The land of rest

“And Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor at the command of the LORD and died there, in the fortieth year after the people of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. And Aaron was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor” (Numbers 33:38-39 ESV).

The Israelites had been without a home for years. Forty years earlier, on the fifteenth day of the first month (Numbers 33:3), they had left Egypt after the ten plagues had culminated with the Passover. They had been “on the road” since that time, in essence “living out of suitcases.” They had no home of their own and were living in tents. They were now into the fortieth year since leaving Egypt.

In Numbers 33, Moses gave a camp-by-camp account of their travel from Rameses in Egypt to Mount Hor, in the land of Moab. Throughout this forty-year period the men who were aged twenty years and older died. This left a new generation of men to enter the land God had promised to his people. As they approached the Promised Land they encountered obstacles, which resulted in some of the people rejecting God and perishing. The remainder were still pressing on towards their goal. There were still a few months of travel remaining, but their destination was in sight.

We, too, are on a long journey. From the time we put on Jesus when we were immersed in water we have been travelling towards our Promised Land. The Hebrew writer refers to this as “God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:1).

Sadly, most of the Israelites never reached their Promised Land. This was due to their lack of faith in God.

“For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:16-19 ESV).

How do we reach our land of rest? We are told throughout the New Testament that we must remain faithful.

“This requires the steadfast endurance of the saints – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: “Blessed are the dead, those who die in the Lord from this moment on!”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so they can rest from their hard work, because their deeds will follow them’” (Revelation 14:12-13 NET).

No matter how difficult life becomes, we need to continue to live for Jesus. No matter what we have to face, we must continue to endure. We look forward to the day that we will be able to “die in the Lord,” that we will conclude our journey of life remaining faithful and active in accomplishing the Lord’s work.

Notice that those who “die in the Lord” are said to be blessed. They are blessed because they finally get to rest from their hard work, from all they have been doing for the Lord. As we get older, the idea of “rest” sounds quite appealing.

But what if we have not been working for the Lord? If we have no deeds to follow us, what are we to rest from? To ask the question is to answer it. Think about it!

Readings for next week:
27 March – Numbers 31:1-24
28 March – Numbers 31:25-54
29 March – Numbers 32
30 March – Numbers 33
31 March – Numbers 34

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Jon Galloway

After graduating from Freed-Hardeman College and teaching school for three years, as well as preaching for small congregations in West Tennessee, Jon & Arlene moved back to her home of Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1985 Jon has been involved in evangelistic work in the Glasgow area, currently serving the congregation in East Kilbride. They have three grown children. Besides writing 'Bible Bytes', Jon is also one of the editors of the "Christian Worker," a news magazine for congregations in the UK, and is a teacher and governor for the British Bible School.

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