Many of the clothes that the High Priest and his assistants wore when they ministered before God in the tabernacle are described as “skillfully woven”. That is an idea that also fits many sections in the letter to the Hebrews, except that with God as the author, describing His dealings with His people throughout the Bible, “skillful” doesn’t come close. Here, the weaving is done with infinite perfection and as we come to understand more of what He has done and how He has done it, we can only catch our breath and gaze with wonder and admiration. Last Sunday’s message was a case in point:
LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 4:1-11)
We saw that the idea of “rest” runs as a strand throughout God’s Word, beginning with God modeling “His rest” for us on the seventh day of the creation week. He didn’t need to rest Himself but He established a pattern for us. Then we saw the promised land of Canaan as a type of the rest that God had for His people. Israel under Moses couldn’t enter it, because they had no faith. Israel under Joshua did enter but their hearts were still prone to disobedience. But then years later, writing Psalm 95, David indicated that God’s promise of rest did not finish with Joshua and Israel. Rather, the writer to the Hebrews shows, the promise still stands to enter THE rest that all these other mentions of “rest” (in the creation week and in Canaan) were pointing to – the rest that Jesus would bring, which is entered by faith. This is an “already but not yet” rest which we can know today but for which the full experience lies ahead. This rest is a place where we put our own labors and strivings down and (like John at the Last Supper) lay our Heads on Jesus’ breast in utter trust and joyful resignation. Here there is no worry, no anxiety, no fear, no effort to try to justify ourselves to God, no eternal danger to us. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and has promised that those who trust Him will always be safe and always will know His presence with them. This is the rest that Jesus invites us to enjoy – and it is received and entered into only by faith:
Matthew 11:28–30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We reflected on these truths under the following headings:
- The Role of Faith in Entering God’s Rest (1-3) (We enter God’s rest through faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone)
- The Nature of Entering God’s Rest (3-5) (It’s not the same as taking a nap, but rather a deep and abiding peace knowing that God is on our side, so who can be against us and succeed in harming us?)
The Urgency of Entering God’s Rest (6-7) (The promise of entering rest is for “today” it’s too risky to leave it until “tomorrow” when none of us knows for sure we will get out of our beds in the morning – so take God up on His promise today! Also, this rest is something so precious that it is worth striving for until we possess it.)
LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 4:12-13)
“Today” is a very important day in the life of everyone who has professed to be trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation. In fact, “today” is mission-critical. Why?
The promise of entering God’s rest remains as long as it is called “today”, so believing in the gospel and resting in Christ can’t wait for another day that we may not have. But on the other hand, we are still plagued by sin, which is deceitful, and we have hearts that are easily led astray. For us, “today” could be the day we make a soul-destroying mistake and fall away from Christ, which is what the original readers of this letter were tempted to do. Therefore, “today” is always the right day to make every effort to confirm our calling and election, and “today” is always a day on which we need to exhort our brothers and sisters in Christ (“as long as it is called “today”) so they might not be hardened into unbelief.
But how can we rightly judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart? How shall we expose sinful thinking and the folly of the sins we are being tempted into? How shall we stand firm and enter the fullness of God’s rest in glory? The writer answers that question in this passage: we may do this by immersing ourselves in the environment of God’s Word. We must read it, meditate on it, hear it preached, memorize it, have it close to our hearts and ready on our lips so that we can search ourselves accurately and exhort others too. We’ll see that the Word is like a two-way mirror to help us. As we look into it, we see our reflection in its pages. The Spirit shows us what we are really like in God’s sight, using it to humble us and convict us and send us running to Jesus for help. But then as we look again into the same Word, we see Jesus through its pages. The same Spirit reveals Him to us, fully able and (hallelujah!) fully willing to save us and bring us into His perfect rest – all accomplished at immeasurable cost by His suffering on the cross!
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty Rock
Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
And the burden of the day.
Oh, safe and happy shelter!
Oh, refuge tried and sweet!
Oh, awesome place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet.
As to the holy patriarch
That wondrous dream was given,
So is my Savior by the cross
A ladder up to heaven.
There lies beneath its shadow,
But on the farther side,
The darkness of an awful grave
That gapes both deep and wide;
And there between us stands the cross,
Two arms outstretched to save,
Like a watchman set to guard the way
From that eternal grave.
Upon that cross of Jesus
Mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One,
Who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart, with tears,
Two wonders I confess,
The wonders of His glorious love,
And my unworthiness.
I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
The sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame,
My glory all the cross.