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. 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. 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.”
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, 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 4:1-16
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
Hebrews 4:3 ‘belief’: “What is belief? It is a simple trust – trusting upon Christ as God’s appointed Savior. It is trusting the Father and believing in his infinite love to us. This is a simple truth and yet one we need to remember, consider, and be assured of. We ought to pant after sanctification; we ought to be crying and sighing every day after conformity to Christ. But it is neither in our sanctification nor in our conformity that we find our rest. Our rest comes to us through believing in Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 4:12 ‘a double-edged sword’: “A sword with two edges has no blunt side; it cuts both this way and that. The Word of God is edge all over. It is alive in every part, and in every part keen to cut the conscience and wound the heart. Depend on it: not a verse in the Bible is superfluous or a chapter that is useless.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
Hebrews 4:12 ‘God’s Word alive and working’: “The Bible has been banned, scoffed, and ridiculed. Scholars have mocked it as foolish. Kings have branded it as illegal. A thousand times over it the grave has been dug, and the dirge has begun, but somehow the Bible never stays in the grave. Not only has it survived, it has thrived. It is the single most popular book in all of history. It has been the best-selling book in the world for years!
“There is no way on earth to explain it. Which perhaps is the only explanation. The answer? The Bible’s durability is not found on earth; it is found in heaven. For the millions who have tested its claims and claimed its promises there is but one answer – the Bible is God’s book and God’s voice …
“The purpose of the Bible is to proclaim God’s plan and passion to save his children. That is the reason this book has endured through the centuries … It is the treasure map that leads us to God’s highest treasure, eternal life.”
- Max Lucado, The Inspirational Study Bible
Hebrews 4:13 ‘God’s limitlessness’: “Texts like [Hebrews 4:13] and Psalm 147:5, ‘His understanding is infinite,’ say that God’s understanding is limitless, that His knowledge is perfect, and that there isn’t a creature anywhere in the universe that isn’t plainly visible in His sight. Nothing is shut before the eyes of God. That is what is called divine omnipresence, one of the attributes of God. An attribute, as I have said before, is something which God has declared to be true about Himself. …
“When we talk about God’s knowledge of everything, we’re talking about a rational approach to God. There are two ways to approach God: theologically and experientially. You can know God experientially and not know much theology, but it’s good to know both. The more you know about God theologically the better you can know Him experientially.
“A rational approach to God is what I can get into my head. You can’t get too much into your head, really. And what I can get into my head about God isn’t very much at all. But that’s one way to approach God – through theology, through your intellect, through doctrine. But the purpose of doctrine is to lead you to see and to know God experientially, to know God for Himself, for yourself. But until we know God theologically, we’re not likely to know God very well experientially.”
- A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God
Hebrews 4:15 ‘a high priest – able to sympathize’: “Many men can be touched by the sorrow of another, but they are not touched with the sorrow. It is one thing to see pain but another thing to be touched with the feeling of it. Our pain, our depression, our trembling, our sensitiveness – Jesus was touched with these though he did not fall into sin that so often comes of them. We must treasure this view of our Lord’s sympathy, for it may be a great support in the hour of agony and weakness.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
Hebrews 4:16 ‘praying to God’: “Jesus tells us …, ‘When you pray, you should pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, may your name always be kept holy. May your kingdom come”’ (Matthew 6:9-10).
“When you say, ‘May your kingdom come,’ you are inviting the Messiah himself to walk into your world. ‘Come, my king! Take your throne in our land. Be present in my heart. Be present in my office. Come into my marriage. Be Lord of my family, my fears, and my doubts.’ This is no feeble request; it’s a bold appeal for God to occupy every corner of your life.
“[And] who are you to ask such a thing? Who are you to ask God to take control of your world? You are his child, for heaven’s sake! And so you ask boldly.”
- Max Lucado, The Great House of God
Again, Old Testament Scripture is quoted, continuing with portions of Psalm 95. And the author of Hebrews brings us back to the concept of “today.” It will always be “today,” and we should be glorifying God “today.”
This chapter mostly talks of God’s rest, but there are a variety of ways to look at the rest that God provides. We will all go to eternal rest, at least those who are true believers, eternal torment if not. The chapter mentions resting on the seventh day. But there is the concept that Jesus spoke of when He said that we could takes His yoke, and His yoke was light. Meaning that He would share in carrying the load. Having less of a load is a means of “resting.”
To illustrate resting while working, I have a difficulty with getting too hot. The other day, the summer heat (still in November) had gotten up to the low 80s in SW Pennsylvania, and the last of the refrigerant had leaked from the air conditioning in the car. I was waiting for my wife at the dialysis center for over a half hour with the sun blazing through the windows. I had to wait in the car. The air flow from the fan was hot air, but if I turned off the car and baked in the ever-increasing temperature inside the car in the hot sun, the inside temperature would soar 20 degrees hotter. Then I could turn on the car and the fan. The air flow from the fan was the same temperature as before, but since I had warmed up and the car had warmed up, it felt cooler. So, when Jesus helps us by being yoked with us to carry our load, our load is still there, but we have less of the load to carry and it becomes restful. Just knowing that someone is there to share the burden provides comfort.
The reference to Joshua in verse 8 is in reference to Joshua 22:4, where God grants the people rest after taking the Promised Land. The people who had possessed the land had not been completely driven out, leading to future problems. Yet, the war was over, for the time being. Like Jesus sharing the load, work was still necessary, but in this case, the urgency lessened. Their error was in not keeping guard in their moment of peace, leading to a series of judges, and finally getting a king to rule over them.
And the words of Revs. Spurgeon, Tozer and Lucado ring through as the author of Hebrews weaves illustrations of “rest.”
Faith is at the center. We are to have faith, not just trivially acceptance of the historicity of the Bible.
The Bible has been under attack, but it still survives. The Bible is relevant today and in differing ways with each believer.
And while God is limitless, Jesus came to earth, dwelling among us, and experiencing our pain.
And who are we to approach the high priest in prayer and to talk to almighty God? We are brothers and sisters in faith with Jesus, the Son of God, and adopted heirs with Him.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“1. How would you explain the promised rest to someone wo is not a Christian? What situations today would make this type of exhortation necessary?
”2. What efforts (v. 11) can help you enter into God’s rest (see Mt 11:28-30; Jn 6:27-29)?
“3. What evidence do you have that the Word of God is living and active in your group study?”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
As for the second question under “1” and before your jaw hits the floor, considering this tumultuous world of 2020, the Serendipity Bible was published in 1989 (Second Edition). I could think of various reasons to need rest in 1989, but compared to this year, I would consider myself whining.
Again, if you are taking this study individually, the last question can easily pertain to us as individuals.
If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.