Nuach

May you be rested, blessed and empowered as you feast on this series of short meditations that explore the word ‘nuach’ – the deep, settled and empowering rest that the Lord sends.

 

 

Nuach Soundcloud Playlist

Nuach – Lead us on into Your Rest

May the Lord empower you as you listen, and enable you to respond in the Spirit of Prayer.

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed. (Exod. 23:12 NIV)

We’ve all heard of ruach – the breath, wind and Spirit of God. But in this piece, we are turning our attention to a similar sounding word that we have featured before: nuach, which, like so many Hebrew words, has numerous meanings, with a primary sense of resting and settling.

Nuach isn’t a thing, it’s a verb. On the seventh day, the Lord rested from His labours, thereby setting us an example, knowing well that it is out of that rest and quiet that so many good things happen.

Lord God, from the very beginning, You intended us to alternate between rest and work. In the midst of hectic lives, and even overstrain, grant us the wisdom to perceive more of what You are saying about work and rest.

Even though we have moved a very long way as a society from keeping the Sabbath in the way that You commanded, in which people, animals and the land itself were meant to rest, You still call us to enter Your rest. We love it when Your still and soothing presence steals over us, dispelling tension and imparting wisdom, empowering us in turn to comfort the weary and to release Your authority into situations.

Jesus, it is out of Your fulness that You minister grace upon grace to us. Your heart’s desire for us is not just that we go somewhere to do something that will bring us rest and refreshment, but that we actively come to you – especially if we are feeling weary and over-burdened. (Matt. 11:28)

When we’ve been bruised and jarred by too much activity, and by too many struggles and upheavals, thank You for making it possible for us to lie down beside still waters in places of soothing quiet, in the paths of Your shalom peace.

You go ahead to search out such resting places for us. You know the people, and places, as well as the practices that best refresh our souls and equip us for fresh action. And when we put our faith into action and reach out to invest in the work of Your Kingdom You show Yourself generous to those who are generous, and Your blessing rests on us (nuach), and You delight to lead us. (cf Ezek. 44:30)

But where there are places that are raw and touchy in our hearts, Lord, or fractured relationships that scream with brokenness, help us to take whatever initiatives we can to bring about healing and restoration, so that we may make an attractive sound to You that draws Your attention near. (SoS 2:14)

Here we are, Lord Jesus, open to receive from Your hand all that You intend for us. Even if we have to fight our way through many obstacles and pressures to reach the place You have prepared for us, we are ready for You to lead us in ways of peace and rest.

The music you will hear is Handel’s Harp Concerto in B flat, the 2nd movement, played for us by Fontane Liang. It is followed by a setting of Huw Humphries’ beautiful song, ‘Father, lead us on into Your heart.’

What a precious thing it is to remember that the Lord loves to settle on those who are lowly of heart and sensitive to Him.

Do you remember how Noah sent out a dove which, having found no resting place, returned to the ark? The second time he sent it out, it found an olive leaf, and on its third flight, it found a place to rest and remain.

It is with good reason that the Bible likens the Holy Spirit to a dove. Just like Noah, the Father sent the Spirit in Old Testament times to alight on certain people and places – and wherever He came, things would happen and life would immediately spring up.

When Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the Lord’s anointed (Is. 11:2), the word is derived from nuach. John would later describe how he ‘saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Jesus.’ (Jn. 1:32)

RT Kendal explores this image of the Holy Spirit as a dove in Sensitivity of the Spirit. He describes the dove’s extreme sensitivity, which is why she won’t settle when she feels disturbed. We too must take care not to grieve the Holy Spirit by strident attitudes, unkind words and unholy behaviour. The Spirit reserves the best for those who make every effort to be pleasing to Him (Eph. 5:1-10) and such meekness and humility shields us from yielding to resentment and responding with impatience. And it makes room for the nuach of the Lord to come.

Jesus is gentle and lowly of heart – meek, to use the lovely old word, which means being not only humble but teachable. He is not hard to live with – and it is the meek, He tells us, who will inherit the earth when He comes in glory to establish His reign. (Matt. 5:5. 11:29)

When Jesus says, ‘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,’ the word He uses, which is usually translated as either ‘gentle’ or ‘meek,’ is not in the least speaking of anything weak, but rather of power under constraint. (Matt. 11:29) It is the Greek term for describing the breaking in of a powerful stallion, so that it finally chooses to submit to authority and can be controlled by a bit and bridle. Meekness is a quality that must always be chosen rather than imposed on a person.

Shepherd King, may we heed Your invitation to come to Your own pasture, to take Your yoke on our shoulders and to learn from You. There is none so gentle and humble in heart as You, Lord. Nowhere else, and in nothing else, will we find such perfect rest for our souls, even when our outward circumstances remain hard. (Ps. 100:3; Matt. 11:29)

Isaiah has more to say concerning the nature of the Spirit who rests on Jesus: He is ‘the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, and the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.’ (Is. 11:2) Solomon too celebrates the way in which wisdom ‘rests’ in the heart of those who have discernment and understanding.’1 (Pr. 14:33)

Ingrained within the concept of nuach and its many derivatives, is the fact that the Spirit settles on us not just to soothe and comfort, but to lead, direct and empower us – rather as the prophets at Jericho saw and discerned the spirit of Elijah resting (that’s nuach of course) on Elisha, when he received a double portion of that great prophet’s spirit. (2 Kings 2:15) Centuries before, God had taken of the Spirit that rested on Moses and placed it upon seventy of his elders, with the result that they immediately began to prophesy. (Num. 11:25-26) Wow! That really is catching the fire!

Some of us may have received a special impartation from the Lord when we are on our own, but more commonly it happens when we are in the company of godly people, perhaps when hands are laid on us. What God imparts to us at such times will be a blessing to us and of benefit to many.

It need not always be dramatic. Moses had prayed that his teaching might ‘fall like rain and his speech settle (nuach) like dew, like gentle rain on new grass, like showers on tender plants.’ (Deut. 32:2) This was precisely how Job had lived during his years of prosperity in the days when both his words and the peace of his countenance would sink gently (nuach) into people’s spirits like dew. People welcomed his ‘counsel like spring rain, drinking it all in.’ (Job 29:22 TM) May the Holy Spirit rest (nuach) likewise upon each one of us who are reading this, empowering us to live and move in the flow of His peace and wisdom so that we too can bring ever more wise counsel and refreshment direct from His heart.

We are so aware, Lord Jesus, that not everyone will listen when we speak Your words, any more than Your own hearers did, and yet we are still to reach out, even those who unsettle us and who are antagonistic toward us, just as Jesus came to seek the lost, and to die for us while we were yet sinners.’ (Luke 19:10, Rom 5:8)

Unless You specifically warn us to keep our distance from someone, help us to keep on reaching out because it is honouring to You that we should make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) – and to remember that You will always be at work, as it were, at the other end in their hearts as well as our own. [See this article: The Lord is at work both ends]

There are blessings that settle on us when we sow well the particular seeds that the Lord has gifted us to share with others. May we be so brim-full of Your life that we bring the blessing of Your stillness, the fullness of Your hope, and healing settledness to those you lead us to – all as the fruit of dwelling in Your presence.

We cry to You, Shepherd King, to bring back those who are wandering from Your ways, and who are straying into places and company where forces of destructive uncleanness are at work, where danger looms. (Mic. 2:10 cf Lev. 18:25, 28; Num. 35:33; Jer. 2:7) Show us where some place that is obviously lacking in Your presence needs that cleansing and redeeming touch rather than our simply rushing to steer well clear of it.

Father, may we never take Your precious gifts and leadings for granted, but thank You always from the bottom of our hearts for Your care for us; even for those seasons when You allow us to go through highly unsettling times, because You know the fulness of settled rest that awaits us in Heaven.

May we be active in pressing on to take hold of that for which You, Jesus, took hold of us.(Phil. 3:12) – even when it feels as though we are facing a fast-flowing Jordan river in flood. For it was only ‘when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant that You, the Lord of all the earth, rested (nuach) in the waters of the Jordan, and made a way through. (Josh. 3:13)

And the more confident we are that You have a reason for allowing us to go through these periods, and that You can always come up with solutions to deliver us from them, the more fully we will experience Your rest, and not allow fear to fill our hearts and blunt our faith.

We are on our way to appearing before You and before rank upon rank of assembled angels. Thank You, Lord.

Peter is surely in keeping with of the whole concept of nuach when he talks about the Spirit of glory and of God resting on us. (1 Pet. 4:14) More unexpectedly, perhaps, is the fact that the context in which these words were spoken refers not to a pleasant green meadow, but to being insulted and suffering for the name of Christ – and it is then that we are especially blessed!

We had a journey to make the other day which we knew was likely to prove taxing on several different counts. Just before we left, the Lord gave me this promise from 1 Thessalonians 5:24: ‘Faithful is He who calls you – and He will also accomplish it.’ What a precious verse to send us on our way! Sure enough a major challenge did come our way in the course of the day; one that called for swift and far-reaching decision-making. I was taken aback at the time, but the Lord helped us to make the right decision, and we returned home rejoicing that He who is faithful had once again accomplished exactly what He had promised.

It is so encouraging to ponder not only His willingness to help but also His ability to do so. Let’s take hold of that verse from Thessalonians right now with regard to some issue of concern that you are facing, or some project that you are working on and pray for His power to move in and on it – and His quietness to minister calm through whatever turbulence and disturbance may be at work in the situation? ‘Faithful is He who calls you – and He will also accomplish it.’

SELAH

Nuach is not the only word used for ‘rest’ and ‘quiet’ in Scripture of course. Another lovely word is charash, which is used in Zephaniah 3:17 – He will rest in His love.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love.

Other translations include these renderings:

He will bring you quietness with His love (HCSB)
He works in His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.
He delights over you with singing.” (Literal Standard Version)
He shall make you new in His love, and he shall make you dance with a song as in the day of a feast! (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

Father, Paul called You the ‘God of all comfort: elohei khol-nechamah in the language of his people. You had trained him deeply in the Hebrew scriptures, and he came to know and experience Your nuach (2 Cor. 1:3) and that You are Adonai Shalom, the ‘Lord of peace’ whom Gideon spoke of, the Prince of Peace foretold by Isaiah: (Judges 6:24, Isa. 9:6) the coming King who will proclaim shalom to the nations. (Zech. 9:10)

Jesus, You placed Your shalom on Your disciples after the resurrection (Jn. 20:19, 21, 26), and You desire to do so with us, and to empower us to live in peace with others. (Rom. 12:18)

How often we stand in need of the Lord’s rest to quieten our inner turbulence, and to rebalance us when everything seems to be careering in the wrong direction. Today, whether you are reading these words at the beginning middle towards the end of the day, bring an issue of concern to the Lord and pray for the quietness of His love to calm and restore you.

The music you will hear is Dios Nunca arranged for marimba and strings by Andrew Whettam.

Some time ago the Lord had warned me that we would be ‘shuffling about’ for some time to come – and sure enough we spent several years moving from one place to another. Twice within Devon, once to Kent, and then to a temporary location in Malvern before being led to our present home. When we got here we thought about calling it Makon because here was a house – and a word – that spoke of a fixed and settled dwelling place. It was the nearest I could get to ‘Dun Roaming’ in biblical Hebrew!

How faithful You are in placing Your people, Lord! Whether it is the street we live in, or the place where we work, the places we are able to visit, You situate us with pinpoint accuracy. Thank You for the blessing of safe dwelling places and quiet resting places. Thank You, too, for the way You weave us into a community of faith.

You are the One who makes a home for the refugee, Lord, the One who gives them a name and an inheritance. When Naomi prayed that her daughters-in-law would find rest in the homes of new husbands, she thought she was saying goodbye to them forever, but You had something entirely different in store for Ruth. You took both mother and daughter-in-law to a new and fruitful place of rest. Thank You for the way You led and cared for them both there – and for all that came from it.

We praise You for all those times when You keep us from settling, because You never intended the place that we were seeking to be our place of rest, and it is so much better for us to be in the land of promise than to put down our roots in the land of apparent plenty!

The music you will hear is the first movement of a sonata by Loeillet (Op.1, no. 1, Largo) played for us on the flute by Nicola Gerard.

The time of resting will come. ‘The LORD your God will give [us] rest (nuach) by giving [us] this land,’ Joshua declared. (Josh. 1:13 NIV) But until then, let us neither procrastinate nor give a foothold to complacency.

Father, You spoke to Ezekiel, and said, ‘I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land’ (Ezek. 37:14) – another key meaning of the word nuach.

When Your Holy Spirit settled on Isaiah You promised that, “Your people would dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Is. 32:18)

We know that there is often battle involved to get us to a place of promised deliverance and warmly welcome rest. (e.g. Deut. 12:10) But when we read that we are to make every effort to enter the rest – to strive to do so even (Heb. 4;11, ESV; NIV = ‘make effort to’) – that sounds like quite a paradox.

But you see, the rest that the Lord gives, menuchah, conveys more than just physical rest.

In the Jewish Minchah (the afternoon service), we learn that it is “a rest of love freely given, a rest of truth and sincerity, a rest in peace and tranquillity, in quietude and safety.” Yet at the same time, it is a rest bathed in holiness. It exists so that we might glorify God’s name. [This article contains valuable insight into God’s intentions for the sabbath day in reconnecting us with what He has already done and with who He is.]

This is the refreshing, of which the Lord spoke in Isaiah when He said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest here”; and, “This is the place of quiet rest.” Menuchah is a powerful word; an intensifier of nuach, which itself speaks of deep rest. And the Lord Himself invites the faithful to rest from their labours.

There is a lovely promise for Daniel too when he had been through a prolonged period of great mental and spiritual agitation, seeing visions which shook him to the core of his being: Daniel, go your way till the end, and you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days. (Dan. 12:13)

Yes, there will be rest in Heaven, and of a kind we can barely begin to imagine. Thank You for Isaiah’s profound insight that ‘Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they pass beyond this life and into the next.’ [But see the context in Isaiah 57:1-2]

If there was work in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, then why should there not also be work in Heaven too? Albeit with none of the under- and over-tones that so often make it toilsome on Earth. (Gen. 1:28, 2:15) Praise You, Lord, that it is recorded that in Heaven, too, Your people will serve You. (Rev. 22:3) – for Heaven is so much more than a glorified retirement home.

When You taught about Your Father’s Kingdom, Jesus, You weren’t primarily thinking about people putting their feet up in a hammock, with a book in one hand and a harp in the other! Where You are, everything brims and overflows with Your life, and there will be no shortage of activity in Your Kingdom, the whole Host of Heaven now deep in worship and now about the Father’s work, for work is worship and worship is work.

We have seen how the Lord set Ezekiel down in a dead valley, but took him too, out of the land of exile and into Israel, setting (nuach) him ‘on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city.’ (Ezek. 40:2 NIV) This weary, displaced, dis-possessed, temple-less priest had suffered much in order to obey and serve God, and here was the Lord giving him a sight of His own eternal resting place where God Himself would dwell, because He desires to. (Ps. 132:14)

Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 6:11 and 14:13)

Music: Robert Weston: Let Your Spirit come
Improvisation on the hymn tune, ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise.’

I was struck this morning by these verses from Hebrews: ‘There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters God’s rest rests from His own work. . . . Strive, therefore, (make every effort) to enter that rest!’ (Heb. 4:9,11). As a result I recorded an extempore prayer along those lines.

It is set to a beautiful piece of music that Colin Owen wrote specifically for me. Jane Horsfall accompanies on the Celtic harp, with Grace and Jonathan Lee playing violin, Catherine Muncey, viola, Corinne Frost and Natalie Halliday, cello, and I play the recorder myself.

Enjoy this extempore prayer that I recorded as part of a series of teachings and meditations on the theme of rest.

I wrote the first piece of music some years ago. In the second, Francesco Barsanti’s setting of a lilting Scottish melody, Jane Horsfall plays the Celtic harp, Francis Cummings the violin, Catherine Muncey the viola, Natalie Halliday the cello, Megan Mellumphy the flute and James Horsfall the keyboard.