Chapter 4 of Hebrews continues on from chapter 3 in discussing the failure of Gods people to receive the rest that he had promised them due to their unbelief. It repeats the warning;
If you hear Gods voice today, do not be stubborn (v 7) and;
I was angry and made a solemn promise; They will never enter the land where I would have given them rest.(v3)
Verse one tells us that the promise of that rest is still available but there are conditions, just as there were in the times of Moses and Joshua;
Now God has offered us the promise that we may receive that rest he spoke about. Let us take care then, that none of you will be found to have failed to receive that promised rest
The concept of God’s rest is first introduced in Genesis 2 v 2 when God rested from all his work of creation. Quite clearly we are expected to work, as God himself did and to rest. The work was made harder through Adam’s disobedience.
Abraham was first promised the land by God in Genesis 15 v 18 and again in Genesis 17 v 8 as an everlasting promise. In addition to that God promised to bless all nations through him because he obeyed.
In Exodus 33 v 14 The lord said I will go with you, and I will give you victory. In the NIV version victory is translated as Rest; My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
This promise is again given to David via Samuel in 2 Samuel v10 where God promises his people a home where they will not be disturbed and oppressed – in other words, they can rest.
Jesus himself said in Matthew 11 v 28;
Come to me, all you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.
Then in Revelation 22 v 12
Listen! says Jesus “I am coming soon! I will bring my rewards with me, to give to each one according to what he has done.
Throughout the Bible, rest, victory and peace and rewards seem to be almost interchangeable.
So: How are we to receive that rest?
- By believing (v3) – We are to believe in the work of Jesus to receive that promised rest which God has already created from the beginning. When God rested on the seventh day, His work was complete and his rest was already in existence.
- By obedience (v6) The Israelites did not receive their promised land and rest due to their lack of faith and their disobedience.
- By receiving (v10) For those who receive that rest which God has promised will rest from their own work, just as God has rested from his. This promise is conditional on the first two parts of believing and being obedient.
- By Effort (v11) Let us, then do our best to receive that rest, so that no one of us will fail as they did because of their lack of faith. This is not saying that we earn this rest through physical works but to work on our faith and not follow Israel’s disobedience through their lack of faith.
We will pause this study for today at verses 12 to 13 which begins to change the topic but reminds us that:
The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.
There is nothing that can be hidden from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes. And it is to him that we must all give an account of ourselves.
Chapter 4 into 5 then goes on to discuss further the role of Jesus as our high priest – we will look at this tomorrow.
Quotes from Good News Bible