Hebrews Chapter 4 - A Sabbath Rest for the People of God
Hebrews Chapter 4 – A Sabbath Rest for the People of God
The promise of entering into the Sabbath rest for the people of God still stands. But to enter into that rest, this good news must received by faith.
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
The writer of Hebrews proceeds with his exhortation to the Hebrews, and all professing Christians, to faith, obedience, and perseverance. As God finished his work, and then rested from it, so He will cause those who believe, to finish their work, and then to enjoy their rest. There is a more spiritual and excellent Sabbath remaining for the people of God, than that of the seventh day. This rest is, a rest of grace, comfort, and holiness that is available to everyone who receives the gospel of their salvation.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5
The good news of the forgiveness of sins and the promise of heavenly reward has no value unless it is received by faith.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
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. Hebrews 4:3
The writer of Hebrews was quoting from Psalm 95:
Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation: I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” Psalm 95:7b-11
“Massah” means trial or temptation and “Meribah” mean “quarreling or strife.” Exodus 17:1-7 gives the details of the account where the children of Israel provoked Yehovah to anger in their wilderness journey.
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:1-7
The LORD had delivered the children of Israel out of the bondage in Egypt with a mighty hand. He redeemed them from the land of slavery and from the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Not only did they witness ten plagues that the Egyptians endured, they and their animals were not affected by them. When the Egyptian army pursued them, God miraculously brought them through the Red Sea on dry ground, but drowned their enemies. The LORD had repeatedly demonstrated His power and goodness towards them.
When they Israelite community became thirsty when they camped at Rephidim, they could have waited on the LORD in faith or asked Moses to inquire of the LORD. Instead, they protested and complained angrily to Moses and accused him of bringing them out of Egypt only to die of thirst in the wilderness. They questioned the faithfulness and goodness of Yehovah by saying. “Is the LORD among us or not?”
When the LORD delivered Israel from slavery, He intended to bring them into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The children of Israel, because of their lack of faith, complained and fought against God almost every step of the way. When Moses was receiving the law on Mount Sinai, they worshipped a golden calf. They complained about being thirsty, about being hungry, about the manna and about the leadership. In fear because of the bad report of ten of the twelve spies sent into Canaan, the people refuse to enter into the Promised Land. So the LORD declared on oath in His anger that that generation of Israelites would never enter His rest.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:11
We who are born-again believers in Christ are admonished to learn a lesson from the failings of the Israelites who provoked God to wrath by their unbelief.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
In Christ, we have authority in His name, in the Word of God, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to stand in faith and not be anxious. Instead, we can let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15).
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.” Hebrews 4:4-5
God rested from all his works on the seventh day and made it holy.
"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:11
The LORD is omnipotent. He is all powerful.
The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. Isaiah 40:28
God is the sum of perfection; He is never diminished in any way, and that includes being diminished in power. The Hebrew word translated “rested” in Genesis 2:2 includes other ideas than that of being tired. In fact, one of the main definitions of the Hebrew word Shabbat is “to cease or stop.” In Genesis 2:2 the understanding is that God “stopped” His work; He “ceased” creating on the seventh day. All that He had created was good, and His work was finished.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews again was referring to Psalm 95 when he wrote that God rested on the seventh day but the rebellious children of Israel would not enter into His rest.
The “rest” originally intended was that of Canaan, when “the LORD gave rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about.”
After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, Joshua 23:1
Canaan was a type of God’s heavenly rest. The warning given to the Israel of his day by the psalmist is to be regarded as a warning that, if they followed in the steps of their forefathers, they might miss that final and crowning “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, Hebrews 4:6
Once we have passed through the wilderness of this sin-stained world, there is an eternal rest that awaits those who by faith receive the promise.
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; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:7-11
There was a period of time of nearly five hundred years between the peace established by Joshua’s victories over the inhabitants of Canaan and the inspired words of King David speaking about another day. The writer of Hebrews reveals that there still remains a Sabbath-rest for God’s people apart from the weekly Sabbath. Disobedience will disqualify any person from entering into that heavenly rest and that person will perish.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Puritan Writer Thomas Brooks said, “The Word of the LORD is a light to guide you, a counselor to counsel you, a comforter to comfort you, a staff to support you, a sword to defend you, and a physician to cure you. The Word is a mine to enrich you, a robe to clothe you, and a crown to crown you.”
Since God is the living God, and His Word cannot be separated from Him, that Word is a living Word. It is eternal. As Isaiah 40:8 proclaims, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Since God is the author of life, His living Word imparts life in two ways. His Word imparts life to those who are dead in their trespasses and sins and His Word renews and refreshes His saints.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13
The truth of God is all-penetrating and searching, and that the real thoughts and intents of the heart will be brought to light; and that if there is insincerity and self-deception, there can be no hope of escape.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:14-15
Since Jesus is 100% God and 100% man, He is the perfect mediator between God and man. Since Jesus has experienced every type of temptation, He can identify with the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of mankind. Although Jesus was sinless, He can sympathize with us sinners.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Because our great High Priest empathizes with our weaknesses, we can approach God’s throne of grace boldly and receive mercy and grace in our time of need.
What an honor and privilege that believers in Christ can speak to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God anytime, day or night in prayer.