9. Defining Rest (Hebrews 4:1-10)Related Media
1 Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it. 2 For we had good news proclaimed to us just as they did. But the message they heard did them no good, since they did not join in with those who heard it in faith. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my anger, ‘They will never enter my rest!’” And yet God’s works were accomplished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works,” 5 but to repeat the text cited earlier: “They will never enter my rest!” 6 Therefore it remains for some to enter it, yet those to whom it was previously proclaimed did not enter because of disobedience. 7 So God again ordains a certain day, “Today,” speaking through David after so long a time, as in the words quoted before, “O, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken afterward about another day. 9 Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. 10 For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works (Hebrews 4:1-10).2
When I was in college, I worked on the night maintenance crew. We cleaned the student union center from midnight Friday night to 8 a.m. Saturday morning. On one particular Friday night, one of the members of our work crew wasn’t to be found, so we decided to search the building to find him. It turned out that he had curled up under a piano and was getting his rest. This is not the kind of “rest” we will be talking about in this lesson. Sleeping on the job is not “rest.”
I fear there are some Christians who may be “sleeping on the job.” If so, this message will not provide any comfort for them. The “rest” we are talking about is not the kind that you find a couple of weeks in the summer, in a hammock, or in bed. Speaking of beds, have you noticed how often mattresses are advertised on T.V.? There are foam mattresses with a memory (probably better than mine) and a plethora of others. And then there are the sleeping pills that we “can ask our doctor about to see if they are right for us.”
We know that it is important for our bodies to get a proper night’s rest, and if we don’t, there are unpleasant consequences. But if physical rest is important to our physical well being, spiritual rest is even more important to our spiritual well being. In our last lesson, we saw how the author of Hebrews warned us about failure to enter God’s rest, due to unbelief, a hardened heart, and disobedience. We now know how we can fail to rest, but it isn’t entirely clear just what that “rest” is. I believe the first ten verses of Hebrews 4 will give us a much better definition of rest. That is the goal of this lesson.
Our Approach in this Lesson
We will begin this lesson with an overview of chapters 1-4. We will then return to last week’s lesson and the text of Hebrews 3:1-19, which is the basis for our text. Then we will concentrate on our text – the first ten verses of chapter 4. There are several terms on which the author builds his argument, so we will seek to define them, and then determine how these help us to understand what “rest” means for us. We will conclude with some areas of application.
Overview of Chapters 1-4
The Book of Hebrews begins with the declaration that while God has spoken in various ways through the Old Testament prophets, He has now spoken fully and finally in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). The Son is characterized by a seven-fold description (verses 1-4), which is then buttressed by citations from Old Testament texts (verses 5-14). The thread which unifies chapter 1 is that the Son is superior to the angels. Chapter 2 begins with an exhortation to pay even more careful attention to the revelation which has come through the Son. The remainder of the chapter deals with the results of the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. To briefly summarize the benefits of the incarnation, it enabled the Son to die in the sinner’s place, paying the penalty for his sins, and restoring him (or her) to the glory and authority which God gave man at creation. Furthermore, it enabled Him to become a faithful and merciful high priest. His humiliation and exaltation is God’s provision for man’s redemption and restoration.
Chapters 3 and 4 will establish the superiority of the Son to Moses. The first six verses of chapter 3 set out the argument and provide three examples of the superiority of the Son. Verses 7-19 of chapter 3 continue to show the Son’s superiority to Moses, but in a more subtle way than verses 1-6. The author cites the last half of Psalm 95, in which the psalmist warns the people of his day, based on the failure of the Israelites to enter Canaan. The warning was against failing to enter God’s rest, due to unbelief, hardness of heart, and disobedience. The subtlety of the argument is that Moses did not lead the Israelites into Canaan; indeed, he and Aaron didn’t enter the land either. The author wants his readers to know that there is still a rest available to us, but there is likewise a danger of failing to enter this rest, for the same reasons that earlier generations failed.
We have seen indications of more than one “rest” in chapter 3. There is the “rest” of entering the land of Canaan, which the first generation of Israelites failed to attain. Then there is the “rest” which is available for the readers of Psalm 95. This must be a different rest because the readers are now dwelling in the Promised Land, and “rest” is still being offered. There is also “God’s rest,” which will be more fully explained in chapter 4. And so as we come to chapter 4, we find that it is tightly related to chapter 3. In chapter 4, the author will cite fragments of his quotation from Psalm 95 in chapter 3. It is these repeated words and phrases which provide us with the key to understanding the author’s meaning of “rest.” Chapter 4 will conclude with an exhortation to strive to enter “God’s rest,” with an emphasis on the Word of God (verses 12-13) and on the high priestly ministry of our Savior (verses 14-16).
Tracing the Argument of Chapters 3 and 4
There are two keys to understanding the argument of chapters 3 and 4. The first is the superiority of the Son – Jesus Christ – to Moses. This is introduced in 3:1-6. The second is the superiority of the rest which Jesus has achieved to the “rest” which Israel, under the leadership of Moses, did not attain (indeed, a rest to which Moses himself did not attain). This superior rest is the focus of verses 7-19. A few observations of these verses will prove helpful when we come to our text in chapter 4.
First, verses 7-19 continue the theme of the superiority of Christ to Moses. We can see from the incidents underlying Psalm 95 that neither the first generation of Israelites nor Moses himself entered into the rest God had for them.
Second, these verses address the danger of falling back into Judaism. If the danger facing the Hebrews was drifting from Christ and the New Covenant and falling back into Judaism and the Old Covenant, then verses 7-19 deal with this issue. Consider verse 8:
“Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:8, NET Bible, emphasis mine).
“Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:8, NASB95, emphasis mine).
“Do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert” (Hebrews 3:8, NIV, emphasis mine).
The NET Bible provides us with the most literal translation of verse 8. One could thus read it with two slightly different meanings. Either the readers are warned not to sin as those in the past sinned in the day of testing, or, the readers are warned not to sin as they did in the day of testing. The first understanding is reflected by the translation of the NASB; the second by the translation of the NIV. The NET Bible remains somewhat neutral by rendering the verse literally, allowing the reader to go either way.
What difference does it make? Well, the warning certainly becomes more personal with the rendering of the NIV. But how can one be guilty of the sins of a bygone generation? Consider these verses:
34 “For this reason I am sending you prophets and wise men and experts in the law, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that on you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:34-35, emphasis mine).
51 “You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, like your ancestors did! 52 Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold long ago the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become! 53 You received the law by decrees given by angels, but you did not obey it” (Acts 7:51-53, emphasis mine).
Do you notice how both Jesus and Stephen linked the guilt of those in previous generations with the guilt of a later generation? In both instances above, the audience that was being condemned was Jewish. These folks rejected Jesus and chose to identify themselves with the Jews and the Judaism of a bygone day. They identified themselves with the old by clinging to it, while rejecting the new. They also identified with the older generation by repeating their sins. And so it is that they became guilty of those sins, partners with that unbelieving and hard-hearted generation in their sin.
Is the author of Hebrews saying this as well? Is he saying that those who are tempted to fall back into Judaism will also fall back into the sins of the past? If so, this is a strong argument against doing so. Let the readers take note of what it means to identify with the rebels of the past, rather than with the Redeemer.
Third,we should note that the entire first generation3 of Israelites failed to enter their rest (verse 16). If an entire generation failed, then the warning based upon their experience carries more weight. Have you listened to the commercials for prescription drugs lately? After urging us to ask our doctor about the usefulness of a certain medication, they go on to list all of the possible side effects. Why don’t these side effects scare us to death? Because we assume that they are few and far between. If only 5% of those who take a pill have their hair fall out, then I conclude that it probably won’t happen to me, especially if the pill will fulfill all the promises that are made concerning its benefits. But when 99.9999% of that generation failed, then the danger must be great indeed.
Fourth, this generation failed for forty years. Israel’s unbelief and disobedience was a persistent practice. It was the rule, and not the exception.
Fifth, the Israelites failed under Moses’ leadership, after hearing God speak to (and through) Moses, and after seeing many miracles in confirmation of Moses’ authority.
Sixth, God was angry with this generation, and this resulted in their death in the wilderness (which is exactly what they asked for – Numbers 14:2), and thus their failure to enter into rest.
Seventh, the offer of “rest” remains till “today.”
Eighth, the danger of failing to enter rest also remains till “today.”
Ninth, the fundamental problem is that of “unbelief.”
The Keys to Understanding Our Text
There are several “keys” to understanding our text. The first is those “key terms,” which are found in Psalm 95 and to which our author repeatedly refers. We will look more carefully at these terms in a moment. The second is to understand how the psalmist connected the dots – how he understood and applied Israel’s failure to enter into rest to his own day. We should learn how to interpret and apply Scripture from the Scriptures. What better way to understand our text than to grasp how the psalmist came to his interpretation and application. The third key is to understand how our author interpreted and applied the lessons of Psalm 95 to his day. Surely his method of interpreting and applying Scripture is instructive to us as to how we should understand and apply Hebrews 3 and 4 today.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks!(Hebrews 3:7, citing Psalm 95:7b)
But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception (Hebrews 3:13).
As it says, “Oh, that today you would listen as he speaks!Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15, referring to Psalm 95:7b).
So God again ordains a certain day, “Today,” speaking through David after so long a time, as in the words quoted before, “O, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7, referring once again to Psalm 95:7b).
When the author of Psalm 95 said, “today,” he was somehow keeping the offer made to the first generation current. Whatever was “today” in Psalm 95 is still “today” today.
When the writer to the Hebrews cites from Psalm 95:7, he calls attention to the word “today.” He makes the point that while the “rest” that the first generation of Israelites failed to enter was dwelling in peace in the Promised Land, there was still a “rest” being offered in Psalm 95. It was still “today.” Thus, for the psalmist, the offer of rest remains, as does the danger of failing to enter into it. And when the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews uses Psalm 95, he does so in a way that makes it clear that there is still an offer of rest, and that it will be embraced and experienced or lost.
“Today” thus calls attention to at least of couple of applications. First, there is an urgency regarding the offer of rest. It must be seized while it is today, for a “tomorrow” is coming when it will be too late, just as there was for the ancient Israelites. Second, rest appears to be a day-by-day, “one day at a time” experience. It is not something that we believe for the moment, but rather something we believe and lay hold of day after day.
God’s Word is a key ingredient in the Book of Hebrews (as we will point out in our next lesson), although it is referred to by means of several different expressions. In addition to being called “the Word of God,” (4:12), it is sometimes referred to as “what God has spoken” (1:1-3), “what we have heard” (2:1), or “good news” (4:2). It is even referred to as “so great a salvation” (2:3) and as “God’s voice” (3:7).
God’s Word is the Father’s full and final revelation through the Son, the crowning conclusion to previous revelations through the prophets (1:1-4). It is the message of salvation to which we are exhorted to give much more careful attention (2:1-4). Israel’s unbelief and disobedience was in spite of God’s Word revealed to and through Moses, which was confirmed by the many miracles associated with the exodus from Egypt (3:7-19). Belief in God’s Word is the key to “rest” (4:3), just as “unbelief” is the reason why men fail to enter into God’s rest (3:19). While the “good news” that the ancient Israelites received was not the full-blown gospel that we have heard, it was nevertheless good news that did them no good because they failed to believe it and act upon it.
Faith is also known as belief, just as the absence of faith is unbelief. Faith is a key concept in the Book of Hebrews, as will be dramatically evident when we get to chapter 11. It is an evil heart of unbelief that falls away from the living God (3:12, see also verse 19), while those who enter God’s rest do so by faith (4:3). Unbelief leads to a hardened heart, which leads to rebellion and divine discipline.
Community is not a term that is found in our text, or even in the Book of Hebrews. But it is a concept which is emphasized as vitally important to the believer. It is very possible that the concept of “community” is referred to in verse 2 of chapter 4:
For we had good news proclaimed to us just as they did. But the message they heard did them no good, since they did not join in with those who heard it in faith4 (Hebrews 4:2, NET Bible; emphasis mine).
For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith (CSB, emphasis mine).
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 (ESV, emphasis mine).
Other translations render this verse differently:
For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard (NASB, emphasis mine).
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it (NKJV, emphasis mine).
So we have two ways of understanding this verse, due to a measure of ambiguity in the Greek text. (1) The good news did not do some any good because they did not identify themselves with people of faith. Or, (2) The good news did not do some any good because they did not personally embrace it by faith. Perhaps the ambiguity is deliberate, so that both meanings apply.
It is pretty clear that the Word does us little good if we refuse to believe it. But the writer to the Hebrews also wants us to realize that our faith and Christian walk is not a solo proposition but a choir event. When we come to faith in Christ, we are joined with Christ and with other believers (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Ephesians 2:11-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10). This is why the author can employ Psalm 95, a psalm which summons the community of faith to worship. This is also why he expects the saints to gather regularly to encourage one another and to watch for those who are drifting:
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an evil, unbelieving heart that forsakes the living God. 13 But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception (Hebrews 3:12-13).
23 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, 25 not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:23-25).
There are several kinds of rest referred to in Hebrews. The first rest mentioned is the “rest” the first generation of Israelites failed to enter, namely entrance into the Promised Land and rest from its enemies (Hebrews 3:11). Then there was the “rest” to which the psalmist referred in Psalm 95 that was available in his time (“today”). And there is the “rest” which was available to those whom the author of Hebrews was writing in his day:
Therefore we must be wary that, while the promise of entering his rest remains open, none of you may seem to have come short of it (Hebrews 4:1, emphasis mine).
That rest was not merely the rest of possessing the Promised Land, but a great rest, a “sabbath rest.” The source of this rest is God, who after having completed the work of creation, rested on the seventh day. This rest is the rest from our labors. It is the “rest” which is the key to the rest which is available to us today.
There is still a “rest” that is available to us “today.” I would understand this to have present and future dimensions, just as salvation has. There is surely a “salvation rest,” a resting from our works in an effort to earn God’s favor, when we come to faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. And there is the eternal rest which all Christians will experience. But there must also be what we might call a “sanctification rest,” a rest from striving as Christians in the power of the flesh, in a futile effort to attain godliness. I believe that we see this in Romans 7 and 8. Chapter 7 is the description of a Christian trying to live up to God’s standards in the power of the flesh, and failing badly. Chapter 8 is the solution. The Christian is to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that raised the dead body of Jesus from the grave. By the working of His Spirit in us, we are able, to some degree, to live a godly life (see Romans 8:1-17). This is resting in Him, or we might even say, abiding in Him (see John 15:1-14). This is the key to fruitfulness.
The Argument of Hebrews 4:1-10
So, having reviewed the argument of Hebrews 1-4, and having noted the terms and concepts foundational to this argument, let us briefly trace the author’s argument in the first ten verses of chapter 4.
The ancient Israelites, along with those who lived in the days of the psalmist, had the promise of rest, a rest which could only be attained by faith. Because the first generation of Israelites failed so badly to enter God’s rest – in spite of the extent of revelation from God, and miracles to confirm it – we should have a keen sense of our own fallibility, and thus the danger of a failure in our faith and walk (4:1).
We are not that different from those ancient Israelites. Just as they received the good news of a promise of entering the land of Canaan, so we have received an even greater revelation of good news, the good news of salvation by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Just as the “good news” the ancient Israelites received did them no good because of their lack of faith, so our “good news” is only profitable through faith. It requires not only initial faith on our part, but on-going faith. This kind of faith is encouraged and stimulated by our association with others who share the same faith (4:2).
The “rest” into which we enter is God’s rest, God’s Sabbath rest, such as we find in Genesis 2:2 – the rest God entered after He had finished His work of creation. It is this rest into which the ancient Israelites failed to enter, for “My rest” is God’s rest, God’s Sabbath rest. This is the rest some failed to enter, but which remains available to us today, a rest received by faith (4:3-6).
Just as the psalmist could seize upon the term “today” and apply it to his readers, so God has fixed a “today” for us, the same “today” as was offered in the psalms. And so we need to believe God and enter this rest, rather than to refuse to believe and fail to enter, as did the ancient Israelites. This “rest” must be more than merely entering Canaan because Joshua did lead the second generation of Israelites into the Promised Land, and yet many years later the psalmist spoke of a rest that was still available, a greater rest. And that rest was God’s “Sabbath rest,” a rest still available, a rest of ceasing from futile works in an effort to earn God’s favor. The one who has entered God’s rest has set aside striving in the flesh, and has trusted in the work God has finished, in Christ (4:7-10).
When I think of the Old Testament law, with all of its requirements and stipulations, it makes me tired. How could one ever please God by the works of the law? No one ever could, for the purpose of the law was not to provide men with a list of works by which one could be saved. The purpose of the law was to demonstrate to men that they could never save themselves, but must be saved some other way. And that way was the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – 22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 26 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness (Romans 3:19-26).
4 But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).
8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is why our Lord could say,
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry” (Matthew 11:28-30).
How different this was from what the Jewish religious leaders did:
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:1-4).
The concept of rest is such a beautiful thing to one who is weary of striving to please God in his (or her) own strength. To trust in Jesus is to cease from one’s own labors, one’s own efforts, and receive the fruit of the work which Jesus did on the cross of Calvary. For a Hebrew Christian to entertain thoughts of retreating back to Judaism, of going back under the law, was to set aside rest for fruitless works.
Have you entered that “rest,” my friend? Have you experienced the rest which only Christ can give? Have you ceased from fruitless efforts to win God’s favor? If not, I urge you to do so “today” by acknowledging your sin and your inability to please God. And then simply trust in the only provision God has made for sinners to be forgiven and to enter into His rest. Trust in Jesus.
My Christian friend, are you resting in what Christ has done for you? Or are you striving in the power of your own flesh to please God, just as Paul describes in Romans 7:
15 For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. 21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. 23 But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15-24)
Praise God the answer immediately follows:
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. 6 For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness. 11 Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you (Romans 7:25-8:11).
For the Christian, there is not only the rest of salvation, but the day-to-day rest of dependence upon God for living the Christian life. There are many things which can interfere with our “resting” in Christ. As I write this message (a little while after having preached it), the stock market has taken a serious downward turn. Do I lose my rest because of this? Do I worry and fret about the future, or do I rest in God’s promises:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? 27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? 28 Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! 30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? 31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-33).
Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Persecution is on the rise, not only in distant places, but in our own country. Are you resting in our Lord’s promises, or are you filled with doubts and worries? We need to believe in God’s Word:
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. 14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:10-16).
32 But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. 33 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. 34 For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession. 35 So do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward. 36 For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised. 37 For just a little longer and he who is coming will arrive and not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, Itake no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not among those who shrink back and thus perish, but are among those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 10:32-39).
National elections are coming soon, and many are concerned (downright worried) about the outcome. We can and should rest in the knowledge that it is God who raises up kings and who puts them down. It is He who holds the heart of the king in His hands:
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord like channels of water;
he turns it wherever he wants (Proverbs 21:1).
We can forsake our rest because of worries about our families and even about our ministries. These are areas in which God desires to lead us to rest, rather than leave us to trust in futile works of the flesh. Let us rest in Him, who has done all the work for our salvation and sanctification, and who promises to lead us to eternal rest.
1 Copyright © 2008 by Robert L. Deffinbaugh. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 9 in the series, Near to the Heart of God – A Study of the Book of Hebrews, prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on September 7, 2008. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit.
2 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
3 With the exception of Joshua and Caleb.
4 It is interesting to recall how those who rebelled against God identified themselves with rebel leadership, while those who were faithful identified themselves with Moses and those who remained faithful to God. I am thinking here of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16:1-35.
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