What does it mean to “find rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:29) or to “enter into His rest” (Psalm 95:11)? When Solomon (Sh’lomo) dedicated the Temple, he prayed for YHVH’s awesome power and presence to dwell over the Ark: “Arise, O Lord God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength…” (II Chron 6:41). He wanted YHVH’s presence to come into the Temple and dwell with all the people of Israel forever, residing in the Holy of Holies. When Israel rebelled against YHVH and His Covenant, they were sent into captivity in Babylon, and the “Ark of His presence” was never returned to the Temple when it was rebuilt seventy years later.
We know that the Ark of the Covenant is where YHVH chose to rest, and that His presence was there wherever the Ark resided: in the wilderness when YHVH was leading Israel; in enemy territory where YHVH was defeating their enemies; and then in the Temple where His presence was seen and felt. When Moshe built the Tabernacle In the wilderness and communed with YHVH there, he asked YHVH to show him the Way. YHVH’s response was: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33:14).
When Israel no longer had the Ark in the Temple, where was YHVH’s Presence, and how could YHVH give His people rest, as He had promised in Exodus 33:14 above? We have a hint of how to be in YHVH’s place of rest in Nehemiah 8:10 where Nehemiah said to the people: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength”. Nehemiah had been telling the people to set themselves apart (be holy) to YHVH as they were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) for the first time in hundreds of years. Just as the Ark of the Covenant had been their strength in the First Temple times, the “joy of YHVH” was now their strength. We believe YHVH was teaching them to trust Him even more than symbols of His Presence like the Ark and its contents.
Believers in Yeshua can rightly claim that Messiah Himself has given us rest in our souls (Matthew 11:28-29). We are now the dwelling place of YHVH’s presence, as we are living tabernacles and His Holy Spirit resides within our hearts when we are baptized and filled with His Spirit.
However, YHVH has always wanted to dwell with us (Lev 26:12) as He did with Adam and Eve before the Fall: “And they heard the sound of the Lord [YHVH] God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Genesis 3:7). It is apparent from this passage that Adam and Eve had a very intimate relationship with YHVH and spent time with Him every day in the Garden.
There are many ways to seek YHVH’s presence and spend time with Him, resting in Him. We need to trust Him (Heb 3:19), obey His covenant (Heb 4:3,6; Jer 6:16; Ps 95:11), seek Him with our whole heart (Jer 29:13) and meditate on His word (Ps 1:2). YHVH’s desire to dwell with us is so strong that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us so that we might always dwell with Him and He with us (John 3:16, Rev. 3:20). Are you dwelling in the rest that YHVH provides?