Hebrews 4:1-11 – Rest assured!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 29, 2012 AM
It is an old tale but true. Successful lawyer and family man looses only son to aggressive disease and all of his assets burn in a huge fire a year later. He and his family head to England for vacation, but at the last minute he is called away and his four daughters and wife go without him. Nine days later he receives a note from his wife simply stating, “Saved alone.” The ship they were vacationing on collided with another at sea and sank killing 226 including his four daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta. His wife, Anna, miraculously survived; in shock he goes to join her. During the voyage the captain invites him to the bridge. He believes they are passing the place where the de Havre, the ship his wife and daughters had been on, sank. Horatio Spafford then quietly returned to his cabin and begins writing the lyrics of his great hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.”
Many people in our day and age are looking for some kind of assurance or respite from the many evils and ills in life. However, when we face life we soon realize that life happens whether we find rest from it or not. The recent shooting in a Colorado theater should teach us that no matter where we go, evil follows. How then can we find the emotional, physical, and spiritual rest many of us seek? The writer of Hebrews relates to us exactly how we can find the rest we need for our souls today.
When faced with the difficulties of life, we can be reassured knowing that…
I. The gospel gives us the rest we seek! (Vv. 1-2)
“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 gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” (Hebrews 4:1-2 NIV)
1. Notice that the author gives us encouraging words when he writes, “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.” The wonderful truth is that God’s promise “still stands” for those who are willing to take advantage of it. The question we should immediately ask is, “Why?” It is simply because “we also have had the gospel preached to us”! The same gospel, the good news of faith in God, was preached to those of Moses’ day but it “was of no value to them because those who heard it did not combine it with faith”! Faith is the key the writer is heading towards in his dissertation. Paul would remind his readers of this by telling them, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17 NIV) “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1 NIV) It is faith in this gospel message that gives us peace with God! “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NIV) In fact, the author of Hebrews will later define “faith” for us. Yet right now let us focus on the encouragement he gives us. The gospel, the promise of entering” God’s rest still remains and it is this gospel that gives us the rest we seek!
Example: Sometimes in the hectic nature of our lives we can forget the assuring words Jesus gave to his disciples concerning the gospel message. It is a light piercing the fiercest storm of sin, a ray of hope during the darkest night of our souls, and the sweet murmur of the quiet waters God offers us because of his Son Jesus Christ. When the crowds were getting large and pressuring them constantly Jesus told them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31 NIV) It is the same instructions he gives us in our day and age. It has not changed. Remember, Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV) It is the gospel that gives us the rest we seek!
If we knew we had the means to find peace in this often hectic and desperately wicked world we would be foolish not to do so. Therefore, we discover that…
II. We need to take advantage of the rest God has already provided us! (Vv. 3-5)
“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 work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.’ And again in the passage above he says, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Hebrews 4:3-5 NIV)
1. While the message of the gospel had no value to the Israelites of Moses’ day, it has tremendous value for us! The writer tells us exactly why: “Now we who believed enter that rest”! We learned that to profit from this message of rest we had to exercise our faith. This follows directly what Jesus told Thomas when he said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV) How sad to realize that the folks of Moses’ day could have simply believed God and then as Paul writes that their faith would have been “credited as righteousness”! (Romans 4:5, 9) Yet, some during Jesus’ day even though they had heard for themselves the proof of the gospel and they had the physical example of Jesus the Messiah, they would not believe! Therefore, God promised, “They shall never enter my rest!” Wow! While even God rested from his labors of creation, those who arrogantly refuse to take advantage of the rest God has already provided, run the risk of being cut off from God forever! The outcome of their refusal is final and carries with it drastic consequences. This is why he continues by explaining, “Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’” (v. 7) — It is therefore paramount that we take advantage of the rest God has already provided us in Jesus Christ!
Example: We live in a world that equates faith with being tolerant and kindness with being righteous. For many they think their success or spirituality will save them. One afternoon while in debate with the religious elitists who refused to recognize him as Messiah but loved accepting the praises of one another and the world, Jesus told them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” (John 5:37-46 NIV) They would die in their sin because of their unbelief! This is why the writer of Hebrews knew it is paramount that we take advantage of the rest God has already provided us in Jesus Christ!
How arrogant would it be to disobey someone who not only had the means but the very answer we needed to find peace in our lives? Yet many of us do that very thing! Hebrews relates that…
III. It is disobedience to God not to take advantage of the rest he provides! (Vv. 6, 9-11)
“It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience…. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:6, 9-11 NIV)
1. There are those who erroneously think that conservative churches like ours “force people” into faith, this is simply a lie. In fact, no one can force anyone to believe the gospel. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “It still remains that some will enter that rest” and the inference is that there are also those who will never enter because they decided for themselves not to do so. He writes that “those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in” and the reason was obvious to him, it was “because of their disobedience.” Disobedience can only occur when the person who disobeys hears and understands and then decides they will not follow the message God has given them. There is no trickery involved here, no deception on God’s part, and certainly no false premise. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” God offers those who decide to respond the same rest he enjoys but the choice is theirs to make! While salvation is God’s initiative and he knows who will come to him, he offers salvation freely to anyone who will respond. As Paul would declare, “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV) God does not force anyone into faith; it is freely their choice to make. This is why the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” It is disobedience to God not to take advantage of the rest he provides!
Example: We have all had friends that wanted us to join them in some plan or plot that we knew at the time we should not be a part of, but yet we willingly got involved. I remember how my friend and I almost blew up my family’s carport trying to make homemade nitroglycerin. Nowadays they would have pulled us in and we would have been in trouble with Homeland Security, the FBI, and local law enforcement. Back then it was bad enough to get caught by my father. He warned me to be very careful of the friends I picked. I knew to take advantage of my father’s warning. Failure to disobey resulted in severe consequences. This morning God is inviting someone to take advantage of the rest he provides, to not do so is disobedience.
The gospel gives us the rest we seek! We need to take advantage of the rest God has already provided us! It is disobedience to God not to take advantage of the rest he provides!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.