Thoughts on Hebrews 3:7-4:11

Hebrews 3:7 – 4:11 (ESV)
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 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.

The Hebrew Life

The Hebrew life was designed to mimic the creation week continually, in order to be a reminder to the Israelites about its climax, the Sabbath rest. Every week’s seven day cycle cadence was a required experience, choreographed by God, providing an opportunity for His national people to catch on to what it pointed to… the rest that only a Messiah could provide (which could only be entered by belief in Him, and not relaxation). The national people of God performed the Sabbath stipulation every seventh day, yet most of them still never actually entered this rest.

How could this be?

Because again, the rest is about believing, not inactivity. The sign of the Old Covenant was adherence to this weekly practice, identifying the people of God as those who were to benefit from the rest signified by the weekly practice of not working (Exodus 31:12-17).

The Christian Life

But now, a vital aspect of the New Covenant is not about experiencing a temporal weekly rest, but by experiencing the perpetual, ongoing rest that the old temporal one pointed to, and this perpetual rest still remains and is available to all who believe.

What exactly is that rest?

The writer of Hebrews quotes the last five verses from Psalm 95. When we look at this psalm in its entirety, we see the answer…

Psalms 95 (ESV)
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

The people who “go astray in their heart” fail to enter into or to “come into his presence with thanksgiving.” In other words, failing to enter God’s presence is a failure to enter His rest.

How does one enter the rest?

By believing, just as the writer of Hebrews said…

Hebrews 4:3a (ESV)
For we who have believed enter that rest…

Jesus confirmed that coming to Him, entering His presence if you will, is how one receives rest for their soul…

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The Gathering Life

The writer of Hebrews would later encourage those who have entered the rest, through the blood of Christ, to not only always be mindful of one another, but to also make every effort to gather together. This is the closest experience that we (Christians) have in seeing what heaven will be like. In other words, when we are “not neglecting to meet together,” we then get a glimpse of what is in store for us upon our Lord’s return. Such meetings will serve as an encouragement to us “all the more” as we “see the Day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Today!

Every single day continues to be an opportunity to experience the rest, whether relaxation is had or not. Enter this rest, enter His presence while it is still today, and experience the continual joy of the New Covenant reality!

Jeremiah 6:16 (ESV)
Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

Do not make this same mistake…

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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