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Hebrews 4a

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Hebrews 4:1-3… Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just 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.

Commentary

God led Israel out of Egypt in 1446 BC promising to lead them into the land of Canaan (Palestine), hence the Promised Land. While in Egypt they were slaves; in Canaan they would find rest. But because Israel failed to believe God’s promise to them He kept them from entering, and they were thus deprived of the “rest” He prepared for them. This is the theme of Hebrews 4.

The problem the author is addressing is the sin of unbelief (3:18-19). It was unbelief that kept the first generation of Israelites coming out of Egypt from finding rest in the Promised Land. God gave the land to the next generation of Israelites who did believe God’s promise. So with the problem clearly exposed, the solution is now in order, and Heb. 4:1-3 introduces it. There is no way the author would write what he wrote to true Christians, for true believers have no need to be exhorted to enter God’s rest. They already have it! But those who are on the brink of decision do need exhortation to receive Christ fully and enter His rest.

Hebrews 4:1 warns the audience to have great “fear” if they are among those who have not fully committed themselves to Jesus Christ. The word means “to be frightened; terrified.” And if anyone of the audience had not yet placed their faith and commitment in Jesus the Messiah, then they should be terrified. After all, the author says that God’s promise of rest still remains for those who choose to enter it. And “rest” in this instance is spiritual rest that comes only from placing one’s full trust in Christ. This is in contradistinction from a life of works without rest that Judaism prescribed – the very way of life some of the audience still sought.

In v. 2 the explanation of the problem was that the Israelites in Moses’ day actually had the good news preached to them, and they witnessed God’s mighty acts that attested to His power. But the words they heard “did not profit them” because they did not accept God’s word by faith. So too had the Hebrews audience had good news preached to them, and they were in danger of falling short by failing to unite the preached word they heard with faith. So it’s one thing to hear God’s word preached; it’s another thing altogether to respond in faith. Mere intellectual understanding of Jesus does not equate to salvation. Only faith in Christ saves.

Verse 3 plainly states that eternal rest comes from uniting the preached word with faith. Those who believe in Christ “enter that rest.” What rest? The very same rest that God entered into following the six days of creation. Once God finished creating He rested having completed His work. And those who trust in Christ enter the same rest because they no longer have to work to please God. For God is pleased solely through our faith in Christ. That is why salvation comes only through faith in Christ apart from works. That’s God’s rest and ours if we believe it.

Food for Thought

            If you’ve ever been caught plagiarizing a paper you wrote in college, you don’t defend yourself by showing the professor the student handbook which bears your signature showing that you know all about plagiarism. To do so only makes you more guilty. Knowing the rule is worthless unless you obey the rule. So too with being a Christian. Knowing the truth about Christ and obeying the truth are two different things. And it’s obedience that defines us as Christians.

Hebrews 4:4-8… For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.

Commentary

Genesis 2:2 says that God rested after creating the world in six days, and the author wants to make perfectly clear that God is at rest in v. 4. Now this doesn’t mean that God is inactive, for though He rested from creating, He is active in His creation (cf. John 5:17). (Keep in mind that Hebrews is an exposition taken from OT Scripture, and the author is making a point with that same Scripture.) So having established that God is at rest in v. 4 from Gen. 2:2, the author then goes back to his central text in Psalm 95 by saying “and again in this passage.” He quotes from Psalm 95 for the fourth time, this time showing a distinction between those who have not united knowledge with faith and with God who is at rest. They have no rest, but God rests eternally.

Now having made his point from two OT passages, the author of Hebrews draws his conclusion beginning in v. 6. He explains that entering God’s rest is still a possibility for anyone who hears his words: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me” (3:15). So God’s rest is available to anyone who will call upon Him for salvation and join their intellectual knowledge of God with faith. While Israel served as a negative example who failed to believe and thus forfeited God’s rest, the author had greater hope for his audience that they would not make the same mistake. Clearly the author preached passionately!

In God’s grace He has fixed another day – “today” – for believers to enter into His rest. And lest his audience argue that the Israelites under Joshua found rest in Canaan in 1406 BC, the author then makes a pertinent point by dating Psalm 95 and the time in which Joshua brought Israel into Canaan. He says that if Joshua had truly brought Israel into eternal rest in 1406 BC by bringing them into the Promised Land, then David would not have spoken of God’s rest 400 years later when he penned Psalm 95. So even though the author of Hebrews steers clear of human names in his epistle when he references OT passages in order to be clear that God is the ultimate author of Scripture – even keeping his own name anonymous – he speaks of Joshua and David as writers of Scripture in order to make his point that David would not have written about God’s rest 400 years later if Joshua had truly brought Israel into God’s rest.

Therefore God’s eternal rest is still available for Israel and for anyone who is willing to trust in Him. Rest is available for the weary soul, the same rest that the Father eternally enjoys.

Food for Thought

The Sabbath day in the OT was given by God to Israel as a mere symbol of the coming rest they would have in Christ. This is why Jesus was able to break the Sabbath in the NT, and it’s why there is no admonition in the NT for Christians to keep the Sabbath. Since Jesus is Rest, the symbol is useless. Consider Colossians 2:16-17: “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” If you are in Christ your entire life is a Sabbath, for your soul and life are at rest from useless works. And our current rest is merely a precursor to the eternal rest we’ll have in Christ’s Kingdom which awaits us.

Hebrews 4:9-11…  So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered God’s rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 So let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, by following the same example of disobedience.

Commentary

            The Sabbath (“seventh”) is used in at least four different ways in the Bible. First, it is a reference to a single day of rest. God set forth one day in seven for Israel to rest, and this was to reflect God’s example of rest after creating the world in six days, resting on the seventh (Exodus 20:8-11). Exodus 20:11 says that God rested on the seventh day, and Exodus 31:17 says that He ceased from His work and “was refreshed.” Therefore, the Sabbath was to be a day that commemorated God’s work and a day to be observed by Israel as a day of rest and worship.

The second use of the Sabbath is in reference to the Sabbatical year. This Sabbath was not for people but for the land where Israel lived (Lev. 25:2-5). God commanded Israel to allow their land to lay uncultivated after six years of sowing, pruning, and gathering. In the seventh year it was not to be worked, and the unattended growth of the field was for the poor to glean from and for the beasts of the field (Ex. 23:11; Deut. 15:2-18). God then told Israel that He would provide food for them through a sixth-year harvest that would be enough for three years (Lev. 25:20ff.). Unfortunately, Israel failed to keep this ordinance (Jer. 34:14-22), so God exiled them from the Promised Land (2 Chron. 36:21) until the land would enjoy all of its Sabbaths (Lev. 26:34-43). Violating God’s command to keep the Sabbatical year was clearly an atrocity.

The third use of the Sabbath in the OT is in relation to the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25). This occurred every 50th year, for it was the conclusion to the Sabbatical years. In other words, there was a Sabbatical year every seven years, and at the end of seven Sabbatical years (49 years) the 50th year was a year of jubilee (anniversary, celebration). The regulations of the normal Sabbatical year were enforced, but in addition to those sanctions property reverted to its original owners, financial debts were forgiven, and Israelite servants were released from enslavement.

The fourth use of the Sabbath is found in Hebrews 4:6-11 which speaks of a Sabbath rest for the people of God. In this instance the Sabbath rest concerns believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. And what an appropriate message for the author given that he was preaching to Jews who knew the Sabbath laws of the OT. Having shown that the “rest” the OT spoken of was incomplete (Heb. 4:8) and yet future, now the author clarifies exactly what he means. Since Joshua, having brought Israel into the Promised Land, did not bring rest to God’s people in an eternal sense, David spoke of “rest” in a later context in Psalm 95 – 400 years after Joshua. And now the Hebrews author explains that God’s rest is attainable only by faith apart from works. The one who truly enters God’s rest is the one who rests from his own works according to v. 10. The rest that God calls His people to enter is His rest, not our rest, and His invitation to share in His rest is a call for all people to cease from working in order to find rest by simply trusting Him.

So the finale to the theme of “rest” in v. 11 is to “be diligent” to enter God’s rest. This isn’t a call to enter God’s realm of rest by works but an exhortation to believe God and to be careful not to make the same mistake Israel made in the wilderness when they failed to believe.

Food for Thought

            Believing God and having faith in Christ are not human works to be rewarded by God. They are virtues but not works. Our call to be diligent to enter God’s rest is a persistent call for anyone who has been presented the gospel of salvation in no uncertain terms. All those who simply profess to know Christ do not necessarily have rest in Christ. Their faith determines it.

Hebrews 4:1-3…

·         The author has open before him a Bible, and it’s open to Psalm 95. The audience must move towards: “I will commit my life to Christ forever no matter the cost.”

·         The problem the author is addressing is the sin of unbelief (3:18-19).

·         Egypt was a desolate barren wilderness when God finished with it in the days of the exodus. No one would have wanted to stay there. God made it plain to them that leaving Egypt was the obvious choice. But it didn’t take long on the new journey before Egypt started to look good again. Like a new “believer” in Christ who is sold out at the point of his so-called conversion, some of them became dissatisfied with Christianity and fell back into their former lives. And just like the Israelites, they forget how barren their lives were before. Israel forgot how devastated Egypt was and how horrible their lives were there. This is why they longed for the past – in addition to the fact that they apparently thought that being children of God meant having no problems and no trials.

·         His point at the end of chapter three is that God has a “rest” for His people, and the preacher is trying to lead his audience into that rest. Now God’s rest is like our retirement. Once God finished creating the world in six days, He rested on the seventh. His work of creating was finished, and so God rested. So too in life. When a man works for 35 years he works his last day on the job then enters retirement. With his work now complete he enters a new life of simply maintaining what he worked for all those years. This is what God is doing. He rested from creating, but He now maintains His creation. Jesus said in John 5:17 that he is at work because his Father is at work. And God’s work is simply maintaining His creation. He is active in His creation and in the lives of His elect children.

·         REST is the theme of Heb. 4. God led Israel to rest, but they failed to take it.

·         TODAY that rest is still available for those who will simply believe… FEAR!

·         PROMISE… God’s promise is for those who have faith. Unbelief is forfeiture of rest.

·         Plagiarizing a paper…

Hebrews 4:4-8…

·         God rested but is still active (John 5:17). Example of retirement

·         The Sabbath day in the OT was given by God to Israel as a mere symbol of the coming rest they would have in Christ. This is why Jesus was able to break the Sabbath, and it’s why there is no admonition in the NT for Christians to keep it. Jesus is Rest, so the symbol is useless. Consider Col. 2:16-17: “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” If you are in Christ your entire life is a Sabbath, for your soul and life are at rest from useless works. And our current rest is merely a precursor to the eternal rest we’ll have in Christ’s Kingdom which awaits us.

Hebrews 4:9-11…  

·         The Sabbath DAY… (Exodus 20:8-11)… Exodus 31:17 says He “was refreshed.” A SIGN.

·         The Sabbath YEAR… (Lev. 25:2-5; cf. Ex. 23:11; Deut. 15:2-18).

o   Israel failed (Jer. 34:14-22); God exiled them (2 Chron. 36:21)

·         Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25)… PLUS property reverted to its original owners, financial debts were forgiven, and slaves were released.

·         Spiritual rest…

·         Be diligent (be eager; make haste) to enter God’s rest (v. 11); opposite of drifting (2:1)

·         Lay bare… It was used of combatants who handled their antagonists in that way. It meant also “to bend back the neck of the victim to be slain, to lay bare or expose by bending back.” Hence the verb came to mean “to lay bare, to uncover, to expose.” The three possible metaphors in this case seem to be first, the athlete grasping his opponent by the throat; second, the bending back of the malefactor’s neck and the exposing of his face to the spectators; and third, the drawing back and the exposing of the neck of the sacrificial victim at the altar. The last one suits the previous figure of a sword better than the others. The metaphor of the victim’s throat bared to the sacrificial knife is a vivid illustration of the total exposure of the human heart to the eye of God whose inspired Word is as keen as a two-edged sword.

·         God’s rest is for those who believe. It was first about retirement in the land of Canaan.

·         When believers are saved they enter into a spiritual rest set aside only for believers. Never again will they have to labor to achieve some kind of personal righteousness that pleases God.

·         God’s rest includes His peace, confidence of salvation, reliance on His strength, and assurance of a future heavenly home.

·         With reverential fear all are to evaluate their spiritual state and to actively seek the commitment not only of themselves but of others as well.

·         When God rested He only rested from creating (cf. John 5:17).

·         God’s true rest did not come from Joshua, Moses, or David. It comes only in Christ.

·         The rest God wants for his people is not physical rest but spiritual. Even after His people were in the land resting God was calling them through David to a spiritual rest. And that rest comes through faith apart from works.

·         God may want you to retire and live the good life, but what He really desires for you is rest for your soul, not your body.

·         God’s rest following creation was the satisfaction of having completed and accomplished His creation. Since He’s finished those who enter into His rest must also be finished with works.

·         When Adam and Eve sinned in the beginning of time they lost the rest they had in the Garden of Eden, and their relationship with God was severely damaged. They entered into sinful habits and brought all of their offspring under the same burden. So God’s plan from that time forward has been to bring rest to His people, and it is the purpose of the Bible to reveal Christ to restless (sinful) man in order to bring him into God’s rest. God’s rest is life.

·         Being diligent is the opposite of “drifting” (Heb. 2:1).

·         Man is not the sole owner of the soil and he does not hold property in perpetuity but possesses it in trust under God (Lv. 25:23). The Israelite was also to remember he possessed nothing by inherent right, for he was a slave in Egypt (Dt. 15:15). Generosity is motivated by gratitude.

·         All of this points to everything being God’s. He made it all, and He rested. Man’s understanding of this entails him entering into God’s rest by realizing that God has done all things. Man need not strive – only to be diligent to enter God’s rest.

·         In Ex. 16:21-30 explicit mention is made of the sabbath in connection with the giving of manna. The sabbath is here represented as a gift of God (v. 29), to be for the rest and benefit of the people (v. 30).

·         Jesus said that the sabbath was made for man.

·         In Is. 58:13 Isaiah sets forth the blessings that will come from a true observance of the day. It is not a day in which man is to do what pleases him, but rather one on which he is to do the will of God. God, not man, must determine how the sabbath is to be observed. Recognizing that the day is holy to the Lord will bring the true enjoyment of the promises.

·         Christ identified himself as the Lord of the sabbath (Mk. 2:28). In so speaking, he was not depreciating the importance and significance of the sabbath nor in any way contravening the OT legislation. He was simply pointing out the true significance of the sabbath with respect to man and indicating his right to speak, inasmuch as he himself was the Lord of the sabbath.

·         In his disagreement with the Pharisees (Mt. 12:1–14; Mk. 2:23–28; Lk. 6:1–11) our Lord pointed out to the Jews their complete misunderstanding of the OT commands. They had sought to make the observance of the sabbath more rigorous than God had commanded. It was not wrong to eat on the sabbath, even if the food must be obtained by plucking corn from the ears. Nor was it wrong to do good on the sabbath day. To heal was a work of mercy, and the Lord of the sabbath is merciful (cf. also Jn. 5:1–18; Lk. 13:10–17; 14:1–6).

·         On the first day of the week the Lord rose from the dead, and therefore it early and increasingly became the day above all others—‘the *Lord’s day‘ (Rev. 1:10)—on which Christians met for worship (cf. Acts 20:7; also Didache 14. 1; Justin, First Apology 67. 3).

·         Lay bare… It was used of combatants who handled their antagonists in that way. It meant also “to bend back the neck of the victim to be slain, to lay bare or expose by bending back.” Hence the verb came to mean “to lay bare, to uncover, to expose.” The three possible metaphors in this case seem to be first, the athlete grasping his opponent by the throat; second, the bending back of the malefactor’s neck and the exposing of his face to the spectators; and third, the drawing back and the exposing of the neck of the sacrificial victim at the altar. The last one suits the previous figure of a sword better than the others. The metaphor of the victim’s throat bared to the sacrificial knife is a vivid illustration of the total exposure of the human heart to the eye of God whose inspired Word is as keen as a two-edged sword.

·         God’s rest is for those who believe. It was first about retirement in the land of Canaan.

·         When believers are saved they enter into a spiritual rest set aside only for believers. Never again will they have to labor to achieve some kind of personal righteousness that pleases God.

·         God’s rest includes His peace, confidence of salvation, reliance on His strength, and assurance of a future heavenly home.

·         With reverential fear all are to evaluate their spiritual state and to actively seek the commitment not only of themselves but of others as well.

·         When God rested He only rested from creating (cf. John 5:17).

·         God’s true rest did not come from Joshua, Moses, or David. It comes only in Christ.

·         The rest God wants for his people is not physical rest but spiritual. Even after His people were in the land resting God was calling them through David to a spiritual rest. And that rest comes through faith apart from works.

·         God may want you to retire and live the good life, but what He really desires for you is rest for your soul, not your body.

·         God’s rest following creation was the satisfaction of having completed and accomplished His creation. Since He’s finished those who enter into His rest must also be finished with works.

Φοβηθῶμεν οὖν, μήποτε καταλειπομένης ἐπαγγελίας εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν

Let us fear (APS) therefore, not then       being left behind (PPPtcp)        promise           to go in (AAIn)   into the

κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ δοκῇ τις ἐξ ὑμῶν ὑστερηκέναι. 2 καὶ γάρ ἐσμεν

rest                         of him    might think (PAS) someone from you to have lacked (RAIn). For             we are (PAI)

εὐηγγελισμένοι καθάπερ κἀκεῖνοι· ἀλλʼ οὐκ ὠφέλησεν λόγος τῆς

having told good message (RPPtcp) just as indeed also those but not benefited (AAI)     the word of the

ἀκοῆς ἐκείνους μὴ συγκεκερασμένους τῇ πίστει τοῖς ἀκούσασιν.

Hearing of those            not having been mixed together (RPPtcp) with faith to the ones having heard (AAPtcp).

3 Εἰσερχόμεθα γὰρ εἰς [τὴν] κατάπαυσιν οἱ πιστεύσαντες, καθὼς

Let us enter (PMI)          for      into the            rest                         the ones having believed (AAPtcp), just as

εἴρηκεν· ὡς ὤμοσα ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ μου· εἰ εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν

he has said (RAI): as I took oath(AAI) in the anger of me, if the will go in (FMI)             into the rest

μου, καίτοι τῶν ἔργων ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου γενηθέντων. 4 εἴρηκεν

of me, and indeed the works                                from  the foundation          of world   having become (APPtcp). He has said (RAI)

γάρ που περὶ τῆς ἑβδόμης οὕτως· καὶ κατέπαυσεν θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ

for    where about    the       seventh                 justly:    And rested (AAI)                      God          on  the   day       of the

ἑβδόμῃ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ, 5 καὶ ἐν τούτῳ πάλιν· εἰ

seventh        from all                  of his works,                                   and           in this                       again: if

εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου. 6 ἐπεὶ οὖν ἀπολείπεται τινὰς

they shall enter (FMI)     into of the      rest                          of me.       Since     then it is left off (PPI)         some

εἰσελθεῖν εἰς αὐτήν, καὶ οἱ πρότερον εὐαγγελισθέντες οὐκ εἰσῆλθον διʼ

to go into (AAIn)                          it,        and the former     having been told good news (APPtcp) not they went in (AAI) b/c

ἀπείθειαν, 7 πάλιν τινὰ ὁρίζει ἡμέραν, σήμερον, ἐν Δαυὶδ λέγων μετὰ

of disobedience,       again        some                    he designates (PAI) a day, Today,                 in David saying (PAPtcp) after

τοσοῦτον χρόνον, καθὼς προείρηται· σήμερον ἐὰν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ

such                        time,               as                   he said before (RPI): Today     if          of the voice of him

ἀκούσητε, μὴ σκληρύνητε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν. 8 εἰ γὰρ αὐτοὺς Ἰησοῦς

you might hear(AAS), do not harden (AAS) the heart of you.                           For if        them                     Joshua

κατέπαυσεν, οὐκ ἂν περὶ ἄλλης ἐλάλει μετὰ ταῦτα ἡμέρας. 9 ἄρα

given rest (AAI),              not  concerning other   he was saying (IAI) about these              days.            Then

ἀπολείπεται σαββατισμὸς τῷ λαῷ τοῦ θεοῦ. 10 γὰρ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὴν

there remains (PPI)  a Sabbath                         for the people of God.               For   having come into (AAPtcp) the

κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς κατέπαυσεν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ ὥσπερ

rest                         of him           and himself     having rested (AAI)     from      the       works         of him  as indeed

ἀπὸ τῶν ἰδίων θεός. 11 Σπουδάσωμεν οὖν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς ἐκείνην τὴν

from       the own        the    God.           Let us be diligent (AAS) therefore to enter (AAIn) into  that                 of the

κατάπαυσιν, ἵνα μὴ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τις ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ τῆς ἀπειθείας.

rest                          ,    that    not          in the same           some in example      might fall (AAS) in the disobedience.

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