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Relax! Hebrew 4

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Context

Up to this point, the author of the letter to the Hebrews has spoken about the superiority of Jesus because he is the Creator (1:2) and that he was made like one of us (2:17). He is our source of our being and he is the one who understands what it is like to be human. In particular he understands the struggle we have to trust God at his word because he experienced that struggle too.

This struggle has been constant for God’s people. We are reminded of the Exodus, that the people of the Exodus were saved from slavery – they saw the mighty work of God. But in their journey to the land God would give them, they failed to learn to trust God at his word. The very thing that Jesus knows we find hard to do: trust God at his word.

This is the very thing that is so crucial to our relationship with God. No trust means no relationship of any significance.

The writer of Hebrews is saying that rebuilding this trust is the fundamental part of our journey to be with God again. God rescued his people from Egypt from slavery to take them to rest with him by the blood of the lamb on the door posts.  God rescued us from slavery to Satan to take us to rest with him by the blood of the lamb. Like the people after the Exodus, we too are on the journey. The journey with the purpose to rebuild our trust in God; allow us to show out trust so that it is a true relationship. Chapter 4 verse 2: 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.

This chapter four of Hebrews answer four questions about this rest:

  • What is God’s rest?
  • How does one enter God’s rest?
  • When do we enter God’s rest?
  • How will we know when we have fully entered God’s rest?

Let’s think about each question. They are like pieces of a puzzle. When we put them together we can better see the big picture of our current journey and the plea of the writer that we don’t give up or harden our hearts to God.

What is God’s rest?

Verses 3b-4: 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.’

God’s rest is something that he has been enjoying since he finished creating. His rest does not mean that he is not working, because he is still sustaining his creation. What did it mean for God to arrive at the seventh day? It meant that everything was good – as it should be, including us. In Genesis chapter 1, the seventh day has no end. After each other day we read, there was evening and morning, but the seventh day just continues. We were in that day! So God’s rest is a way of talking about everything being as it should be, including a trusting relationship between God and his creation. The exact thing that was lost when Adam and Eve rebelled. The exact thing that Hebrews keeps telling us is our big danger – not trusting God.

So what is God’s rest? It is fully enjoying his creation, which is all about his relationship to it. God is waiting for us in that rest. The writer of Hebrews says that the promise of this rest still stands Today!

That’s puzzle piece one: God’s rest is relating to us as the relationship should be.

How does one enter God’s rest?

Puzzle piece 2: how does one enter God’s rest?

Verse 2 gives us the answer: 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.

We enter by trust. That’s what the word faith means. In the Bible, trust means to live your life in response to what God says. That was the problem for the people of the Exodus. As they journeyed to the promised land they did not believe God would provide for them or care for them. They complained, they took matters into their own hands.

Jesus showed us in his life that it is humanly possible to trust God even to the point of death. It’s his extreme journey in our place that makes it possible for us to learn to trust again. That’s good news!

So how does one enter God’s rest? By living the whole of life trusting God’s Word – that is both Jesus and his written word.

That’s puzzle piece two: We enter by trust.

When do we enter God’s rest?

The third piece of the puzzle is, When do we enter this rest?

Look at verse 3: Now we who have believed enter that rest.

Now look at verses 8-9: 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.

So entering God’s rest happens now and in the future. It is something we experience now as we trust God through Jesus, but we also wait for the fullness of it when we come to this end of this journey. That means that when we trust God now we are able to experience real relationship with God and we hope for the future when those moments of experience are always. That’s puzzle piece three.

How will we know when we have fully entered into God’s rest?

Which leads into the last puzzle piece. How will we know when we have fully entered into God’s rest?

Let’s read verse 10: for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

When we cease from our work. Now, what does “work” mean here? Look at verse 11: Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

In the context I think the work here is not our daily labour of hunting and gathering but the work of trusting, that why it says, “make every effort”. It takes effort to trust and that’s work. It won’t take effort when we are with God, but now, on the journey, it does. This is not the work of being saved. We can’t save ourselves anymore than the Israelites could free themselves from slavery from Egypt. God had to rescue them. God had to rescue us with Jesus. Now we are building our relationship muscles, our trust muscle, to make this relationship with God real and profound. Just like it was in the beginning; just like God is waiting for us to return to. We are reclaiming what should have been.

So, we will know we have fully entered into God’s rest when the work of trusting is over – we can just enjoy the relationship.

Application: Journey

When we put them together we can better see the big picture of our current journey. 

Four piece puzzle that depicts the four areas of the sermon

The writer of Hebrews is saying that rebuilding this trust is the fundamental part of our journey to be with God again. God rescued his people from Egypt from slavery by the blood of the lamb on the door posts to take them to rest with him. God rescued us from slavery to Satan by the blood of the lamb to take us to rest with him. Like the people after the Exodus, we too are on the journey. The journey with the purpose to rebuild our trust in God; allow us to show it! Like a true relationship! The very thing that we find hard to do.

Knowing this big picture is meant as an encouragement. It is meant to strengthen our hearts by grace (13:9). It’s meant to have effect in our lives like:

Perspective: what is most important?

Attitude: How I respond to every situation.

Treasure: what I value

Character: the kind of person I am

When my aim is to work on how I trust God as the big picture, then these four areas are affected.

Conclusion

You can apply this to each situation you face. Just like the Israelites in the desert were meant to. There are plenty of examples amongst us here: an accident; a move to another country; the death of someone you love; learning language, being a parent; being a child; being a wife or a husband; being a friend; facing the loss of your job… the list is endless, and that’s the point. This is the journey we are on from slavery to ultimate rest. There is a purpose to the journey, to restore what should have been between us and God. Jesus has shown us that it is possible, and so verse 11: Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash