Jesus is our Sabbath
THE REST WE DARE NOT MISS (Hebrews 4:1-10)
4:1-10 It is true that the promise which offers entry into the rest of God still remains for us; but beware lest any of you be adjudged to have missed it. It is indeed true that we have had the good news preached to us, just as those of old had. But the word which they heard was no good to them, because it did not become woven into the very fibre of their being through faith. It is we who have made the decision of faith who are entering into the rest, for of them God said: "I swore in my anger, 'Very certainly they shall not enter into my rest.'" This he said although his works had been finished after the foundation of the world. For somewhere in scripture it speaks thus about the seventh day: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his labours." And it says in the same place: "Very certainly they shall not enter into my rest." Since then it remains that some people must enter into it and since those who in former times had the gospel preached to them did not enter because of their lack of trust, he again defines a day, when in David, after so long a lapse of time, he says, "Today," just as he had said before, "Today if you will hear my voice do not harden your hearts." If Joshua had actually brought them into rest, God would not then after that be speaking about another day. So a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. He who has entered into this rest has rest from all his works, just as God rested from his works.
In a complicated passage like this it is better to try to grasp the broad lines of the thought before we look at any of the details. The writer is really using the word rest (katapausis, Greek #2663) in three different senses. (i) He is using it as we would use the peace of God. It is the greatest thing in the world to enter into the peace of God. (ii) He is using it, as he used it in Hebrews 3:12, to mean The Promised Land To the children of Israel who had wandered so long in the desert the Promised Land was indeed the rest of God. (iii) He is using it of the rest of God after the sixth day of creation, when all God's work was completed. This way of using a word in two or three different ways, of teasing at it until the last drop of meaning was extracted from it, was typical of cultured, academic thought in the days when the writer to the Hebrews wrote his letter.
Now let us see the steps of the argument. It will be simpler if we enumerate them one by one.
(i) The promise of the rest of God for his people still abides; the danger is that we fail to reach it.
(ii) The Israelites in the long ago failed to enter into the rest of God. Here the word rest is being used in the sense of the settlement of the Promised Land after the wilderness years. The reference is to Numbers 13:1-33 and Numbers 14:1-45 . These chapters tell how the children of Israel came to the borders of the Promised Land, how they sent out scouts to spy out the land, how ten of the twelve scouts came back with the verdict that it was a good land but that the difficulties of entering into it were insuperable, how Caleb and Joshua alone were for going forward in the strength of the Lord, how the people hearkened to the advice of the cowards, and how the result was that that generation of distrusting cowards were debarred for ever from entering into the rest and the peace of the Promised Land. They did not trust God to bring them through the difficulties that lay ahead; and therefore they never enjoyed the rest they could have had.
(iii) Now the writer switches the meaning of the word rest. It is true that these people long ago missed the rest they might have had; but, although they missed it, the rest remained. Behind this argument lies one of the favourite conceptions of the Rabbis. On the seventh day, the day after creation had been completed, God rested from his labours. In the creation story in Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-25 there is a strange fact. On the first six days of creation it is said that morning and evening came; that is to say, each day had an end and a beginning. But on the seventh day, the day of God's rest, there is no mention of evening at all. From this the Rabbis argued that, while the other days came to an end, the day of God's rest had no ending; the rest of God was for ever. Therefore although long ago the Israelites may have failed to enter that rest, it still remained.
(iv) Once again the writer goes back to the meaning of rest as the Promised Land. The day came after the forty years wandering in the wilderness when, under Joshua, the people did enter into the Promised Land. Now, the Promised Land was the rest and therefore it could be argued that then the promise was fulfilled.
(v) But no, the promise is not fulfilled, because in Psalms 95:7-11 David hears God's voice saying to the people that if they do not harden their hearts they can enter into his rest. That is to say, hundreds of years after Joshua had led the people into the rest of the Promised Land God is still appealing to them to enter into his rest. There is more to this rest than merely entry into the Promised Land.
(vi) So the final appeal comes. God still appeals to men not to harden their hearts but to enter into his rest. God's "today" still exists and the promise is still open; but "today" does not last for ever; life comes to an end; the promise can be missed; therefore, says the writer to the Hebrews: "Here and now through faith enter into the very rest of God."
There is a very interesting question of meaning in Hebrews 4:1. We have taken the translation: "Beware lest any of you be adjudged to have missed the rest of God." That is to say: "Beware lest your disobedience and your lack of faith may mean that you have shut yourselves out from the rest and the peace that God offers you."
That may very well be the correct translation. But there is another and most interesting possibility. The phrase may mean: "Beware lest you think that you have arrived too late in history ever to enjoy the rest of God."
In that second translation there is a warning. It is very easy to think that the great days of religion are past. It is told that a child, on being told some of the great Old Testament stories, said wistfully: "God was much more exciting then." There is a continual tendency in the Church to look back, to believe that God's power is grown less and that the golden days lie behind. The writer to the Hebrews sounds forth a trumpet call. "Never think," he says, "that you have arrived too late in history; never think that the days of great promise and great achievement lie behind. This is still God's 'today.' There is a blessedness for you as great as the blessedness of the saints; there is an adventure for you as great as the adventure of the martyrs. God is as great today as ever he was."
There are two great permanent truths in this passage.
(i) A word, however great, is of no avail unless it becomes integrated into the person who hears it. There are many different kinds of hearing in this world. There is indifferent hearing, disinterested hearing, critical hearing, sceptical hearing, cynical hearing. The hearing that matters is the hearing that listens eagerly, believes and acts. The promises of God are not merely beautiful pieces of literature; they are promises on which a man is meant to stake his life and dominate his action.
(ii) In Hebrews 4:1 the writer to the Hebrews bids his people beware lest they miss the promise. The word we have translated beware literally means to fear (phobeisthai, Greek #5399). This Christian fear is not the fear which makes a man run away from a task; nor the fear which reduces him to paralysed inaction; it is the fear which makes him put out every ounce of strength he possesses in a great effort not to miss the one thing that is worth while.
From William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Eric tackles the question regarding the Christian Sabbath
Above: Watch Bible teacher Eric William King respond to Sabbath Day Keeping
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Exposing the False Teachings
There are many false Christian movements and groups teaching that you must keep special days (Jewish feasts) and rules and regulations in order to be a true Christian. These are the modern day Judaizers. The New Covenant warns about these types of people. They are deceivers and legalists. The other extreme is the liberal moralists. The articles listed here will help you understand these issues so that you can be careful to stay away from all false teachers and rest in Jesus Christ.
*Jesus is our Sabbath
*Christians free from legalist feast keepers
*Moral relativism or Truth?
*Asceticism and the New Covenant
*Response to the New Morality
*Dealing with so called "spiritual teachers" of today