Text: "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience" (Heb. 4:11).
Thought: The present day believer in Christ needs to be motivated by the bad example of God's people in the wilderness. Yes, they were delivered from bondage and brought out of Egypt. They were brought into the wilderness and cared for, but that was not God's ultimate purpose for them. God's purpose for them was that they enter "His rest" in the promised land (3:17-19). But due to their lack of faith and disobedience a whole generation died in the wilderness and never entered into the promised rest of God.
The writer to the Hebrews speaks of this rest as a rest that now remains for God's people today (4:9-10). Bible students and scholars differ on the meaning of this "rest" in Hebrews. Some view it as a present potential rest of living faithfully in Christ according to God's purpose and promise, a rest that will be fulfilled ultimately in heaven, but can be experienced now. Others view this rest completely as a future promised rest in heaven or eternity. Whatever the case, the first view certainly does not exclude the second, and neither view challenges the doctrine of the perseverance of God's people in Christ as presented in Hebrews itself. What is most important for us is that our text indicates that God's people must be diligent to enter this rest of God in contrast to God's people in the wilderness who were not diligent to enter Canaan, and indeed did not "enter in."
How can we avoid "coming short of [God's rest]," which is the challenge of the writer in this amazing epistle (4:1, 11)?
I. Diligence: Believe and Obey the Word of God (Hebrews 4:1-13)
The basic problem with the wilderness generation is that they failed to embrace with faith the message they heard (4:2). Similarly they failed to obey the good news that was preached to them (4:6). Their hardness of heart, which resulted in disobedience, kept them from entering into God's rest for them (4:11). This text reminds us that faith and obedience go hand-in-hand. True faith will result in obedience. We must be people of faith and obedience in response to the Word we have received.
We must view the Word of God as it is described in our text: "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (4:12). Since we have an all-knowing God to whom we are accountable (4:13), we must let the Word of God do its work in our lives to keep us from having hardened hearts. The Word will direct us to live lives of faith and obedience.
II. Allegiance: Hold Fast our Confession Concerning Jesus the Son of God (4:14-15)
The writer calls for faithfulness and allegiance throughout his epistle, and this faithfulness and allegiance are to the unique Son of God who is exalted throughout the book. The writer will develop the doctrine of Jesus Christ as the Great High Priest extensively in the coming chapters.
In this context, because Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest He is able to understand and "meet us" at our point of weakness (4:15). The implication is that he will enable us to hold fast our confession, and to enter into the "rest" that God has for us. We have a Sympathizer, we have a Helper, we have One who is without sin, but is able to help us who do yield to temptation, because He has faced the same temptations and won.
III. Provision: Obtain Mercy and Find Grace (4:16)
Because we have a Great High Priest, we should rejoice at the wonderful words of invitation that are offered next by the inspired writer. We are invited to come to the very throne room of God. But, not only are we to come, we are to come "boldly." This access is through our Great High Priest and what he has done for us, and it is access to a "throne of grace." Yes, we are accountable to the all-knowing creator God, but His throne here is described as a place of grace. Praise God!
Why do we come? To "obtain mercy and to find grace to help." When do we come? " In time of need." The assumption is that due to our weakness and due to the temptations that we face, we need mercy and grace. Although the distinction is not definite, it can be said that mercy covers our failures and sins and grace enables us to move on in faith and obedience. In so doing, we will not fall short of God's purpose and promise for us as believers in the Son of God.
Thrust: Along with the strong call for diligence and allegiance to live faithfully is the provision of mercy and grace to enable us to live faithfully and to enter into the promised rest of God. In terms of application, this is true both for experiencing the rest of faith in Christ now, and it leads to receiving our eternal inheritance in Christ forever! Praise His Name!
David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.
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