MAN IS TO REST - P3
“The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you’” (1 Kings 19:8).
As we’ve seen, God mandated rest to Israel and included the Sabbath in His Commandments to them. So far, we’ve primarily looked at the practical benefits of the Sabbath and the rest God mandated—practical benefits that God explained in the Law: “Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves” (Ex. 23:12).
God knows the frailty of the human flesh He created but as we will see, His commandment of rest does not end with physical refreshment for the body, “for life is more than food” (Lk. 12:23). He also knows the needs of our human spirits that He made to be eternal.
We see in God’s Word a great illustration of this wholesome truth in how the Lord responded to Elijah when the prophet was at the end of his rope bodily and spiritually.
Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah for his obedience to God’s will. Elijah “was afraid and arose and ran for his life and...went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and...requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.’ He lay down and slept under a juniper tree” (1 Kgs. 19:3-5a).
Elijah was defeated—he had come to the end of his strength and abilities under the oppression. He ran for his life and was exhausted and weak. Did God correct him, chide him, or send him back? No, “an angel touching him, and he said to him, ‘Arise, eat.’ Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose and ate and drank” (1 Kgs. 19:5b-8a). This journey the angel spoke of would lead to Elijah’s spiritual refreshment in the presence of God, but first, God restored Elijah’s physical needs with abundant rest and nourishment—even making him eat more food than he would have to sufficiently strengthen him.
God has shown us here that He understands the frailty of the flesh He has made, flesh that is struggling with the fallen estate it was not designed to function under: “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:22). What is the struggle? “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (Rom. 7:14b), “for the creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20a). The fall of the natural order into decay and death coupled with man’s oppressive sin-nature drove Elijah to despair.
What a blessing that God is merciful and understanding, for he “has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer” (Ps. 103:10-16).
How well Elijah could have related at this moment of intense weakness when God gave him rest and refreshment. But God was going to do more than just refresh the prophet’s body. He was going to refresh his soul as we will see next time—Elijah would rest in God’s strength by His mighty Word and His Holy Spirit— a picture of the rest that was to come in Christ as our Sabbath. Even so. Amen.