Quietness and Rest

Quietness and Rest

Cacophony. That’s a funny word. Do you know what it means? It’s defined as, “a harsh discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds.” It’s like the orchestra when it’s warming up. It’s like the city street filled with engine noise and horns and shouts of people. We live in a world that is filled with cacophony. A lot of noise.

There was a recent story in the New York Times headlined “Peak TV Hits a New Peak, With 532 Scripted Shows”. Peak TV refers to a theory that at some point, there will be something like a high watermark of the amount of television production that is possible. With all the TV networks, cable and streaming (like Netflix) the total amount of scripted TV shows is at an all time high of 532 and there’s no end in sight. That’s just scripted shows. If you counted all the reality TV, daytime dramas and children’s programming you’d be well over 1000 shows.

Back when I was a kid in the eighties, when I watched a lot of TV, there were just three networks. In that same decade, 1985, a professor at New York University wrote a very important book called “Amusing Ourselves To Death.” He was looking at the statistics way back in the 80s and concluded that, “America was becoming a culture of absolute amusement at the expense of truth and meaning. He was looking also at the particular vulnerability of children growing up in the age of the set rather than the age of the book, and he understood that there was a different kind of mental formation taking place by watching television than by reading a text.” His fear was not of censorship but rather the opposite, that “truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” He died in 2003 but what would he think now? 532 shows. It’s no wonder a reality TV star became the president of the United States.

It's just not TV. I website called listennotes.com estimates that the total number of podcasts are 919,150 (as of 2/14/20) with over 60,000,000 episodes. In 2019, when we launched the Essential Bible Studies podcast it came into existence with 262,692 other new podcasts. Talk about being drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Now you think about all the access we have on YouTube and Spotify and with video games, etc, etc, etc. Our culture is amusing itself to death. It’s a cacophony, “a harsh discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds.”

The funny thing is that, in this day and age of so much noise, people are still trying to find peace and quiet. A fellow at work I was talking with says he feels closest to God when he is hunting. What he really means is that he feels closest to God when he is in nature and everything is so quiet. He’s part of a growing attitude, documented by Pew Research, showing a decline in church attendance, mainly with the younger generation. Many of these claim that they are “spiritual but not religious”. This is why practices such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, contemplative practices have become so popular. It brings a quiet by focusing on self-awareness. But this is not the meditation of the Bible, nor is it the quietness and rest that God has called us to.

This morning, we’re going to look at Christ’s invitation for us to rest with him. Not by the practice of self-awareness but by the practice of Christ-awareness. It’s found in those beautiful words of Jesus, “Come unto me all ye that are labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We’ll look closely at what he says there but also at three Old Testament passages which refer to the same rest. Each one will give us a deeper appreciation for finding that rest in Christ and how it will help us to patiently endure until the coming of our Lord. It will also give us a deeper appreciation for our silent praise to God.

Come Unto Me

Let’s start in Matthew 11 with the words of Jesus. As we come to his invitation in verses 28-30, we should look at the leadup comments. Starting at verse 25, it says,

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.  (26)  Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.  (27)  All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”

I just wanted to draw your attention to this, that Jesus’ invitation that follows is not for “the wise and prudent”. He reveals it to “babes” or “little children”. That word “reveal” is also used in verse 27. This is all about knowing the Father through the Son. While the revelation might seem selective in verse 27 it really is not because the invitation is for all who would come to him.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  (29)  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  (30)  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In the immediate context, the “heavy laden” burdens were those put on the people by the Pharisees, scribes and lawyers who “lade men with burdens grievous to be borne” and “touch not the burdens with one of their fingers” (Luke 11:46). Jesus’ rest is then in contrast to the rest of the sabbath which becomes controversial in the next chapter.

This word “rest” though is not the word “sabbath”, it’s the word “anapauo” (an-ap-ow-o) with the meaning of “to repose, refresh, take ease or rest”. The Sabbath was the one day you ceased from all work but this rest is found under a yoke. A yoke is a bar or frame between two animals like oxen. It enables the animals to pull together on a load when working in pairs. In the Bible it is a symbol of subservience and toiling. The rest comes under Jesus’ yoke. You’ll notice here that Jesus refers to it twice as “my yoke”. It is a rest we are to find in this life, everyday.

While Jesus says in verse 28 “I will give you rest” we should not mistake this as something easy. He says in verse 29, “you will find rest”. So he shows us the way but we have to work with him to find it. We have to learn from him. We have to to be yoked with him to be meek and lowly of heart. This is where the true rest can be found.

Whatever labors or heavy burdens we are carrying. Physical ailments, financial worries, strife in relationships we can find rest in the turmoil if we just realize that Christ is there, if we but take his yoke upon us. This is not an invitation to be unburdened. We so often fight that direction, chaffing and struggling. If we could only stop, and contemplate and lookover to see Jesus calmly trying to direct us. It’s a call to realize his yoke is easy (that is kind) and his burden is light.

Old Testament Allusions

As always seems to be the case with Jesus, the Word made Flesh, he gets this language from the Old Testament. Looking back at these passages helps us to understand better the words of our Lord. You may have in your margin a reference to Jeremiah 6:16. That’s a good place to start but there is also Isaiah 30:15 and Lamentations 3:25-28. Let’s look at all of these.

Jeremiah 6:16

I like the NIV here,

“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

When you are bearing the yoke of Christ you are to be moving forward with him. And in that path we have a choice. We stand at a crossroads. Where is the way to rest? The good way is in the ancient paths. It not on the fancy new superhighway that everybody is taking now. Every year the bookshelves fill with the latest methodologies to find peace and happiness. But God tells us its always been here. There’s nothing new. It’s in his ways that have been of ancient times. Yet most people still say, “We will not walk in it”.

Isaiah 30:15

The words of Isaiah 30 are very similar. We see this attitude of the people against the old paths in verse 8-11 (continuing in the NIV),

“Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. (9) For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. (10) They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. (11) Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!””

This was a very troubled time for the nation of Israel. The threat of the Assyrian was near and they were seeking for help from Egypt (v. 2). With the massive armies coming against them it was natural thinking to fight flesh with flesh. The ways of God, the old paths, were quite different though. In verse 15 he says,

“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel (v. 11); In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”

In all the turmoil they were facing God was asking them to do something that was not natural… to repent and trust in him. Salvation was in resting in God. Strength was in quiet waiting. So it is in our lives. What ever threat we are facing that makes us fight for ourselves, God has shown us the true way to find rest for our souls and it goes against all our instincts. It is like those ironic words of Jesus, “he who seeks to save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:25).

If we are going to endure until the end, we have to develop this quietness and rest that God talks about here. It is what helps us to wait and patiently endure. All though God has some harsh words for their rejection, notice his promise in verse 18,

“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”

Those who “wait for him” are those who have been able to return and rest, they have found how to be quiet and confident (or trust) in the Lord.

Lamentations 3:25-28

The last passage I’m sure the Lord had in mind is Lam. 3:25-28.

“The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  (26)  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.  (27)  It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.  (28)  He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he [God] hath borne [laid] it upon him.”

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” The word for “man” here is the Hebrew “gibbor”. It means a mighty man, a warrior (v. 1). For Jeremiah’s Lamentation, this was the warrior that had been defeated and carried captive to Babylon. It was good for this man to be subservient to God and bear this in his youth. If he did, in seventy years he would come back from captivity.

When we think we are such a mighty man, God makes us feel so weak. There again is the yoke which is borne or laid upon us. It is Christ’s yoke, which when we learn of him, is easy to be borne. For we realize it is from God and we quietly wait for him. This is in the midst of those wonderful verses in v. 22-23

“It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  (23)  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

And verses 31-32,

“For the Lord will not cast off for ever: (32)  But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.”

Through all afflictions, brothers and sisters, we cannot lose sight of this. This truly is the key to finding quietness and rest in this life which will help us to endure to the end. As Jesus said, “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19).

Silent Praise

In order to attain unto this quietness and rest for our souls we must find time to actually be silent. As we talked about at the beginning of this exhortation, we can fill our whole day with noise. There is so much good though in finding those quiet times. This is not so much time of prayer but quiet thinking time. The times in a car when we might turn on music. The moments while doing a task when we might listen to the game. Maybe it’s taking a quiet walk instead of watching one of those 532 TV shows. It’s taking these times to meditate and think upon God and his Son.

It’s especially appropriate at moments like this when we come together in worship. Did you know that silence is a form of praise? Turn with me to Psalm 65:1 and look in your margin,

“Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion…”

If your margin is like mine it says, “waiteth: Heb. is silent”. Literally in the Hebrew it says, “for you, silence, praise.” (NET mg. note).

Now the next Psalm tells us there is a time for joyful “ear splitting” noise (Psa. 96:1). But there is “a time to keep silent, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). It’s my worry that we are not considering enough time to be silent, to be quiet, to find rest. In our personal life and in our ecclesial life.

When we come here and are in silence, it’s a form of praise to God. A humble recognition of the sovereign Lord of all the earth. I love it when a hymnist plays hymn 168 before meeting. Do you know that one? “The Lord is in His holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” That’s from Hab. 2:20.

Zech. 2:13 says the same,

“Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.”

It is very fitting therefore in this moment, to hold our peace. To appreciate how great our God is and how small we are. What more befitting praise can we have for God then to be silent before him? How fitting then is it that somehow, it’s in moments like this that we truly get to know God. For as Psalm 46:10 says,

“Be still, and know that I am God”


Now we come to the memorials. A solemn time to be quiet. To be silent. To rest in his word. It’s time to leave the cacophony of the world out of our minds and listen to the voice of Jesus calling unto us.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  (29)  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  (30)  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”