REST FOR THE SOUL

BY:  HARRY R. FOX JR.

A sermon delivered to a Japanese congregation in Tucson, Arizona

JULY 12, 1998

“Tamashii no Ansoku” is Japanese for “Rest of the Soul”

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus invites all who labor and are heavy laden to come to him and receive rest for their souls. The third and fourth chapters of Hebrews are devoted to the importance of our not refusing God’s invitation for us to enter into His rest. God’s “rest” is symbolized by the land of Canaan which is called the land of “milk and honey.” (See Ex. 3:8, 17; 13:15; Lev. 20:24; Num. 13:27; 14:8; 16:13-14; Deut. 6:3; 11:9; 26:9; 26:15;27:3; 31:20; Jer. 11:5; 32:22; Ezek. 20:6,15.) We are told that the Israelites whom God had delivered out of Egyptian bondage were afraid to enter Canaan because they were afraid of the “giants” in the land. This raises the question of the “symbolic” meaning of this fear.

Symbolically speaking, we would answer that they were afraid of whatever was symbolized by “milk and honey.” This, in turn, leads us to conclude {symbolically} that the Israelites were afraid of “sweetness, softness, warmth, and tender loving care” what we associate with the mother-infant relationship. And that is exactly what Jesus encountered the night he wept over the city of Jerusalem and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, . . . How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings AND YOU WOULD NOT” (Matthew 23:37, Emphasis is mine)

This brings us to the twelfth and thirteenth verses of the fourth chapter of Hebrews where we are told that the means through which God enables us to overcome our fear of milk and honey (i.e. “rest“) is His two-edged-sword-word which opens us up and lays us bare with whom we have to do. That word is the Gospel which informs us of how God first opened up Himself to us when Jesus Christ died on the cross. On that day a great earthquake shook the temple in Jerusalem and caused the curtain to be torn open and permitted all of us to enter into His holy presence, a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:19-22) This “good news” sets us at ease and enables us to open up ourselves to Him and to any others who share in His gracious spirit. The essence of this good news is what the Apostle Peter basically told his hearers as recorded in the second chapter of Acts: that when all of us did our worst to God in nailing His Son to the cross, God did His best for us in forgiving all of us.

The Apostle Paul echoes the same truth in Romans 5:6-11 and 8:31-39 when he says in 5:10 that “while we were enemies (of God) we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” This is “milk and honey” information; it is the warm, sweet non-threatening news that God took upon Himself the consequences which we should have borne for our sins. Admittedly, this sounds too good to be true. But it is true! When we accept it to be true we are delivered from our defensiveness and are able to open up and gratefully love God. We then find ourselves with the energy to do His will in our lives. We can begin to admit who we really are and not waste the energy for trying to cover up and maintain a defensive posture toward God and others.

This is the kind of information, which feeds and nurtures our hungry souls. I believe that the greatest need on earth has always been for more NURTURE, the chief element being better FEEDING. We need to be fed until our souls are filled to overflowing, such as the Apostle Paul prays for in Ephesians 3:14-19, that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Emphasis is mine). What we all want more than anything else is to love and be loved. Our inability to love as we should is largely due to our not having been sufficiently loved. In John 4:18-19 we are told that there is no fear in love because perfect love casts out all fear and that we are able to love in this fearless way because God first loved us. Most of His love is delivered through human channels. To whatever extent our need for love has been met we are able to become channels of love to others.

In conclusion, I want to take another look at Hebrews 4:12-13. We usually have ambivalent feelings about our real selves being exposed. Initially, we feel afraid of such exposure. But on further reflection we know deep down that we want our real selves to be exposed: we want to be known and loved for who we really are. But, unless we are encountered by someone who provides us with a non-threatening environment in which to open up, we generally choose to keep ourselves closed up. Thankfully, the Gospel of Christ enables us to overcome our fear of exposure and to open up and let ourselves be known. This is part of what it means to enter into God’s rest and to experience the rest for our souls into which Jesus invites us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REST FOR THE SOUL [Harry R. Fox, Jr.]          1

 

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