Remembering that the Book of Hebrews could be titled “The Book of the Sons of God” and that the prophecy of Immanuel in Isaiah 7 and several following chapters concerns these sons of God, we now move on to chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews. Those chapters mainly deal with entering God’s rest so long as it is called “Today.” Since we still say today is “today” the time yet remains that some may come into God’s rest who have not yet entered. Hebrews calls this rest “the Sabbath” and warns that many Christians will not enter into it, just as the Israelites who left Egypt under Moses did not enter it. Hebrews tells us that they did not enter into rest because of unbelief. The book also tells us that they had the Gospel preached to them, just as we have, yet they still did not enter into God’s rest.
But, wait a minute, didn’t these Israelites faithfully and religiously obey the fourth commandment and keep the Sabbath from sundown every Friday to sundown every Saturday? Yes, they did. Do you remember the man stoned for collecting sticks on the Sabbath. God used this incident, not to prove that he was a harsh, unforgiving God, but to illustrate the profound importance of entering into his rest. Paul teaches us, for example, that he does not care whether we choose one day over another concerning any religious reason, including honoring a particular Sabbath day. He says,
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:1-9 ESV)
Clearly, then, chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews do not teach us to observe the Jewish Sabbath day in some particular way, or even to observe it all. No, the “rest” that Hebrews speaks of goes to the heart of the spiritual principle concerning which God implemented the Law of the Sabbath in the first place. We must come to the place where we cease from doing our own religious works, the spiritual maturity within which we stop trying to build the Kingdom of God in the power of our flesh. Thus Hebrews says,
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. 2 For good news [the Gospel] 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.[a] 3 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. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day [this phrase is a clue that the writer speaks not of rote obedience to the fourth commandment] in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news [the Gospel] failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 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.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God[b] would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:1-10)
Those who have entered into God’s rest have ceased from their own spiritual labors. They do not attempt to impress men with their great spirituality or understanding of new Biblical mysteries. They no longer cling to selfish ambition about becoming someone important in the Church of God. If they have nothing to say, they say nothing. If God gives them fresh manna (spiritual food, spiritual truth, fresh Biblical teaching, a prophetic word from the LORD), then they say it as the Holy Spirit leads them.
We must learn to stop striving in the LORD’s work. We will not accomplish God’s purposes by fretting about the world’s condition or about what we need to do next in order to please God. Hebrews teaches us to strive for one thing only, to enter God’s rest.
Father, I pray that you will be merciful to us and lead us to your rest so that we may behold you in your glory and finally, one day, become even as you are. Amen.