Cain has committed great sin - a betrayal of family…an act of rage out of jealousy…the first time in the Scriptures when we see one human take the life a fellow divine image bearer. And while God spares Cain’s life, his punishment involves a geographical displacement. He is banished, just as his parents were from the Garden of Eden when they sinned. But his exile is to the land of Nod, even farther to the east of Eden (Genesis 4:16). Movement eastward in the Bible often captures a movement away from God. Many generations later, the remnant of the descendants of Abraham would make a similar trek eastward in exile, far away from the intended land of rest and sanctuary for God’s presence. Cain was displaced a great distance from Eden, Israel a great distance from Canaan. The sins of each had led to the respective curses, and one of God’s descriptions of Cain’s exilic journey was that he would be “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (4:12, 14). The message is clear. Life outside of God’s intended space is, in a word, RESTLESS.
Israel as a people knew the experience of restlessness all too well. Even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were mostly on the move. They were nomads, sojourners, “seeking a country of their own” (Hebrews 11:14). But after 400 years of slavery and 40 years of wilderness wandering, tired feet long for a footstool. So it’s no wonder why a reading of Deuteronomy and Joshua back to back will reveal one of the main emphases of Promised Land benefit being the prospect of REST.
It’s a need Jesus knew well - one which the weekly Sabbath Day only shadowed and found its fuller substance in the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). So just as the entrance into the Promised Land would result in Rest for Israel, Jesus’ call to the weary and heavy-laden is an invitation to those who would come to Him and enter the space of who He is (being in Christ). In such a space is rest for the soul (Matthew 11:28-29) - the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God who will “enter His rest” (Hebrews 4:8-11). The entrance into the rest of being in Christ is a return from exile - one each of us have experienced through’s sins alienating effects. But now in Him we have returned home, wearing His best clothes, and feasting on the fatted calf.
Augustine was right when he said, “God has made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him."
To His Glory,