Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Is the appeal of the Christian faith to be found in its rules? Is the emphasis of the Christian faith the moral responsibilities it lays upon its members? Are we the religion of more and more work to do? Maybe we have given outsiders that impression, and maybe that is part of the reason they aren’t more interested in getting to know our Jesus. That kind of religion is hard to distinguish from all the competing religions of the world. That kind of religion doesn’t seem likely to offer much help.
Sometimes, maybe that’s how this faith feels to us. Jesus’ claim on me just adds more items to my task list each day. I am socked with obligations and responsibilities from which other people seem to be free. Maybe that’s the way we even think it should be. My Christian faith is here to give me more instructions, more tools, more help in living my life the way I am supposed to.
Now I don’t want to deny that following Jesus involves giving oneself to his service, a life that aspires to keep his commandments. But is that the main reason we are here? Is that the desire of our hearts that he has filled? Let me put it this way. Suppose you are a soldier fighting a war. The battle has stretched on for days. You are tired. At such a time better strategy, clear orders, and more weapons in your arsenal may all sound appealing. Then you could fight better. But don’t you suppose that what you really want is rest? A cease-fire so that you could get some uninterrupted and secure sleep? A few days leave away from the battle so that you could get some much needed R and R? Maybe that even sounds good for life’s little battles you fight now.
Those who make their home with the Most High find rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus invites us. Jesus took all the heaviness out of the commandments by keeping God’s commandments for us. He emptied them of their crushing weight when he gave his life to pay the penalty for our sins they imposed. He has lifted the burden of performance-based religion: constantly trying to bribe God into sparing us with our weak attempts at good behavior. Those chains have been removed and we are free. In him our souls find sweet rest and safety. That’s not to say that all Christian activity comes to a halt. We may still serve him, but now we do so like free men and women, doing the things we love to do, doing them for the one we love, doing them because he loved us first.
Must we limit that rest, that peace of mind, to the spiritual realm? In the context, I believe the psalmist wants to take us farther. Our Lord has taken the heaviness out of life in this world, with all its uncertainties and dangers– crime, illness, poverty, war, conflict, and hardship. In fact, he mentions these very things in the verses that follow. But he does not do so by taking them away. We rest in his shadow even as these things are going on around us, even happening to us. We do not need to be afraid when he is near because we know he loves us. We can join Jesus in the back of the boat, sleeping through the storms of life. We are safe with him, because he has everything under control. Under his shelter we find rest.