Hebrew’s Study 10
By the time you are 40 to 60, most Americans are somewhat or totally settled into their careers. This usually means that the finances are more settled and you are not living off Ramen noodles like a college student. It is a time of relative comfort.
However, among ages 40 to 66, are the highest usages of anxiety medications. Anxiety pharmaceuticals average 4.2 million dollars a year. Women are 50% more likely to order these prescriptions. The CDC reported that 70% of hospital visits were anxiety and therapy related.
So, we are gaining comfort in some ways, but we are restless and anxious more than ever.
Has the world provided you with comfort that still leaves you tired? Take heart, because a rest remains for the people of God.
The remaining promise of rest (v. 9)
Since this passage is so difficult, we must start with verse 9. If we know what the author is trying to accomplish, then it is easier to make sense of the rest of the passage.
The author has been seeking to persuade his congregation to remember the promise, to not harden their hearts toward the promise, to be diligent to make sure they are assimilating the promise in actual faith.
Having spent so much time on the promise already, why would the author say, “There remains, therefore, a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).
The emphasis is on the word remains. The congregation was doubting whether the promise remained or if it had already passed. The author seeks to overcome this doubt. For, if the congregation doubts that the promise is still for them, then they will not have a strong faith in the promise. The author, in other words, is conducting a diligent fear for this congregation by addressing any doubts about the promise.
The Objections to Rest (vv. 4-8)
The 3rd. Grade at our Academy was compiling facts about Jupiter, for example. They formatted the facts to look like a newspaper. Therefore, some of the children cut out a title of one size font, and a paragraph of another size and glued the different sections one after another. Some scholars posit something similar in verses 4-8. The parts of this section have so puzzled scholars that they wonder if it is many sermons glued together. If we work backward, then it becomes easier and we don’t need to adopt the newspaper clipping hypothesis.
For example, look at verse 8. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.” (Hebrews 4:8) The author is pointing out that the promised rest did not end with Joshua. This confirms this section as a series of objections to rest. The author has been using Psalm 95 to encourage them in their trial and establish them in their faith. The congregation had read Psalm 95 before. Some of them probably had it memorized. Yet, they the author of Hebrews. Had he misapplied the Psalm? From verse 8, we gather that they were thinking that Joshua had already given the Jewish people rest. If that were the case, then the rest was over. No more promise.
However, notice what the author does. He points to the words of Psalm 95.He says, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. See the word, “afterward”? Think about this. The wilderness example happens. They eventually enter the promised land. About 400 years pass, and David is king. David writes Psalm 95 and says in that Psalm, Today! While you can…enter the rest. The author of Hebrews concludes, then, that the promise cannot be past. 400 years later after Joshua, the promise to enter God’s rest still stands! The rest must be something different than the rest under Joshua. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.” (Hebrews 4:8)
The other objection came from Genesis 2:2. This example is more difficult. However, if we stick to our plan and believe that the author is raising objections, then we can generally make sense of this section. “For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”;” (Hebrews 4:4) The congregation knew that God promised rest in Genesis, also. With the same logic, the author points out that the rest in Genesis was not the final promise. Far after the rest promised in Genesis, David said, Today! If you hear his voice, believe!
The person of rest (v. 10)
“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9–10) This is the final verse that needs explanation. Who is the “he” and “his”? Some say that this verse is speaking about the believer’s direct entrance into God’s rest. So, this would read, “For he (the believer) who has entered God’s rest has himself (the believer) also ceased from his works as God did from His. If taken this way, then what are the works from which the believer ceases. Most will say sin. But, then how could ceasing from sinful works be analogous to God ceasing from his own works. In addition, the grammar is troubling. The “he” and “his” are singular. Thus, the grammar tells us that this is speaking about a single person entering his rest.
It makes more sense to see verse 10 saying that Jesus entered His rest. For he, (Jesus) who has entered God’s rest has himself (Jesus) also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Now we can begin to see a parallel. Jesus did work and then rested just as God did from His work.
Which work was that? Creation! Now, look at the structure of the passage again. The author of Hebrews presents a threefold division of the Scriptures based upon the promise of rest.
- Genesis 2:2 is the rest of God after the works of creation. God created all things and then he took his place of royal rest and delight in his creation. God gave man a pledge or symbol that they too could enter that rest. The pledge was one day in seven, sacred time set aside.
- Now go to the example under Moses. The exodus is not the creation of heaven and earth, but the creation of a nation out of nothing. Up from the abyss of Egyptian slavery, God formed a people. This allusion to the Exodus as a kind of re-creation is not in my imagination. It is established among biblical scholars and the first part of Psalm 95 is all about God as creator. The second part is about God as the creator of the people out of Egypt. After this re-creation from the nothingness of Egypt, a pledge is given–one day in seven. This sacred time is set aside as a pledge for the people to remember the promise of God’s rest.
- Now go to the example of verse 10 with Jesus. Jesus as the new and consummate Moses. Jesus as the new and consummate Joshua. Jesus does His work as the creator of the world to come, the new heavens and the new earth. The creator of the Church. Jesus creates the Church incorporating the Gentiles and then just as God created and entered His rest, so too did Jesus. Upon his resurrection, Jesus entered His rest from creation. Jesus was the captain of salvation, the forerunner. He conquered death and hell and secured the promised new heavens and new earth and then as king sat down upon His throne in rest.
Now again, notice the pattern. In Genesis 2:2 God works, then rests and gives a day for a symbol of rest. Under Moses, God works, then rests and gives a day for a symbol of rest. Jesus as God works, then rests and what we would expect is a day given for a symbol of rest. Interestingly, in verse 9, the general Greek word for rest used in the passage up to this point is substituted for the word sabbatismos.
There remains a sabbatismos for the people of God. Why? Because Jesus has completed His work and entered His rest just as God did from His.
A rest remains for the people of God.
Despite the objections from rest mentioned with Joshua and Genesis, a rest remains. The rest in Genesis and Joshua were just shadows pointing to a rest only to be found in Jesus.
Some have used this passage to support the idea that the Lord’s Day or Christian Sabbath is abolished. They point out that the point was never about a sacred day, but about our rest found in Jesus. However, as the pattern points out, it is not one or the other. Our rest is only found in Jesus, but that rest is symbolized in a day of sacred rest being set aside as a pledge of Jesus’ work.
Secondly, in this context of Hebrews think of the purpose of the Christian Sabbath. The author just told us that we have a mixing problem. We can hear the promise, but we don’t mix it with faith. Remember the absurd image? We are the kinds of people that can take the bread of God’s word and we can put it in our mouth and never ingest the food to mix the nutrients with our cellular system. Just as the rose assimilates food from the soil and increases in size, vitality, and beauty, so too are God’s people to assimilate or integrate the Word into themselves.
This being the context, the author implies that the Christian Sabbath is a gift from God. It is a gift because it is a day where you can focus on assimilating His promises. He understands that you have problems ingesting His promises, so he gives you a whole 24-hour day to mix the promise with faith. He gives worship services both morning and evening. He gives songs and confession, and recitation, and public reading and prayer and fellowship and other pledges such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Do you love God’s gift? Or, do you treat it like a common thing? Isn’t it supposed to be sacred?
I sometimes hear folks despising the Christian Sabbath. They speak about the day as boring, and they wish they could go to a football game or play sports or spend the day shopping or whatever. I hear parents giving in and supporting their children in despising God’s gift.
It makes me think that we struggle with arrogance. Are we so secure in ourselves that we don’t think we need a day to mix the promises with our faith? Are your children so secure in their faith that they don’t need a whole day of assimilation?
When Holly and I first bought my pickup truck, I was excited to take it out on Chincoteague national seashore. We arose early, packed the fishing rod and tackle and head out and down the beach in my truck. I saw a small point where the fishing looked promising. When I stopped the truck, the tires sunk into the sand so that my truck bottomed out. The tide started coming in. The waves were rolling in up against the truck. We called my dad and told him to send a ranger. The ranger came and when he stopped his truck sunk. The ranger called a backhoe.
It looked like my new truck was going to become a new fishing structure on Chincoteague.
It was becoming too late. So, we hooked my truck up to the ranger’s wench. I hit the gas at the same time he was pulling me out and I swerved around his truck into safety. Then, I hooked up the ranger’s truck with my chain and pulled him out.
We get stuck during the week. We get discouraged. We doubt and feel shame about the gospel. The waves of the world crash all around. The Christian Sabbath is the wench, the chain and the backhoe of our lives. The Christian day of rest is a gift from God giving us a whole day to mix the promise with faith. If you don’t think you need that, then you are naive and you lack diligence in working out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Don’t you need God’s gift of a day of rest? If you don’t need it, does the world? Does the world need to enter the rest of Jesus? If so, would you set aside Sundays for them? Let your rest on Sunday be a sign to the world that as long as it is called ‘Today’ that God invites them to enter into the rest provided by Jesus Christ!
When someone asks, why don’t you work? Why don’t you do team sports? Why don’t you make others work by shopping or eating out? You reply because today is the day that I remember the promise of entering into rest with God through Jesus Christ.