This passage continues the thought of the previous chapter. The author of Hebrews used Psalm 95:7-11 to demonstrate that the generation coming out of Egypt failed to enter into God’s rest, or the promised land, because of their disbelief. Now he turns his attention to the current generation and the invitation we have to enter into God’s rest.
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The Promise of Entering God’s Rest Still Stands
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.Hebrews 4:1-2 NIV
Hebrews 3:7-19 discussed the failure of the Exodus generation to enter into God’s rest. But it is challenging to see how to derive the promise that this chapter starts with. That the promise of entering God’s rest still stands. But it is there. And the author explains it more fully in Hebrews 4:3-9. For now, it is enough to recognize that the invitation to enter into God’s rest is still open. And it is open to the audience of this letter to the Hebrews. As well as to believers today.
Here again, the author expresses his concern that some may fall short. That some who have started the journey of faith may, in the end, fall short. And then be unable to enter into God’s rest. We need to be careful that that is not true of us.
The Good News
You might argue that the ‘good news’ proclaimed to us is not the same as what was proclaimed to the Exodus generation. But the heart of the message is the same. It was a message of deliverance from slavery either to Egypt or to sin. It was a message to enter into a covenant relationship with God. To obediently follow where he leads. And to hold onto the hope that was set before us.
The message itself is good news. But it only has value to those who hear it and then respond in obedience to it. Most of the Exodus generation failed to obey, and so fell short. But there were two, Joshua and Caleb, who did hear the message and responded in faith. And they entered into God’s rest. So today, there are some who hear and obey, and enter God’s rest.
The Promise Still Stands
Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”
And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;Hebrews 4:3-9 NIV
The Sabbath Rest
Genesis 2:2 says that on the seventh day God rested from all his works. This verse, in isolation, would not seem to have much to say about our salvation. But the author understands it to be more than just a note about God taking a short break from his labors. As though the creation of a universe was exhausting for him.
At the end of the passage quoted here, he mentions a Sabbath-rest for God’s people. This most likely comes from Exodus 20:8-11, the fourth commandment that established the seventh day as a day of rest for God’s people. The author sees these two passages as being connected together. God rested. And in establishing the Sabbath, he is inviting us to rest. To enter into his rest.
The Promised Land as God’s Rest
God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the land that he had brought them to would be theirs. Although they lived in the land as pilgrims, the promise was still something that they looked forward to. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, it was to return to that land. It was a move away from slavery, and into the freedom of being God’s covenant people. It was entering into God’s rest.
But, as Psalm 95:8-11 summarizes so well, they failed to trust that God would give them that land. And, as a result, they failed to enter it and died in the wilderness instead. 40 years after leaving Egypt they finally did go into the promised land under Joshua’s leadership. But, even though they were in the land, they continued to be guilty of the same disbelief and disobedience that had caused their forebears to die in the wilderness. And so, according to the author, they had not really entered into God’s rest.
The author attributes this psalm to David, who lived several hundred years after the Exodus and conquest of the land. And he, speaking through the Holy Spirit, said, “Today, if only you would hear his voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts’.” The author understands this to mean that when David was speaking, the invitation to enter God’s rest was still open. Today, don’t be like your ancestors who disobeyed and failed to enter into God’s rest.
It might seem like Joshua had brought the people into God’s rest. But David’s words here indicate that was not the case. If Joshua had given them rest, then the offer to enter would not still be open 400 years later. While that logic might be strange to us today, it is very integral to the author’s argument concerning the invitation to enter into God’s rest.
God has a rest for his people. Many in the past have been invited to enter but failed because of disbelief. But his invitation is still open to us today.
Make Every Effort to Enter God’s Rest
for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.Hebrews 4:10-11 NIV
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
Resting from Our Own Works
The one who enters God’s rest, rests from their own work. This is a challenging statement to understand. But it may well be that the author here is referring to something similar to Ephesians 2:8-10. Entering into God’s rest is synonymous with salvation. Salvation is a work of God, not my own. I need to cease from my own attempts to be ‘good enough’ to find favor with God.
But most assuredly it does not mean that once I am saved I can kick back and take it easy. That nothing more is expected of me. Many seem to take that attitude, but it is hard to justify when you look at the lives of the apostles and what they had to teach us. We are called to service. To work. We are not working to earn our salvation. But because of our salvation. Not to keep our salvation. But out of obedient and faithful hearts.
Make Every Effort
To make every effort to enter into God’s rest sounds, on the surface at least, like we are being told to work for our salvation. But look back to the example the author is drawing from. The Exodus generation for the most part failed to enter into God’s rest. Why? It was not because they did not work hard enough. It was because of their disobedience and lack of faith in God’s provision. Even though they came out of Egypt and entered into covenant with God at Sinai, they never did fully trust him. They complained over and over. And when they came to the border of Canaan, they turned away in fear.
So, the author’s admonition to us here is to not be like them. Don’t be disobedient to God’s call in your life. Trust him and be faithful. And if you do, you will enter into God’s rest.
Hebrews Post List
- Hebrews: An Introduction - This article gives a brief introduction into the book of Hebrews. It is the first of a series of on this sermon from a pastor to his people.
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4) - In the prologue to Hebrews the author identifies the supremacy of Christ over the prophets and angels as well as summarizing his Christology.
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14) - This passage uses seven quotes from the Old Testament to demonstrate that Christ, the Son, is superior to the angels.
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4) - The author of Hebrews here warns us to pay attention to the great salvation we have been given. If we do not, the danger of drifting away is great.
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9) - Humanity is not what God created us to be. But we see Jesus, who took on a human nature, tasted death for us, and is now crowned with glory and honor.
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13) - Jesus, the author of our salvation, was made perfect, as a savior, through his suffering on the cross. The perfect lamb sacrificed for us.
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18) - Jesus became fully human in every way, allowing him to defeat death and to become our perfect high priest, offering himself as our atonement.
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6) - To one raised in Old Testament Judaism, there was no one greater than Moses. But Hebrews here affirms that Jesus is greater than Moses.
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19) - Hebrews uses Psalm 95 to demonstrate that failure to enter into God's rest is because of our disobedience and failure to remain faithful.
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11) - The promise of entering into God's rest is still open to us today. Unlike many in the past, make every effort to enter into that rest.
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13) - God's word is active and alive. It is not just words on a page. It is his message for us that reaches deep within us to shape our lives.
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16) - Because Jesus is our great high priest, who has experienced the life we live, we can confidently come to God for his grace and mercy.
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10) - Jesus, the Son of God, learned obedience through his suffering on the cross. He knows what it is to obey the Father, even in suffering.
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3) - The author's challenge to us here is to move beyond the elementary teachings of the faith. To be growing ever deeper in the truth.
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12) - There are a number of warnings in Hebrews about falling away. But this is the most explicit of them. How should be understand there warnings.
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20) - The promise that God made to Abraham is relevant to those of us who have come to trust in Jesus. And that hope is an anchor for our soul.
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10) - Two priesthoods are examined here. That of Melchizedek and that of Aaron. And Melchizedek's is demonstrated to be the superior one.
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28) - Jesus has ushered in a new priesthood. One that is after the order of Melchizedek, eternal and fully able to meet our needs.
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6) - Hebrews has been building toward this point. A high priest after the order of Melchizedek is not just theory. In Jesus, it is a reality.
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13) - The new covenant that Jeremiah foresaw has found its fulfillment in Jesus. He is the mediator of this new covenant made with us.
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10) - The worship in the old covenant tabernacle was a shadow of what was to come. Especially the hiddenness of the Most Holy Place.
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15) - The old covenant was written on tablets has been replaced with a covenant written on our hearts and inaugurated by the blood of Christ,
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28) - The earthly tabernacle was only a shadow of the heavenly sanctuary that Jesus entered into on our behalf, offering a perfect sacrifice.
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18) - Jesus sacrificed himself for us. One sacrifice that was sufficient for all time. There is now no longer any need to sacrifice for sin.
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39) - Because of what Jesus did for us, we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place with full assurance. We have been cleansed and washed.
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31) - The 11th chapter of Hebrews is nicknamed the Hall of Faith. The author here defines faith, and then shows faith in action.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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