The God Who Invites Us to Rest
The first item on the list of provisions given to us by God our Shepherd is rest. It is easy to read right past this truth every time we encounter this psalm. The reality is that sheep, much like many humans, do not easily rest. If left to themselves they tend to wander aimlessly. They will not lie down unless they have a readily available supply of food. And, because they are defenseless and vulnerable, once they do lie down, they tend to be quite skittish. A small sound or movement can send them running.
But a good shepherd knows all this about his sheep. And so, he finds rich pastures and leads them there. And he directs them to stop and rest. He also stays with them to calm and reassure them.
GROUP DISCUSSION. What images come to mind when you think about resting?
PERSONAL REFLECTION. Describe a time when you experienced emotional and spiritual rest.
Read Psalm 23:2-3.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul."
1. These verses tell us about a God who causes us to lie down in green pastures, who leads us beside quiet waters and who restores our soul. Take a minute of quiet to reflect on these images. What thoughts and feelings do you have in response to these images?
2. Read Matthew 11:25-30.
Mat 11:25 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.
Mat 11:26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
Mat 11:27 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].
Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 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.
Mat 11:30 For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.
This text begins with Jesus praying. In his prayer, Jesus emphasizes the importance of spiritual humility (being little children). What is the relationship between spiritual humility and being able to respond to an invitation to rest?
3. What does Jesus invite us to do in the text from Matthew?
4. What promises does Jesus make?
5. How do these promises compare with your expectations of what Jesus wants to offer you or expects from you?
6. What words would you use to paraphrase the way Jesus describes himself in the text from Matthew?
7. What about this description of Jesus might make it easier to rest in Jesus' presence?
8. Psalm 23:3 says that the rest God provides "restores my soul." In Matthew 11:29 Jesus promises "rest for your souls." What do you think these phrases mean?
9. What experiences have you had of your soul needing rest?
10. The text in Matthew is addressed to people who are weary and burdened. What is causing you to feel weary and burdened at this time in your life?
11. What makes it difficult for you to rest physically, emotionally, spiritually?
12. What helps you to rest physically, emotionally and spiritually?
13. Take a few minutes of quiet and picture yourself in a green meadow, beside quiet waters with Jesus. Jesus has invited you to come to him and to rest with him. You have accepted the invitation. As you rest quietly with Jesus, he reminds you that you are safe with him because he is gentle and humble in heart.
Write about your experience during this time of reflection.
Respond honestly to Jesus' invitation to rest. Share your fears, your hesitations, your longings, your gratitude, your need for help in resting, your need for rest or whatever honest responses you have.
Now or Later
This week reread Matthew 11:28-30. Revisit question 13, writing each day about your experience as you respond to Jesus'invitation to rest.