“And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (Ex. 33:14).
The foundation of all true rest is the presence of God. In more personal terms, rest is a sense of
the presence of God, because God is, through His Spirit, everywhere present. As the Psalmist
sings: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence” (Ps. 139:7)?
The reason that Jews of old, and most humans today fail to enter into this rest is unbelief
(Hebrews 4:6). The source of this unbelief is the self-confidence and self-righteousness which
the Serpent introduced in the Garden of Eden. Following his plan led to a continual state of
Sin separates us from the source of life and rest. Christ was “made like unto his brethren” in
order to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage”
(Hebrews 2:15). In order to be truly restored, we need a constant connection – a reconnection,
with God. Short of this, we will ever feel that death is coming, and we fear running out of time.
Believing in Him who “abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through
the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10), we enter in to his rest. Like the weekly Sabbath rest, this rest from sin
has always been there, ready to be experienced. The Jews could have entered it. After Christ
became our Second Adam, and revealed the real consequences of separation from the Father’s
life-giving presence (as seen at the Cross), there is no excuse for us if we do not enter His rest.
The cross is but a dim reflection of the pain that sin has caused God’s heart from the beginning.
Wherever sin causes pain, there is God, bearing that pain on our behalf, giving us opportunity to
enter His rest. “Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17).
Emmanuel, God with us, is already the I AM to all who will open their ears to the gospel call. In
Isaiah 43:5 and 6 we read: “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and
gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring
my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.”
True evangelism is the good news that God has come near to every human being for salvation.
All are called to rest in His salvation as they learn of the Sabbath rest. To appreciate the weekly
rest, the daily rest, and the continual rest that God has in mind, we must unlearn our selfconfidence, and learn of the holiness and power of God by experiencing His presence in practical ways.
When the servants of Christ have a realizing sense of the presence of One who is mighty
to save, they will be filled with gratitude to God for the power of his grace, and they will
make advancement in the divine life. The worker with God will have humble views of
self as he thinks of the opportunities that have been wasted, and he will become more
devoted in his service to the Master. Those who dedicate their all to Christ will learn how
to win souls; for they will have a close connection with the Redeemer of the world
(EGW; RH, April 8, 1890 par. 2)
Having Him, we have everything. That is true enough, and no one will deny it; and yet
we very seldom act as though we believed it. And that shows how rare real Christianity
is; for the very fundamental principle of Christianity is the continual presence of the
Lord, and that He is everything. He who does not believe that God is always present,
always loving, and always all-powerful to carry out His loving designs, does not believe
in God. But whoever believes that must be content, because he knows that with the Lord
he has all things. Rom. viii. 32. It follows, therefore, that anxiety and worry are marks of
heathenism. "Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we
drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles
seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But seek ye
first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matt. vi. 31-33. (November 16, 1899 EJW, PTUK 722.11)
Two powerful examples show us this principle in action. The first is the story of the Hebrew
worthies, who we see in an acute crisis:
Did you ever think that we hear nothing more about the form of the fourth after the three
men were taken from the furnace? He was clearly seen for a few moments, walking to
and fro with them in the flames; then the doors were opened and the men were called
forth, and their companion disappeared. Did He forsake them? Not at all; He was as near
them when they could not see Him as when He appeared. In fact, there is nothing to show
that the three men in the fire saw Him at all. His appearance was more for the benefit of
the king and his idolatrous court, then for the three men themselves. They knew that He
was present without seeing Him. It was the consciousness of His presence that made
them able to stand unmoved in the presence of the threatened punishment. God is
unchangeable. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and for ever; therefore He is as near
when unseen as He is when He is seen. They who believe and trust in His presence when
they cannot see Him will at the last have the privilege of seeing His face, and beholding
Him for evermore. (November 16, 1899 EJW, PTUK 723.2)
The second is the story of Joseph who must rest in a sense of God’s presence for a much longer
Perhaps the most instructive case of all, as illustrating the presence of God with a man, is
that of Joseph. "The patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt; but God was
with him, and delivered him out of all his affliction, and gave him favour and wisdom in
the sight of Pharaoh." Acts vii. 9, 10. Note this, that God was with him when he went
down to Egypt, although he went as a slave. It was not merely in the prosperity that God
was with him, but in his affliction. Indeed, it was God who sent Joseph into Egypt. When
Joseph arrived in Egypt, he was sold again, but the Lord did not forsake him. "The Lord
was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the
Egyptian." Gen. xxxix. 1, 2. But it was not all smooth before him, even though God was
with him. Joseph was falsely accused, and without being given any chance to clear
himself, he was cast into prison. Surely the Lord had forgotten him then. Not at all. "The
Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the
keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the
prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
And the keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand; because the
Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper." Gen. xxxix. 21-
23. The Lord is not afraid or ashamed to go to prison, so that the fact that a man is in
prison does not prove that the Lord has left him. Indeed, the Lord is often in prison. See
Matt. xxv. 36, 43.
After a long time, and much weary waiting, Joseph was taken from prison, and placed
over the land of Egypt. He became practically the king of Egypt. He was ruler over all the
land, and all that he lacked was a seat on the throne. Joseph did not know what he went to
prison for until Pharaoh sent for him; and then he found out that that was the way to the
place of power. But Joseph did not spend his time mourning, although he could not see
the way out of prison. We can look back to that time, and seeing the end at the same time
that we see the experience that he passed through, it seems to us a matter of course that
Joseph should do as he did. But we must remember that to Joseph things looked as black
and hopeless during those years in prison as they would to us. If we could see our way
clear, we should never murmur, nor doubt the presence and goodness of God. Joseph
could not see ahead, but he did not mind that; God was with him all the way, and that was
sufficient; he did not need to see ahead. If we would but remember that He knows the
way that we take, and can see the end from the beginning, it would save us much time
and useless despondency. God is with us in the dark as well as in the light, in fire, and
water, and prison, as well as in times of ease and prosperity. (November 16, 1899 EJW,
The final restoration of all things will require us to be a people who are continually resting in
Christ, trusting Him for all things, and living in his presence as He lives in us.
Sabbath School Today