God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was first published in 1833 when it appeared in “Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern,” a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys. The lyrics of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen are traditional olde English and are reputed to date back to the 15th century although the author is unknown.
It is believed that this particular carol was sung to the gentry by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen continues to be enjoyed. The lyrics to this simple carol are reputed to be one of the oldest carols.
One of the values inherent in the Christmas Holiday is REST. That may seem an odd assertion in light of the busy-ness of the season. When I think of REST I first think of PHYSICAL REST. As I revisit the topic on this occasion I am thinking that the REST focused on in scripture is more about SOUL REST than PHYSICAL REST. Even the Christmas Carole God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman begins “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay.” Dismay is a malady of the soul. These lyrics are a reference to SOUL REST.
“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” (Genesis 2:2)
“He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3–4)
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40:28)
We are informed in scripture that God is spirit. These references then are not alluding to PHYSICAL REST. What changed for God on the seventh day was the focus of His soul. For six days the focus of His soul was on creation.
REST was such an important value to God that SABBATHS were codified in the Old Covenant. There were many prescribed SABBATHS; not just the seventh day SABBATH. Yes, physical activity was restricted on a SABBATH yet the Prophet Isaiah highlights the heart issue of SABBATH breaking when he writes,
““If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,” (Isaiah 58:13) Here Isaiah is addressing soul issues. It seems he is advocating a change in soul focus on SABBATH days.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28–30)
Jesus is very specific about the nature of the REST He is offering, SOUL REST!
NEW COVENANT UNDERSTANDING
“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10, NKJV)
To REST is to REST as God did it on the seventh day of creation. It is a change of SOUL FOCUS.
The Christmas Holiday offers us the opportunity to change our SOUL FOCUS from the day to day responsibilities that normally occupy our thoughts and emotions. A key to the health and vitality of our humanity is to change SOUL FOCUS from time to time, both weekly and seasonally. This has always been a challenging issue for mankind. Today the challenge is intensified by the ready availability of technological devices and the internet. Smart phones, tablets and computers make it too easy to stay connected and focused on our day to days. May this Christmas Holiday be a time for us disconnect and change SOUL FOCUS!
Below are study notes for those interested in gaining more insights:
MINISTERS OF THE NEW COVENANT – MINISTERS AT REST
Ezekiel 44:18 They are to wear linen turbans on their heads and linen undergarments around their waists. They must not wear anything that makes them perspire.
THE OLD COVENANT SABBATHS WERE EXPERIENCED AS JEWS LAID DOWN THEIR OWN AGENDA TO WORSHIP G0D
Isaiah 1:12-13 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — — I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Isaiah 58:11-14 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you wilt find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of Lord has spoken.
THE NEW COVENANT SABBATH IS EXPERIENCED AS BELIEVERS FACE EACH “TODAY”, ABIDE IN CHRIST, HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD AND OBEY.
THE COUNCIL AT JERUSALEM
Acts 15:19-20 “It is my judgment, therefore”, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
THE TEACHING OF PAUL
Colossians 2:13-17 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality however, is found in Christ.
THE TEACHING OF JESUS
Matthew 11:28-30 “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 in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
John 15:1—8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
THE TEACHING IN HEBREWS
Hebrews 3:7—8, (3:15: 4:7), So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today. If you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert.
Psalm 95:1-11 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, And the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
Hebrews 4:9—10 There remains then a Sabbath—rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
Hebrews 4:11—13 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest , so I hat no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary.
They shall walk and not faint.
wait = “qavah” = to bind together (Those who bind themselves to the Lord . . .)
strength = “kach” = to be firm, vigor, might, power, strength, substance, wealth, ability
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
repentance = “shuwbah” = to turn back
rest “nachath” lighting down, descent, (dial down)
quietness = “shaqat” = to repose, settle, to be still
trust = “bitchah” = a place of refuge, safety, security
strength “gebuwrah” = force, valor, victory, might, (the result of strength exercised) “gibbowr’ = warrior, champion
Isaiah 30:18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
wait = “chakah” = to adhere to, (root meaning = to carve, to entrench)
compassion = “racham” = to love, to have compassion, (root meaning = to fondle)
PROMISE 4:1 The promise still stands
4:6 Some will enter
4:9 there remains a Sabbath rest
PROBLEM 3:10 Straying hearts and ignorance
4:2 The message is not mixed with faith
4:10 “Self” work
PROVISION 4:10 God’s work
1. Instituted by God
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
2. Principles Revealed:
a. God’s provision is complete
b. Man contributes nothing
c. Man can only receive
d. Man lives form God’s rest – God’s last day is man’s first day!
II. SABBATH REST AND MANNA (Exodus 16:1-30)
1. God’s provision is complete
2. Manna is a gift of God’s grace
3. Manna is received by faith – there is no provision for tomorrow
4. Man’s addition to God’s gift, (disobedience), produces maggots
III. REST-LESS ONES (Hebrews 3-4; Number 13-14)
God’s desire is to move man from the theoretical to the experiential.
a. Know the source:
Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
Daniel 11:32 but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
b. See the source; not self and circumstances:
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
c. Faith it
Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.