On one as Jesus was teaching in the towns of Galilee he said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
These are words of invitation, mercy and love. They speak of ‘having a rest’ yet this invitation of Jesus is much more profound. It is
tender and reveals the character of Jesus’ heart as it is about relationship rather than a course of action.
It is for the weary and the burdened rather than for those who impressively perform. In context it was probably spoken to religious people who constrained and burdened by rules and regulations in attempting to gain favour with God through performance. On other occasions Jesus spoke critically about the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matt 23:1-39; Luke 11:37-52) and it seems that these hindrances to having a relationship with God were behind Jesus’ invitation.
In contrast Jesus offers a relationship without a heavy load. It strips away any sense of a performance orientated culture so that
there is no need to self-assess against how well ‘we do the stuff’ (e.g. prayer, read the bible, etc.). Asking what we have to do to keep it up only leads pressure and guilt where we feel better by accomplishment but are disappointed when we fail to make the standard. This results in being like Martha (Luke 10:38-42) who was anxious about many things. Jesus’ invitation to come and find rest is an offer of freedom from being driven.
Additionally it is an offer to non-religious people looking for inner peace. This is illustrated by Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and the woman at the well (John 4) who were seeking fulfilment in money and relationships respectively. This inevitably leads to disappointment. Thus the invitation of Jesus is ‘come to me all you who are weary.’
The crisis comes with an awareness of what God has done through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ promise to provide rest arise from his actions to remove our guilt. He came to serve and to be a ransom for many. Through his sacrifice on the cross his righteousness is credited to us and our consciences are cleansed. There is no longer any condemnation, i.e. we get peace and rest for our souls. Tragically we often behave like some of the Christians at Galatia (Gal 3) and try and add practice to our salvation. There is no need for Jesus sets us free.
The process is described by Jesus as ‘taking his yoke.’ What this means is to take what he is giving. Taking his yoke means learning of and from him. This may mean unlearning things as illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says ‘you have heard’ (stuff to unlearn) ‘but I say to you’ (stuff to learn from Jesus). By being yoked, in close relationship, with Jesus we hear his voice and learn to be content in all situations and contexts.
This time we are looking at Hannah herself – we can learn so much from her as a mighty pray-er.
In her pain she prays – but she goes further than just a plea for help, which even atheists might do.
Barrenness – a symbol in the Bible of national failure and fruitlessness, when God’s people turn away from Him, replacing Him with other gods. All of humanity has done this and in return we reap corruption, pain and suffering in this world.
God speaks through this picture of a barren woman. God doesn’t want us to be fruitless.
When we get to that point of desperation of barrenness, that’s where God can work. He loves using impossible situations and loves being strong in our weakness. He wants us to turn to Him.
God was the one who closed Hannah’s womb – seems final – but He is open to changing the situation. God is sovereign over all and yet people in the Bible have wrestled with God and pushed through and succeeded – e.g. Jacob, Moses, etc.
God is not offended by us arguing with Him – rather He listens and seems to like relating to us in this way.
Hannah has every reason to just be depressed and give up, but she believed that she could also be a hero in prayer like the great and mighty figures of the past, despite being just an ordinary woman.
Instead of being inspired by the great pray-ers, we can sometimes be discouraged. Do what Hannah did – press through to God anyway; come with all your passion and emotion and longings.
God wants us to wrestle with Him – still with reverence and submission, but wrestling nonetheless.
Mark 7:25-30 – Jesus says what he says to the Gentile woman in order that she might persevere and to see what kind of fight she had; she did indeed argue with Him and succeeded. Oftentimes we get offended by God, but we need to just press through.
God wants us to be stubborn in prayer – all Christians are invited to this!
It’s so easy to fall into self-pity, but we are to never give up.
Sometimes God purposefully makes it hard for us to see what kind of fight we put up.
Jesus told us to pray and no give up.
We don’t pray to be religious or spiritual.
Be careful when looking at Hannah’s example – in order to persevere through all her suffering she must have been filled with the same Spirit as the Great Pray-er, Jesus Christ.
Hannah points us to Jesus. She got what she asked for eventually, but when Jesus asked the Father to take away the cross, He didn’t get His request answered (Matt. 26:36-36). He prevailed when no-one else stood by Him.
Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest. Because of His unanswered prayer when He asked for the cross to be removed, we are now able to confidently draw near to God’s throne of grace (Heb.4:14-16).
Parts of this passage are potentially confusing; ‘It’s good for a man not to have sexual relations with a women’. This seems to contradict Genesis 2 and other scriptures. However, Paul (the writer of this letter) is quoting their (the Corinthians) opinion back to them, this is obviously something they would have said. The bible teaches that sex is good and encourages it wholeheartedly within marriage.
But as well as promoting marriage Paul believes that there is a wonderful role for singleness and is
keen to honour it. Singleness is a unique calling and can bring a liberty to follow God. The bible elevates a certain kind of singleness; for some kind of callings of God singleness can be appropriate.
The church needs to look after and dignify singles and families should be hospitable to them and serve them.
In our culture marriage has a very bad reputation and this has led to people embracing singleness or avoiding marriage for the wrong reasons, even within the church.
People in the church are nervous about marriage and can stay single for some of the following wrong reasons;
Concerned that they are loving their prospective partner more than God. They feel they’ve developed a unhealthy devotion which deflects from their relationship with God. Don’t be hooked into false spirituality, If that isn’t a tension we are balancing in courtship perhaps we should question the relationship?
The ‘Who is the one mentality’ is also to be avoided. God restored you to sonship not to be a robot. We’ve been given ability to make decisions and choose our own partners.
Guys can be picky, they can have a picture of beauty that isn’t biblical. Obviously you need to be attracted to your bride but physical beauty is quite secondary.
For some women misinterpretations of what a spiritual man is can hold people back. Don’t look for the ‘platform gift’ or christian eloquence, look at the heart.
Fear can hold people back but we can be set free by knowing God. If we are fearful we are then not really enjoying God. If we are exposed to the love of God it will overwhelm fear.
We can make marriages our God and try and make them perfect, this is not possible. There has only ever been one perfect husband.
Story of the bible is one of a husband and a bride.God pursues us as a husband to a bride He is perfectly faithful to us and utterly beautiful. To see proof of this look at the cross of Jesus Christ where the greatest husband in history died for his wife, the people of God. He is faithful enough to be tortured and murdered for us.
Through his sacrificial death on the cross he provided righteousness that does not belong to us. We are now declared righteous and the perfect life that Jesus lived is now exchanged for our sinful one.
Communion with Him
We have not been made righteous to feel better about ourselves. It’s for communion with God, it’s so we can know God and have fellowship with Him. We have been rescued for communion.
Victory Over Darkness
Colossians 2: 15 Rulers and authorities have been disarmed (this is talking about satanic power). Although we can be led to believe that satan doesn’t exist and he’s just a comic book character, he does. His greatest trick is to convince us he does not.
At the cross Jesus destroyed Satans kingdom. Jesus has won the decisive battle over all darkness.
By his wounds we are healed. At the cross we find healing.
Grace for suffering
God gives us grace in the midst of our suffering. With Christ we will still suffer, we are not removed from the world, but God gives us grace to be able to endure and even be blessed in our suffering.
After 3 years’ drought God is ready to speak to Israel again. Elijah who is qualified to represent God because he has continued to stand before God throughout the testing time is called to a fresh encounter with Ahab. On encountering him Ahab calls him Israel’s Troubler. He offers hope but is regarded as trouble. Similar for Jeremiah.
Paul & friends are also seen as people causing trouble in Acts 17:6 (NIV) though in reality they were recorded in Acts 17:2-3 as reasoning, explaining, proving, explaining. We must not be surprised if misrepresented.
Elijah challenges their divided hearts. He draws near to them. Like Jesus he says you cannot serve two masters. We can easily drift into serving two masters. Paul says 1 Corinthians 7:12 All things are lawful but I won’t be mastered by anything. God blesses us with many things but we must beware that none of them begin to master us. We may suddenly discover that we have allowed an idol to grow that now dictates our decisions so we are no longer free to serve Jesus.
Jesus is our model. He always kept the Father central in his thoughts. He always pleased him. His devotion to the Father’s will meant that he embraced the cross. He deserves our unmixed devotion.
Jonah was tossed overboard and died in the sea. There is dazzling Christological significance to this.
It took physical death and resuscitation in the belly of a fish to resuscitate Jonah spiritually. True repentance (for us) is that dramatic and miraculous. It really is a matter of life and death and is something that is well beyond us – ‘salvation belongs to the Lord!’
True repentance means a stripping down of everything we’ve clung to and an acknowledgement that nothing we desire besides God can be GOD. We must take God on His terms or not at all.
When God brings us to this place of glad submission we are vessels fit for his hands again. And he can do anything to get us back into the centre of his will again.