The Gift of God’s Abiding Rest

December 19, 2019 by Kevin Park

Pastors long for rest after the frenzy of Advent and Christmas. And appropriately, many pastors take their vacations in January to recharge (or recuperate).

Although practicing this kind of self-care is an indispensable discipline for every pastor, the text from Exodus 33:14 gives us a different understanding of rest. Moses at this point in his ministry is tired and stressed, to say the least. Moses demands that God, who is also very tired with the “stiff necked” people, lead and go with them in their perilous journey.

God says to Moses, “My presence will go with you, I will give you rest.” God renews God's covenant with Moses and Israel.

Rest is something that God gives and therefore it is to be received, not taken. This rest is inextricably connected with God's presence.

Here, the word for presence is “face” in Hebrew. The imagery of God's face accompanying us through the thick and thin of our lives and ministries can be a bit unnerving. But the imagery is one of intimacy, not surveillance. God is with us closer than our heartbeats. And the word rest here comes from the Hebrew word nuach, not shabath.

Shabath denotes cessation and desisting from labor. Nuach denotes repose, a resting place, to be quiet, and can mean abiding with God while we are moving. Therefore, the meaning of this rest does not mean complete inactivity or cessation from motion but it is God's gift of God's intimate presence accompanying us as we journey through life and ministry.

Let us receive this precious gift from God as we begin again this New Year.

Rev. Dr. Kevin Park serves as English Ministry Pastor of the Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. He is interested in emerging Asian North American theologies and various expressions of theologies of the cross. His current research includes critiquing what he calls “Ornamental Multiculturalism,” and articulating a theology of divine beauty as a key theological resource for multicultural theology and ministry for the North American context. He holds a PhD and Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary and Master of Divinity from Knox College. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Toronto.