Hebrews 4:1-4 – What do you think of when you think of resting? Sleeping in late on a lazy Saturday mourning? How about laying on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean or Hawaii? Whatever comes to your mind, rest is a delightful and needed reprieve for the weary. At times our bodies cry out for relief. The same is true for our souls.
The person within all of us is not capable of living with the stress of our times. The good news is that inner rest is immediately available. It does not require a drive to some distant campground or money to purchase a few hours of relief. God has provided a rest that we can have every day. The bad news is that many of us don’t ever enter into the rest that God has provided for us. The message in Hebrews 4:1-13 is that it is possible for us to relieve ourselves of stress, if we are willing to do it God’s way.
Rest Defined – The basic idea of this word in both English and the original languages, is ceasing from work or any kind of action. It means to stop doing what you are doing. Action, labor, or exertion ends. When we apply this to God’s rest, it means primarily no more self‑effort as far as salvation is concerned. It also means the end of trying to please God by our own works and efforts. Rest also means freedom from whatever worries or disturbs us. It doesn’t mean that disturbing things won’t occur, but it does mean that we will not be so easily upended by them when they do.
To enter God’s rest means to be at peace with God, and to possess the perfect peace He gives; to be inwardly quiet, composed, and peaceful. It means also to be free from guilt and unnecessary feelings of guilt. It means freedom from worry about sin, because sin is forgiven. Rest can also mean to lie down, to be settled, fixed, secure. It means not shifting about in frustration from one thing to another, no more running in circles. It means being freed from running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from life‑style to life‑style. Rest involves being confident, not having to be fearful; having confidence in God who has the power and promises to care for us.
To enter God’s rest means that we have Him to lean on. We can depend on God for everything, in the midst of everything, for support, for health, for strength, for all we need. This is the kind of rest that God provides. Entering, is the act of moving into an enclosed space, into something that totally surrounds you. Moses’ generation missed out because they failed to believe. Rest from God requires hearing (God’s Word) + believing = resting. When faith does not follow hearing, as it proved in the example of Israel, the results can be deadly. “The word they heard did not profit them”.
Hebrews 4:4 – In this portion of Hebrews we are taken back to the very beginning, at creation. We are reminded that for 6 days God was actively involved in creating the world. When the whole universe had been assembled, no detail overlooked, God ceased from all his labor. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a reminder of the true rest that was to come in the Messiah. In fact Israel to this day greets the Sabbath as the Bride of God. Each week there is a longing and anticipation of the joy of the coming Queen, Sabbath. Because it was a symbol of what was to come.
Adam and Eve were completely righteous when they were created. They were at rest. They relied on God for everything. They needed nothing except His fellowship, because they were made for Him. This was their rest. But something terrible happened. When Satan began to impugn God’s word, His integrity, and His Love, Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan. They trusted him rather than God, and the result was that they lost their rest. And from that time until now, man apart from God not only has been sinful but restless. The entire purpose of the Bible and God’s workings throughout the ages is to bring man back into His rest. In order to experience God’s rest we need the right formula: Hearing (God’s Word) + believing (God’s Word) = resting. And we need the right attitude to apply that formula.
Hebrews 4:5-6 – They shall not enter my rest refers to Israel who failed to enter the land of rest because they failed to believe God who was granting it to them. Lack of faith was not the only thing that caused them to fail to enter God=s rest but disobedience as well. In some way faith and obedience work together, faith responds in obedience and obedience is rewarded with greater faith. When Israel obeyed they saw the result of their obedience and their faith was strengthened. The same is true for us as we learn to obey God and see the fruit in our lives that obedience brings, our faith is strengthened.
Hebrews 5:7-8 The third element of rest is immediate action. God fixes a certain day, “Today”. The opportunity for God’s rest remains, but it will not remain indefinitely. For each one of us it will end before or with death, this age of grace that we live in, will not last forever. This is why immediate action is so important. Such was the reality in the days of Noah. This rest is available now! The writer appeals to the importance of a response by once again reminding them of the failure of Israel to enter the Promised Land. He does this by bringing up the later entry of Israel into the land, lest they think that the physical land of Israel is the complete resting place for Israel. He clarifies this by reminding that God spoke of another day after they entered the land of rest in Psalm 95.
Hebrews 4:9-11 As believers we enter into God’s rest through faith. This is true of both salvation and sanctification. Rest in the Christian life comes through complete reliance on God’s promises and full surrender to His will (2 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 2:6). The word in Hebrews 4:9 (rest) indicates that, just as God ceased from His creative activity on the seventh day (Hebrews 4:4), so believers may cease from working for their salvation and self‑reliance in sanctification. So God has provided a place that allows us to relax in Him, to draw upon His power, and to cease from our worries. The requirements for this is Hearing God’s Word and Believing God’s Word.
Hebrews 4:12 We now are directed to learn from His word how He helps us know how to rest. The Word of God instructs us, by slicing its way into our lives, cutting into the way we think, the way we reason out doing things the way that we do. By revealing to us the truth of why we work so hard to hide from God and His Will for us.
Man has been hiding from God since he fell in the Garden of Eden, trying to cover his nakedness with a host of different methods. But it is only when we are exposed to God’s Presence and His Word, and begin to agree with what He says, that God’s remedy for the things that ail us, and his rest, can be realized.
It requires Spiritual surgery, which although it is usually painful, is a vital part of the process which leads us into God’s rest. Hebrews 4:12 seems to come out of nowhere. It doesn’t seem to fit into the context of what Hebrews 4:1-11 were speaking about. After all the subject there, was resting, not the Bible or the Word of God. But in fact a direct correlation does exist. There is an implied transition from Hebrews 4:1-11 to Hebrews 4:12-13.
The implication is that the way we think enslaves us, and keeps us from experiencing God’s rest. It’s one thing to hear and talk about God’s rest, but the process of entering into it is quite another thing. Someone has, I think rightly said, “After all is said and done, more is said, than done.” It is our old habitual thinking patterns that keep us from entering God’s rest. What we need is an agent that will jolt us away from our traditional way of thinking and awaken us to a whole new life‑style, called “resting in the Lord” What is it that will, break us from our old patterns? God’s Word!
Our standard mode of thinking involves a number of things. Here are 3 elements:
1) Presumption ‑ We tend to consider all things based on our presuppositions and prejudices. When I was first presented with the claims of Jesus as Messiah, my presupposition was: “Nothing good has ever come from Christianity. It has been the source of the world’s problems, and even more so, the problems that we as Jews have experienced. Jesus was a Gentile, and all Gentiles hate Jews”. I immediately blocked out accepting any statements regarding Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible, because of my presumption that nothing true came from those sources. We are all guilty of presumption at one time or another; In order for us to grow as individuals, whether we accept the Bible or not, we need to examine our presuppositions and prejudices and determine if they are valid or not.
2) Panic ‑ When we are confronted with our presuppositions, and realize that we might be wrong, panic sets in. Panic stimulates two reactions in us: Fight or Flight. Either we will fight against this truth that confronts us or we will run from it.
3) Pride ‑ Working together with panic is pride. Admitting that we are wrong for most of us is very difficult. It’s tough to confess that a conviction that we have held dear, is wrong. Prejudice, presumption, panic and pride need to be removed from our minds. But before they can be removed so that we can begin resting in the Lord, some other thoughts need to be understood.
God’s Truth is effective. We need help outside ourselves to recognize our old habits. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the intentions of the heart. One of the best kept secrets is the contents of our hearts. But when God’s truth penetrates a person and God does spiritual surgery, the contents of our hearts are revealed and we are forced to face the truth as it really is.
What exactly is the Word of God? In a technical sense, the Word of God refers specifically to the Scriptures. But it has a broader sense as well. God’s word can come to us through others and in other ways that He chooses to reveal His word to us. This could include Biblically based counsel from godly men and women. Books which help us to understand how to apply God’s word, music inspired by the Scriptures, and even messages which God has prompted certain people to deliver. The point is, is that when the Bible is read or heard in one form or another, it actively goes to work inside our heads like no other piece of literature.
The word of God has some supernatural aspects to it. It is living. Listen to the last words Moses spoke to the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 32:46: “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law, For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you shall prolong your days in the land where you are about to cross over the Jordan to possess it.”
God’s word is alive, it has been described as leaven, which also is a living organism that permeates and affects the entire loaf of bread it is placed into. The word of God is active, There is a power in it unlike anything else found in human communication. It touches us where nothing else can reach, and sparks human desires and decisions which cannot be prompted by anything else.
The Word of God is sharp. This term means to cut. In other words it penetrates and probes, cutting into and through territory beyond the reach of a surgeon’s scalpel. Listen to the prophecy of Jeremiah “Behold days are coming declares the Lord, when I will make a New covenant with the house of Israel not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke…
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those day, declares the Lord, I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it. Both the words covenant and write in Hebrew have the word to cut as their root. Just as God with His finger cut the 10 commandments on stone so God’s spirit through His word cuts the New Covenant in our hearts.
The Abilities of the Word of God. ‑ It is able to pierce. It does what no other thing can do and accomplish. God’s Word can correct a negative attitude, open a closed mind, stop us from giving up a commitment, soften a rebellious spirit, and wipe out lust, and greed. The Word of God is also able to Judge.
The word judge in the original language is where we get the word critic. God’s word has the capacity to sift out, analyze, and scrutinize our thoughts; Which includes our deepest feelings, our desires, our instincts, and our passions. The word of God can also do something that man often attempts to do, which is doomed to fail, and that is judging our intentions or motives. Only God can judge our motives.
So the first truth we need to grasp, is understanding that the Bible is Gods word and has some very unique characteristics about it. Secondly, our hiding from God is futile. This is what Adam and Eve tried to do by covering their nakedness, and hiding form the presence of God in the Garden. (Hebrews 4:13) But v. 13 tells us there is no one or anything hidden from God’s sight. This verse speaks of accountability. We are responsible to God for what is in our hearts.
The word open means “uncovered, bare, naked.” The word translated laid bare was, in the original language, used to refer to a guilty criminal on his being sentenced. A knife was strapped around the neck of a prisoner in such a way so that he was forced to look up at the judge who was to pass sentence. In the same way we will not be able to hide from the judge of heaven and earth. There will come a time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, and that His word is true.
God says “enter my rest.” But we are prevented from entering that rest until the truth of God’s word impacts us and cuts its way into our lives, and leaves us exposed and laid bare. How should we respond?
1. Submit to surgery. When confronted by the Word of God, no matter what its vehicle, we should surrender.
2. Don’t fight the physician. When the need for surgery becomes apparent, we should not delay.