Entering into the eternal rest is possible only when we hear the Word of God, but those who heard the Word of God hardened their hearts. We need to reflect on that because we too have heard the Word. The Word that we heard, the gospel that we know, is it profiting us?
The writer of Hebrews leads us to people who failed to enter into that rest so we can learn from them.
How was the rest of God accomplished in the past? How was it broken?
1. The rest in the Garden of Eden (Hebrews 4:3-4)
The rest was achieved when God finished the work of creation, the final creation was man and God. Rest comes as a result of the proclamation of God’s Word and the fulfilment of God’s Word.
When we hear the Word of God, where does that Word go? What fruit does it bear? Does the Word of God get fulfilled in me through my obedience? When that happens, the result is the rest, the Sabbath.
Therefore the rest is fulfilled when God’s kingdom is established, and when the people of God come under His sovereign rule. The problem was that God’s people in the Garden of Eden and in the wilderness came under the sovereignty of Satan instead of the sovereignty of God.
2. The rest that God promised to the Israelites in the wilderness
The reason why God led the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness, was to establish a nation of God. Egypt was a land of toil. It was a result of the fall.
God is showing us our spiritual state. For those who have fallen, every aspect is opposite to that in the Garden of Eden. In the wilderness, God established the Israelites and gave them the 10 Commandments, gave them God’s law and God’s Word again. This is a chance to come out of Satan, out of Pharaoh’s sovereignty, and come into God’s sovereignty.
Sabbath in Hebrew: Shabbat = means forbidding to do labour for a purpose. It is not aimlessly just resting. They were not allowed to do any work, but they were allowed to worship God, give sacrifices to God, and hear the Word of God.
Sabbath is the day that foreshadows the eternal today when they will forever and eternally enjoy Sabbath, peace, without sin, without troubles, without pain, without sickness.
God is doing this work of recreating. At the end of God’s creation, there was the Sabbath. Now that Sabbath rest is broken, God is now doing the recreating work, redemption work, that is why in order for that Sabbath to be fulfilled, to be brought to us, we need that Messiah to come.
Through the Garden of Eden and wilderness journey, the focus was wrong. Instead of focusing on God’s sovereignty, the people focused on themselves. Me. I ate from the tree for myself. Satan says I will be like God, wow, me me me.
Is my life of faith, of Christianity, focused on establishing God’s sovereignty in my life in my family, in my church and in my nation?
It was fundamentally the same reason why they chose not to go into the land of Canaan even after spying out the land. After spying out the land, the Israelites thought it was not worth it. That is rejecting the Word of God!
When we do not let the Word of God become fulfilled in our lives, things become uncomfortable. When things are not right spiritually, all things in other aspects will not be right.
3. The rest that Jesus will fulfil and will give us (Hebrews 4:8-9)
The name “Joshua” in Greek = Jesus. Yesus.
Even though the Israelites went into Canaan with Joshua, they did not find rest because they didn’t obey the Word of God. Likewise, if take the word “Joshua” as meaning the name of Jesus, we too received rest from Jesus from all our sins, all our bondages. However, we are not enjoying full rest from our pain, from our sins. That is why Jesus during His ministry and through the angels in Act 1:6-11, spoke of another day, I will come back to fully and completely give you rest by taking you into the kingdom of heaven.
4. Let us be diligent to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:11)
The Israelites lost the rest even though they entered Canaan. Adam lost that rest in the Garden of Eden. We need to be diligent to enter that rest through the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13)
5. The great high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16)
This is a great turning point. We get scared of this Word like a double edged sword which knows everything in me, and the reality of my sad faith. We are all not ready to stand before the Word now. The comfort is that sword is not here to judge you or slash you to death, but that sword is Jesus Christ who knows your weaknesses and understands your weaknesses.
He is the Son of God who sympathises with our weaknesses. The pains and limitations we have, He feels and has gone through the same. That is why He can forgive us.
Jesus did not just die and ascend to heaven 2000 years ago, but He has opened that path and now He is going back and forth for us, mediating for us now. There are exhortations that the writer of Hebrews is giving us, and let us think about what we need to do. We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.
Let us pray and live daily praying and diligently working so that the Word of God may be fulfilled in us.