To inspire his downcast audience, the Chronicler listed the good days Judah enjoyed under men like King Asa (2 Chronicles 14-16). The Chronicler wasted no time in elevating Asa as an example for his audience. “Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the LORD his God,” the author noted, “He told the people of Judah to seek the LORD God of their ancestors and to carry out the instructions and the command” (2 Chron 14:4). King Asa, reigning over the settled land of Judah, said to the people, “Let’s build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, with doors and bars. The land is still ours because we sought the LORD our God. We sought Him and He gave us rest on every side” (2 Chron 14:7). While this rest was temporarily interrupted by the Ethiopian invasion, Asa prayed in faith and that Lord would not allow His devout ones to be routed by a foreign power (2 Chron 14:8-15). The point? The returned exiles and their descendants should make haste to seek the Lord in hopes that they too could regain control of their land.
While the Chronicler pointed up the fact that, “There was no war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign” (2 Chron 15:19), the next three years were dominated by strife, and the southern kingdom slipped further into unfaithfulness. The cumulative arrogance of Solomon, Jeroboam, and Rehobaom—together with the rampant idolatry Israel committed in the Promised Land—led to war after war before and after the reign of Asa. Besides the civil wars of the divided kingdom, Israel and Judah had to endure attacks from Syria, Assyria, Egypt, and the Babylonians. From the latter days of Solomon’s reign onward, Israel would never again dwell in Canaan in freedom and peace. While Joshua recognized in his day that the Lord had given His people rest from their enemies (Josh 21:43-44), the land did not remain at rest.
In the Old Testament, the concept of spiritual rest was inseparable from the absence of war. As the storyline of Scripture progresses into the New Testament, spiritual rest is inseparable from reliance upon Jesus Christ.
(1) In Matt 11:28-29, Jesus said “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for yourselves.”
(2) Jesus’ statement is why the author to the Hebrews could so boldly challenge his readers to seek spiritual rest in covenant faithfulness to Christ. After detailing the unfaithfulness of the wilderness generation, he said, “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).