and His authority will be exercised. Therefore, in eternity future on the new earth, the New Jerusalem will be God’s complete expression and dominion. That will be the true Sabbath rest to God. At that time, God will be fully at rest because His heart’s desire will have been completely satisfied. He will have obtained what He desired to have. This is the real meaning of the Sabbath rest.
Based upon this understanding of the Sabbath rest, we can see in the Bible different ages or periods in the Sabbath rest. Firstly, the children of Israel in the Old Testament age were God’s Sabbath. The children of Israel expressed God and represented Him on earth. Although there are many negative stories concerning the children of Israel in the Bible, they did, nonetheless, express and represent God. We should not only look at the black side of the history of the children of Israel but also at the white side. When I was a young Christian, almost everything that I heard about the children of Israel was negative. In message after message we were warned not to be like Israel. As a result of this, I received the deep impression that the book of Numbers was the worst book in the Bible. Many years later I learned that the book of Numbers was glorious. Although there is the black side in this book, there is also the white side. For example, what happened when Baalam was hired to curse Israel? God sovereignly took care of this matter, and out of Baalam’s mouth came blessings instead of cursings. Baalam said, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel” (Num. 23:21), and, “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! (Num. 24:5).
The Old Testament reveals that Israel, God’s chosen people, became God’s rest, His Sabbath. Israel secured the good land, and that good land became “the land of Emmanuel” (Isa. 8:8). The word Emmanuel means “God with us.” The land of Canaan was called the land of God with man, the land where God was able to be with man. Since God secured that land through the children of Israel, the children of Israel became His Sabbath.
Eventually the children of Israel built the temple for God, and the shekinah glory of the Lord filled it (1 Kings 8:11). On that day, God not only came down from heaven, but His shekinah glory filled the temple. That was more precious than God’s creation of the earth. If God could only create the earth but not gain it and build His temple, His habitation, on it, then what was the use of the earth? After the temple was built, God could say, “Now I have a habitation on earth.” The land secured by the children of Israel not only became the land of Emmanuel, the land of God with man, but also the site where God’s habitation was built. God’s expression was there in the temple, which was a symbol of Israel as God’s habitation on earth. When the temple had been built and was filled with God’s glory, God rested. Do you not believe that the children of Israel were also at rest? Yes, they all rested with God; that was a Sabbath to them. As all of them rested with God, they surely kept the Sabbath. That was the first stage of the Sabbath rest.
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