In my Bible reading over the course of several days my Radar began to blip (yes, there is actually such a word) whenever I came across instances of resistance and rebellion against God in the story of Israel coming out of Egypt into their promised land, which Moses called “the rest and the inheritance” (Dt 12:9). So I began to pay attention to these blips, wondering what was behind them, and asking, “What, beloved Radar, are you desiring to reveal to me?” I continued reading, anticipating His answer, noting that God dealt very severely with those who resisted what He was doing in liberating Israel from Egyptian bondage and bringing them into His rest. Being on the watch more alertly now, light began to dawn on me as to why.
According to Isaiah 14 the first rebellion was in the angelic realm. Here is the account:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isa 14:12-14)
Note the refrain, “I will… I will… I will…” It appears that this being named Lucifer set himself upon a pursuit of self determination, making his policy, “I will” rather than, “what Thou wilt.” We gather that this rebellion was the beginning of Satan (Adversary), his former name (Lucifer, morning star) being no longer true to him. It appears that a host of angels joined Lucifer in that rebellion (Jude 6).
Lucifer, now Satan, “that old serpent” (Rev 12:9) succeeded in bringing man into his rebellion. However, when this happened, God began to unfold His “eternal purpose in Christ Jesus”—that of returning man to Himself. This eternal purpose would take some time to unfold, and in the unfolding of it rebellions continued to reoccur. This is where light began to dawn on me—that every rebellion is an echo of the first rebellion of Lucifer against God. Actually, it seems to me, they are more than echoes; Satan is the behind-the-scenes instigator of all rebellion. When we see in our world around us the continual refrain, “I will… I will… I will… not Thy will but mine be done,” where do you suppose this is this coming from?
The Rest of God and man
I recall something that F.B. Meyer wrote—that in Genesis there is no record of the seventh day having an evening or a morning as did the other six days of creation.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Gen 2:2,3)
The seventh day, then, is the rest that God had sanctified for Himself. And for man. And for all creation. Satan despoiled God of His rest by spoiling Him, robbing Him, of man. This brought a curse upon the ground. The man himself was sent out of the Garden to live a life not of rest but of toil and sweat. (God had given Adam work to do in the Garden– Genesis 2:15– but it was the work of rest, not the work of toil and sweat.) Even so, having driven man out of the Garden, God always intended to fulfill the desire of His heart—the man being with Him in the Sabbath rest of God.
If you are familiar with Hebrews Chapters 3 and 4 you will know that Canaan was a type of this Rest, the Sabbath rest that man lost in Eden. With Canaan in mind the writer of Hebrews says, “There remaineth therefore a rest [Gk sabbatismos] to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). And so the story of Israel coming out of Egypt into Canaan is prophetic of God’s eternal plan to return man to His rest. “The rest of the inheritance” was, in type, the original Rest of God into which, man entering, would mean God finally vanquishing the rebel Satan and his hosts and gaining His heart’s desire—God and man together in His rest, and all creation rejoicing because of it.
Pharaoh stubbornly resisted Moses time and again, but—read the passages over again—the contest is not between Pharaoh and Moses; it’s God Himself that Pharaoh is resisting. And who is it, actually, who is motivating Pharaoh? No wonder then that God dealt so severely with Pharaoh, who refused to release His people from Egyptian bondage. God destroyed Egypt because Pharaoh resisted His plan.
Then there was Amalek who harassed the weak on their way through the wilderness. Who was behind that? God swore that He would blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under Heaven for this. I want to quote a bit about this here because it will show us something about the heart of God.
Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. (Dt 25:17-19)
Two things here. 1. God’s tender love toward the weak, the faint, the weary, the hindmost of His people. (Is that our attitude toward the stragglers, the feeble, those who have fallen behind?) 2. The severity of God toward His enemies.
Now, why did Amalek do this vicious, this heartless evil? “He feared not God.” Hold on to that thought, we will come back to it in the second part of this message.
Then the Canaanites—not those who inhabited Canaan but those who dwelt in the wilderness (Num 31:1-3)—they also fought against Israel. To their own destruction. The same fate befell the Amorites who resisted Israel along the way. Then the Canaanites who inhabited the land fought against Israel. Be sure that the first rebel was involved in all this resistance, determined to hinder the purpose of God in bringing a chosen people into His rest. God dealt very severely with His enemies for all this.
But the heartbreaking thing is that God’s own people chronically rebelled against Him. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (Isa 1:2). This lament of Isaiah’s was some 700 years after the exodus during which Moses himself had said, “Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Dt. 9:24).
A prime illustration of this was the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against the leadership God had appointed to guide His people to Canaan. God caused the earth to open its mouth and swallow them live for this. If like me you are aghast at the severity of this judgment, it can only be because it has not registered on us how serious a matter rebellion against God is.
The great rebellion in the wilderness
On the border of Canaan Moses gave the people a history lesson:
Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD… (Dt. 9:7)
He then reminded them of the occasion of their greatest rebellion:
Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice. (Dt. 9:23)
Moses said, “ye believed him not.” What they did believe was “the evil report” of the ten spies, which filled them not with faith but with fear:
And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. (Num 14:4)
Moses and Aaron fell on their faces when they heard this, and Joshua and Caleb “rent their clothes,” pleading with the people:
Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (Num 14:9)
The ten spies who brought back the evil report of the land “died by the plague before the LORD” (Num 14:37), and He swore an oath that none of those who had believed them, that is, had refused to believe Him, would enter the rest. The Lord, though he had “saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 5). “Your carcases shall fall in the wilderness” was the sentence He pronounced upon them; they would never see His rest. Why such severity? Because to rebel against Him and refuse to enter that rest was to align themselves with the original rebellion of Satan, who had deprived God of His rest in man. It was iniquity then and iniquity now, it was disobedience, it was unbelief, it was a heinous crime against God to turn back from Him. For it was to the very intent of bringing His people with Him into His rest that God had sanctified them unto Himself and redeemed them out of Egypt. From the beginning of their journey He had gone to great lengths to show them that He Himself was with them, and He would continue to be with them in this.
Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God. (Dt. 1:26)
Thus they brought upon themselves the wrath of God, as the Psalmist recorded: “To whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my Rest” (Ps 95:11). This is a reference to Numbers 14:21-23, in which the words, “as I live… surely” are the formula of an oath:
…but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Jehovah;
because all those men that have seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that despised me see it.
A very severe judgment.
Today if ye will hear His voice…
It’s quite something that right in the middle of a psalm of praise and worship the psalmist, caught up in the Spirit of the Lord, suddenly breaks in with a cry—it’s the cry of the heart of God—that is still sounding today. Let’s read the whole psalm, the better to realize the impact of this sudden breaking in of the cry. First, with the call, “O come,” there is a crescendo of praise, and then a second “O come” is a call to worship and bow down before so great a God… and then the cry, and you can’t help but sense the broken heart it comes from:
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest. (Ps 95:6-11)
Why this severe judgment? To repeat, it was because it was high crime against God to refuse to enter His rest. This was to align themselves with the rebel Satan.
But saints of the Lord, saints of the Lord—those whom God has called to be His very own—we do the same today when by not entering into God’s rest, we deny Him the desire of His heart—deny Him His will for us—our being together with Him in His rest. Our being with Him in His rest, this is to the praise of His glory. Do we recognize this? Entering His rest is not just for our own sake; to deny Him our entrance into rest is to deny Him His glory in our lives, His rest in our lives. We read the ancient story and are critical of them; we know that nothing justified their refusal to enter the rest—the difficulty of the prospect, the size of the giants, the cities walled up to heaven; it was none of these that kept them out of Canaan, but their own unbelief, their own refusal to obey God. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19). What is it, then, that justifies you and me from failure to enter His rest? Yes, I know, the difficult, the impossible circumstances. This is what we say… and we are left with a heart that cannot rest. But entering the rest does not depend on circumstances, it depends on believing God, obeying Him. “For we do enter into the rest–we who did believe…” (Heb 4:3 YLT).
Oh, the simplicity of it. The heart that cannot rest, yet all too often seeks to find rest in things other than the one thing alone that will bring rest… are we sure it’s not because we have set at nought God’s one and only way of rest—believing Him, and obeying Him? Like Israel of old, all too often we have forgotten our Resting Place (Jer 50:6). In God alone is our rest. Let us surrender to Him, then, that evil heart of unbelief that cannot rest. He says I will make you lie down in My green pastures, I will cause you to rest. “I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD” (Ez 34:15).
Let us believe Him, then. Let us know that no matter the size of our own giants or how difficult our circumstances, we may, we must, glorify God therein—gratify God, actually—by believing Him and entering His Rest, His Sabbath, which He made for man that He might be glorified. Really, it isn’t all about you and me; it is for His sake that we enter His rest… and are ourselves benefited.
And so let us be very sure then, that we know what’s going on when we are listening to an inner voice that insists it is more to our advantage to do our own will. That voice comes from one whose enmity against God is to this day unabated. To believe is to enter the Rest. To not believe, the writer of Hebrews calls disobedience: “Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience… Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:6,11 NKJV).
Let us, beloved, not be numbered among the disobedient—the rebellious.
More next time.