[b]Rest and Fellowship[/b] by Zac Poonen
The Old Testament sabbath was a picture of rest for God's people in the new covenant (Heb. 4:9,10). It is rest in God that has to come first before we can do anything of eternal value.
When God made Adam on the sixth day, He sanctified the very next day as a day of rest. Though it was chronologically the seventh day, yet for Adam, it was his very first day. The law, which came 2500 years later, stated "Six days shalt thou work and the seventh day thou shalt rest". But for Adam God instituted first a day of rest and fellowship and then six days of work. That is grace. Under grace, the "day of rest" comes first. We have to enter into rest before we can serve the Lord. Then every day of our earthly life can be a sabbath. And that is God's intention for us.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus why Moses permitted divorce under the law, He replied that it was a temporary provision made for man as long as his heart was hard (Matt. 19:8).
But, Jesus said that it was not God's perfect will from the beginning. Many things in the law were part of God's permissive will - not His perfect will. But now that the new covenant has been established, God desires that we live in His perfect will - as He intended man to live "from the beginning" (Matt. 19:8). And so for us, as for Adam, it is this rest that must come first. Life must be a perpetual sabbath of rest in God.
Only when we enter into rest can we joyfully testify that God's commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3). Where God's commandments are considered to be a burden, and the message of denying oneself and obedience to all the commandments is considered to be bondage, it is evident that such a person has not yet come under the yoke of Jesus. He is still labouring under his own yoke, under the law.
In the Outer Court of the tabernacle and even in the Holy Place, there is plenty of activity. But in the Most Holy Place, inside the veil, there is no activity - only fellowship. Even service for God flows out of that fellowship. That is the difference between Old Testament service and New Testament ministry. This is clearly illustrated by Martha and Mary, in the incident described in Lk. 10:38-42. Mary was (symbolically speaking), in the Most Holy Place - at rest, fellowshipping with the Lord. Martha was in unrestful service ("for the Lord") in the Outer Court. Jesus said that what Mary had chosen was the one thing everyone needed.
The veil has now been rent by Jesus and we can boldly enter and dwell in the Most Holy Place - of fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, all our days. If only we could see this: That what God desires from man first of all, is not service, not Bible-reading, not fasting and prayer, etc., but fellowship.
Adam was created by God in His image - not because God wanted a gardener for Eden, but because He wanted someone with whom He could have fellowship. God did not save us out of the pit of sin in order that we might serve Him, but rather in order that we might have fellowship with Him. It is due to a lack of understanding of this, that multitudes of believers are weary and heavy laden today, just like Martha.
At the age of 95, having walked with God for over 65 years, the apostle John decided to write a letter - inspired by the Holy Spirit. The theme of his letter was `fellowship' (1 Jn.
1:3). Having seen churches and leaders who had left their first love (Rev. 2:4) and who now had a name that they were alive (with all their varied Christian activities) but who were in fact dead in God's sight (Rev. 3:1), John certainly saw that the great need was to lead Christians into the joy of fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, inside the rent veil.
There may be joy found in several fields of activity. Some find it in sport, some in music, some in their profession, and some even in Christian work. But the purest joy in the universe is to be found only in fellowship with the Father
(1 Jn. 1:4). The psalmist says, "In Thy presence is fullness of joy" (Psa. 16:11). This was the "joy set before Him" that made Jesus willing to endure the cross daily (Heb. 12:2).
The fellowship with the Father was Jesus' most prized possession. He did not value anything else in the universe in comparison with that. This fellowship was what Jesus knew would be broken on Calvary, when for three hours He would have to endure the agonies of an eternal hell for lost humanity (Matt. 27:45). Then the Father would have to forsake Him and the fellowship that He enjoyed with the Father from all eternity would be broken for three hours. He dreaded that break of fellowship so greatly that He sweated great drops of blood in Gethsemane. The cup that He prayed to be removed from Him was just this: A break of fellowship with His Father.
If only we could see this and be gripped by it! How lightly we speak and sing about following Jesus! To follow Jesus means to value fellowship with the Father like He did. Sin would then become exceedingly sinful to us, for it breaks our fellowship with the Father. An unloving attitude towards another human being would not even be tolerated, for it would break our fellowship with the Father, etc.
May the Lord give us revelation so that we see clearly that true Christianity is nothing less than a life of unbroken fellowship with a loving Father in heaven.