Our passage for study today comes from Hebrews 4:4-11:
For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words 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 of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:4-11 ESV)
Rest. It’s something we truly don’t appreciate until we don’t have it.
Work an all-night shift at work. Work out in the sun all day. Give around the clock care to someone. Watch a bunch of kids all day.
Go through these types of activities and at some point you just long for a little rest.
In 2009, I ran my first and last marathon. I trained really well and was ready for the race, but race day that April brought temperatures about 20 degrees higher than normal. By mile 21, I was so tired and worn out I thought about lying down by the side of the road and crying. I was longing for rest.
It’s something we truly don’t appreciate until we don’t have it.
In this passage, the writer discusses entering God’s rest.
There are two states of being in God’s rest:
1) In the present – In our everyday lives, God is with us. He watches over us, leads us and protects us, etc. We benefit from this. Our lives are in a sense “easier” because of our relationship with Him. This doesn’t mean life is easy, but it does mean God will provide the grace we need for each moment. In this regard, two verses come to mind:
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
2) Eternally – Rest also signifies a relationship with God, though Jesus Christ, that will last forever. To make this point, consider what John writes in the book of Revelation about those taking the mark of the beast:
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:11 ESV)
With these two pictures of God’s rest, let’s consider the verses before us, Hebrews 4:4-11.
(v. 4:4) For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” – Does God get tired or need rest? No, He doesn’t. He is also hasn’t stopped being everywhere all the time, hearing our prayers, holding creation together, etc. So here, “rest” refers to something else. To what does it refer? Let’s answer that by first looking at verse 4:5.
(v. 4:5) And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” – The writer again refers to Psalm 95:11 which was also quoted in verse 4:3. As in verse 4:4, “rest” here doesn’t refer to a lack of energy or a state of no activity, it is referring to a relationship with God.
(v. 4:6) Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, – The writer uses this verse to pull together the previous several verses (“Since therefore”) and prepares to make a point. He reminds the reader again of the Israelites in the desert who “received the good news” but “failed to enter because of disobedience.”
(v. 4:7) [A]gain he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” – Is the writer trying to make a point? Yes! And for the third time, he quotes Psalm 95:7 to make it. Today is the day. If you hear have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and have not responded to His call, TODAY IS THE DAY!
(v. 4:8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. – Entering the Promised Land did not bring the sort of “rest” that only God can bring.
(v. 4:9) So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, – The “Sabbath rest” referred to here describes again a relationship with God. The ESV Bible study guide refers to this state as “ceasing from the spiritual strivings.”
(v. 4:10) for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. – When we are called by God into a relationship with Him, we realize we can rest from our work of trying to earn – or lose – our salvation.
(v. 4:11) Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – “Striving to enter that rest” refers to living by faith, the opposite of those who didn’t enter by “disobedience.”
The exhortation to respond to God’s voice began back in chapter three. This followed the writer’s description of Jesus being superior to Moses. Moses was faithful as a servant (v. 3:5), but Jesus was faithful as a son (v. 3:6). Offering this comparison was surely important so that some could see the obvious distinction between the two. However, the writer is also encouraging us – we who say we follow Jesus – to not follow the example of those who followed Moses out of Egypt. Those Israelites were disobedient – they did not live by faith, and this disobedience prevented them from entering God’s rest.
We still have the opportunity to enter His rest, but like the Israelites, we can only enter by faith. We don’t enter by our own work, toil or effort. We enter simply by God’s grace. As it says in Titus:
“[H]e saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit[.]” (Titus 3:5 ESV)