Author Marilynne Robinson offers a stunning and succinct summary of the Old Testament in one sentence: “Stop doing this to yourselves!” The endless downward spiral of a nation is difficult to read. The voice of God comes to the people and they disobey. He forgives and rescues them from their mess — and they rebel again.
The book of Hebrews picks up on this theme in Chapter 3, and last week, we were reminded of the importance of encouragement in preventing the same declension in our own community by holding one another accountable:
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
It is this supporting web of relationship that holds us upright in our life of faith and that strengthens our striving to enter into the rest God offers to those who believe. Hebrews 3 ends on an ominous note for it was unbelief that kept the people of Israel wandering for forty years. The message is clear: Stop doing this to yourself! Live in faith! Enter His rest!
The writer of Hebrews gathers up this lesson and carries it into the next chapter. Notice the “therefore” in Hebrews 4:1. It was unbelief that kept a whole generation from entering the Promised Land. “Beware! Don’t miss this!”
Christ spoke of rest for the believer in Matthew 11:28, an end of the ceaseless striving for righteousness. John MacArthur describes this rest, this easy yoke, with a five-fold definition. Rest is:
- Ceasing from work or labor;
- Freedom from whatever worries or disturbs you;
- Being settled, fixed, secure;
- Remaining confident, keeping trust;
Each of these facets of rest is visible in the rest that the author of Hebrews urges his readers to secure:
- Put an end to all your strategies for self-salvation. Stop comparing and concluding that you’re not enough.
- Enter the perfect peace that comes with forgiveness. Understand that you are free from legalistic bondage to appearances. Stop wishing yourself away.
- Fix your mind on truth and make your home there. Let Scripture be your heart’s true north.
- Let go of fears that throttle your creativity and your enthusiasm for following God’s call upon your life.
- Lean hard. There is no safer Resting Place.
This is the essence of the Christian life, an hour-by-hour trust in His promises. Furthermore, it is this perseverance, this faithfulness to ongoing relationship with God, that bears witness to the reality of a believer’s conversion experience, thus putting an end to fear and uncertainty of one’s salvation.
As you read Hebrews 4 this week, rejoice in God’s provision of rest:
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
Then believe — and enter:
3 For we who have believed enter that rest.
Thanks for joining us in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. My Sunday school class and I will be landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book. These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday. It’s not too late to catch up by reading Hebrews 1 -3, and, if you’re interested, last week’s blog post.
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