Jesus is the Greater Rest

We are busier than ever. We think to ourselves, if only there was more hours in a day. If only rest or sleep weren’t so necessary. There is always pressure to do more, to work harder, and to rest less. Our egos are boosted by what we can get done but in the process we are sacrificing our souls. The busier we are the less we rest and the more we are exhausted by an always-demanding slave master.

Busyness isn’t a sin. Work is necessary and good. God is pleased by hard work. But being busy in an endless pursuit of things that leave us empty and unsatisfied cannot be pleasing to God. Sometimes the most godly thing we can to is stop and listen. We need to be still. We need to rest.

There is only One who never stops working. One who never tires. One who never takes a break. He is God. Even when he rested on the seventh day of creation it wasn’t because he was weary, but because he knew humans needed an example and would be exhausted from six days of hard work. God is wise. Rest is wisdom from God.

Rest for Israel was more than just sabbath rest or a much needed vacation in the Promised Land after wandering in the Wilderness for 40 years (Ex.34:6-7). It was a temporary rest that pictured a greater rest to come—an eternal rest with God forever. Rest ultimately is being with God, a heavenly rest.

There are five important times in history that God offered rest to humanity: 1) Creation (Hebrews 4:4; cf. Gen. 2), 2) David in the midst of battling (v.7), 3) Wandering in the Wilderness (v.5; Ps. 95:7-11), Joshua enters the Promised Land (v.8), and our Sabbath salvation (v.9). The final rest is ultimately secured for us in Christ. Jesus is the greater rest.

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. For good news 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. 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. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 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.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:1-13)

Rest is a means of showing God’s care and grace to his people. It bolsters our faith and trust in God, today.  It reminds us to realign our strength. When life punches us in the gut we can trust that God is faithful and we can trust and obey him, even when we feel like giving up in moments of exhaustion. Resting in King Jesus is the great remedy for the soul.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is exhausting you right now? How is God calling you to rest as a result of this passage?
  • What do you fear the most? What do you fear that could reveal an unbelieving heart?
  • How is the illustration of Israel’s unfaithfulness and unbelief helpful for us?
  • How do you respond when life punches you in the gut?
  • What does it look like to get serious about your spiritual heart condition? (v.12-13)
  • How is the Word of God a powerful and penetrating scalpel to help expose the heart?
  • How is giving a heart check or exam a community process? (vs. 2, 11-13)
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Jesus offers rest to rebels

Western culture has made rebellion an “in” thing. Just listen for a few seconds to the news media talk about the nations leaders or watch how Hollywood portrays the bad guy as the likable hero. Rebellion isn’t just the product of the Roaring 20’s or Rockin’ 50’s and 60’s, but youth and adult alike from every generation are prone to private and public disrespect of authority.

Israel had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. Yet God did not forget them (Ex. 2:23ff). In fact, he showed them immense mercy by raising up Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt through extraordinary miracles. It didn’t take long for the people of Israel to forget all the miraculous things God had done to free them from the hardships in Egypt. You’d think after all they saw God do it would be enough to keep them on the straight and narrow, but within three days they were already complaining. Their hearts became hard. And for 40 years they wandered in the Wilderness until they reached the border of the Promised Land. Many, including Moses, did not enter “[God’s] rest” because of the people collective rebellion (vs.7-11, 16-19)

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” – Hebrews 3:7-19

When the author of Hebrews says, “Take care,” it is meant to be a warning to all generations who follow Jesus (v.12). Like Israel, we are prone to wander. Our hearts gravitate towards hardness and anti-authority. We are bent towards unbelief in God’s character and promises. No one is exempt.

At the heart of every problem is the problem in the heart. The heart grows hard. Yet there is a cure: a tender teachable heart. Intentionally surround yourself with brothers and sisters who will frequently challenge and correct your heart and be open to changing the attitude of your heart (vs.13-14; 10:23-25). If not we will fall into the same mindset as Pharaoh, who heard from God’s servant and saw many supernatural wonders, but rejected God flat out and became hardhearted.

A rebels heart is never at rest. Rest is found when you joyfully trust God, willingly submit yourself to the community of faith, and lovingly exhort one another. Enter his rest.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is the meaning of “rest” (v.11)?
  • Why are people, even Jesus followers, prone to wander, hardheartedness, and bent on unbelief?
  • What leads to a hard heart? What are the dangers of developing a hard heart?
  • Why is the responsibility of all Christians to share the load in encouraging one another to have a tender and teachable heart?  Who do you allow to ask tough questions of your heart?
  • How can we exhort one another every day, stir one another in their faith and confidence, and share the load of helping one another not to be hardened by sin?

sabbath

sarah-on-the-sabbath

It is interesting that God loves to remind us about important things. He knows our memories can be weak at times.  To remember is to take what we know and apply it to our lives. Fourth Commandment is to “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

In other words, we are to stop working and start worshiping. We are to stop pursuing our passions for one day and make God our passion. We are commanded to worship God with our time. We are not to do our own thing, but His thing on His day.

Does this command mean that I am given a mandate by God to be lazy at least one-day week? God did not give us this command so that we would sit around and do nothing. God is concerned about us. For at least one day a week God wants us to stop what we are pursuing and pursue Him. God gave us this command for several reasons:

1. It is for your good. God knows that we need a day of rest and refocus. Sometimes we think we might miss out on something in life if we do not cram-pack ever minute of every day with something. Yet we can miss out on life itself if we do not obey this command. Jesus confront the religious leaders of His day about this very thing (Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”). They were so OCD about not working on the Sabbath that they wrote a book of rules to protect themselves from disobeying the law, all the while they were missing the real purpose of the day: to worship God.

2. It grows your faith. We need more worship in our lives, period. We are over worked and under-worshiped. We make time to relax and spend time with friends, but infrequently do we carve out time for our Creator and life-Sustainer. When we trust God and put Him first, He wont let us down because worshiping God enriches our faith.

So how do we apply this Sabbath command to our lives?

1. Remember God (Get Deep). Over the past few weeks we have talked about who God is. He is not some chump, He is Creator-God. If we think about God in this way (i.e. love, grace, holy, etc.) our natural response will be to worship Him.

All over the Bible people worshipped in groups. In the OT they worshipped God in the temple or synagogue. In the NT they worshipped God in homes, on hillsides or wherever they could find a place. Within these worship “meetings” God gave His people life-changing principles and transforming relationships. God loves the church because it is there that we get deep with God and He gets deep with us. Worshipping with other people inspires our personal worship. (Heb.10:25 “Let us not give up on meeting together.”)

The Sabbath day is not a day to putts around, but a day to praise God (Is. 58:13-14). I have been blessed through my church involvement. Through spiritual growth, accountability, confront sin, encouragement when I am struggling spiritually, friendships and significant relationships, and much more. Worshiping God is not a one day a week thing (Sunday or Wednesday night), it is our daily joy.

2. Refocus Your Life (Go Deep). Gods day is a day to do spiritual inventory on your life. Sometimes we need to take the time to restock the selves of our lives spiritually. It is easy to empty out throughout the week.

It took God six days to create the universe and all that is in it. On the seventh day he rested. He looked back on all that He had done and said, “It is good.” After a long week of working we need to step back and ask, “Was it good? Am I thinking godly pure thoughts? Am I saying or doing things that do not honor God? Am I putting Him first? Am I ready to worship this day?”