Recently, a friend lovingly questioned whether I was capable of sitting back and doing nothing. His inquiry was part of a discussion of a church role that requires less doing and more being – being available, being present, listening. His question has challenged me to consider how comfortable I am with doing nothing, with resting. The Lord promises us rest but there are definite times when I find it difficult, unproductive, even undesirable. Yes, there are times that I enjoy the promise of rest, the anticipation of rest, more than the rest itself. I think that is because in this life rest is always temporary.
The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh know what I’m talking about. Sometime before the Israelites crossed over the Jordan and received the Promised Land, these two-and-a-half tribes asked Moses if they could permanently take possession of land that the Lord had already given to the Israelites. This would be their allotment of the Promised Land, perfect for their large number of livestock. Moses agreed, with the caveat that when it came time to cross the Jordan, these tribes would lead all of the Israelites into battle. So in this way, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were able to enjoy a period of rest and settlement, knowing that that rest would be temporary until ALL of their brother tribes could receive rest, too.
I am struck by Moses’ instruction for these rested tribes to go before their brothers in battle. Having received a taste of rest, these men were to physically clear a way for their brothers to receive rest, too. Joshua puts it this way: “Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you…” (Joshua 1:14-15)
Not surprisingly, the Lord was working a plan. He provided rest to some of Israel, so that they would be nourished and equipped to lead all of Israel when the time came. Rest with a purpose. My kind of rest.
This has made me thoughtful about periods of rest in my own life. I’m in one now. Am I resting with a purpose? Am I using this time of rest to prepare for future battles, like the two-and-a-half tribes? Do I believe in the promise of eternal rest, once the battles are through? Who has the Lord put in my life to lead to rest, to Him, to his promises?
My thoughts return to my church and opportunities there for both rest and leadership. In some ways, our church is a microcosm of Israel, with different tribes (families or perhaps small groups), each complimenting the others’ gifts and needs. There is enough Promised Land for all of us, though I suspect your piece of land may look different from mine, depending on God’s plans for each of us. Still, as I become more acquainted with my allotment of rest, how can I be purposeful in preparing to help lead you to yours?
Erin Holler received her Masters degree in Nonprofit Management from Eastern University and spent the next 10 years working with a variety of community-based organizations. She recently transitioned into leading women’s ministries at Grace Community Presbyterian Church outside of Richmond, VA. In addition to participating in Barnabas Training, she joined the leadership council of The Barnabas Center Richmond in 2015. Erin and Mike have two children and enjoy spending time outdoors as a family.
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