There is no rest when the wicked roam the land, and in the 9th century, the Vikings were doing a fantastic job of terrorizing the Frankish empire. It was, in fact, too easy. They would take their boats and raid the Frankish coast, then they would sail up the Seine River and loot anything that was in their path.
It didn’t hurt their cause that after the year 814, the year Charlemagne passed away, his grandsons fought for his throne. They had no time to worry about the Viking threat; they had far more important things to quarrel about!
Eventually the Frankish king offered money to the Vikings to leave them alone. The Viks were satisfied, and they went back to Scandinavia. Only to return the next year for more money!
The plunder didn’t stop. In 841 they looted the famous city of Rouen and burned the monastery of Jumièges. In 845 they came with even more force: 120 boats and 5,000 men, and they eventually reached Paris. The plundering continued year in and year out, and nothing seemed to be able to stop those Viks! The Frankish empire lived in absolute terror. Peace did not exist within its borders.
Something new happened in 852, however, when the Viks settled in Oissel land, not too far from Rouen. Their plan was simply to winter there, but they realize their advantage: From their settlement they could raid the region whenever they wanted to, Rouen being one of their favourite places to plunder. Paris was once again looted as well.
King Charles had to do something about them, but he didn’t have the necessary manpower to defeat these stubborn Viks. Instead he signed a treaty with the Viking leader, Rollon. In return for a peaceful coexistence, the King offered them territory that corresponds to today’s Haute-Normandie, and in 912, almost a century after the Vikings first began to plunder France, Rollon was christened, taking the Christian name “Robert”. A name I sure like! Robert became the count of Rouen as well as the first Duke of Normandy. It is not without reason that Normandy became one of the most powerful provinces at that time, and even more importantly, peace and rest finally returned to the Frankish empire.
More than 1000 years later, D day took place on Normandy shores, a move that eventually defeated the Nazi menace in France. There too, rest finally occurred after almost 5 long years of sheer turmoil.
Just like the Frankish empire in the 9th century, after the creation of the world, rest seemed to be an unknown notion among the inhabitants of the Earth as well. Despite the fact that the book of Genesis is filled with examples of people worshipping God, there is no reference whatsoever, of Sabbath (which means rest in Hebrew).
Only after the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, do we once again find the notion of rest: “On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much-two omers for each person-and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, ‘This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'” (Exodus 16:22-23, NIV2)
Interestingly the first mention of Sabbath after sin occurred, was addressed to the freed Israelites, and it was directly connected with their need of food. Imagine living in a desert. You may have a tent to keep you out of the sun, but your biggest need would be water and food, which is something the Israelites began grumbling about from the beginning of Ex. 16 on. Sorry, but there were no air conditioners available at that time. Even nowadays, where would you find a plug in the desert for such a device?
It’s clear that God wanted the people to trust Him as the provider of all their needs, and their most urgent needs (food and water) were miraculously provided: manna and quails send from heaven and water from bare rocks. The Israelites had really nothing to worry about, even in the midst of the harshest conditions of a sweltering dessert.
Every weekend the Israelites experienced a miracle. Normally any manna from heaven would end up “full of maggots” and begin “to smell” if it was kept till the next day (See Exodus 16:20), but not on their day of rest! “So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.” (Exodus 16:24, NIV2)
Unlike us in the Western world, the Israelites had no need to store provisions. God was their provider and He always came through. As long as they trusted in God’s provisions, they were provided with all of their needs, even their very clothes and shoes! “Yet the LORD says, ‘During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.'” (Deuteronomy 29:5, NIV2)
The whole purpose for this was to give the Israelites an opportunity to get to know God. “I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 29:6, NIV2) He is, after all, crazy about us!
I wonder why our society is so stressed, why we never seem to find rest. Is it possible we have become estranged from God? That we’ve stopped trusting Him in all things? He will provide if we trust Him. The Israelites experienced that first-hand! The problem is that we may have forgotten what trust really means!
Do you have an oscillating fan? It sure is hot out there in the middle of the dessert!
(To access the entire “Restful Repose” devotional series, please click here.)