1The promise to enter the place of rest is still good, and we must take care that none of you miss out. 2We have heard the message, just as they did. But they failed to believe what they heard, and the message did not do them any good. 3 Only people who have faith will enter the place of rest. It is just as the Scriptures say,
“God became angry
and told the people,
‘You will never enter
my place of rest!’ ”
God said this, even though everything has been ready from the time of creation. 4 In fact, somewhere the Scriptures say that by the seventh day, God had finished his work, and so he rested. 5 We also read that he later said, “You people will never enter my place of rest!” 6This means that the promise to enter is still good, because those who first heard about it disobeyed and did not enter. 7 Much later God told David to make the promise again, just as I have already said,
“If you hear his voice today,
don't be stubborn!”
8 If Joshua had really given the people rest, there would not be any need for God to talk about another day of rest. 9But God has promised us a Sabbath when we will rest, even though it has not yet come. 10 On that day God's people will rest from their work, just as God rested from his work.
11We should do our best to enter the place of rest, so none of us will disobey and miss going there, as they did. 12God's word is alive and powerful! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts. 13 Nothing is hidden from God! He sees through everything, and we will have to tell him the truth.
I wonder how rest features in your life. Do you suffer from the modern epidemic of workaholism? Do you struggle to wind down at the end of the day? Do you check your email as soon as you wake? Do you write ‘to do’ lists in the shower and take your laptop on vacation? So many of us lead lives with very little margin and as a result, our minds, bodies and spirits suffer.
The phrase ‘place of rest’ occurs five times Hebrews 4:1-13; the word ‘rest’ 11 times. The rest spoken of here is not an afternoon nap, or even laying down tools one day a week, although that is part of it: God himself rested after six days of creating (v 4). A weekly ‘Sabbath’ is a sign and symbol of true rest: total dependence on God.
What does dependence on God look like in practical terms? Well, we can be sure it doesn’t mean passivity or apathetic inactivity. Paul reads the riot act to the idle Thessalonians who are lounging around waiting for Jesus to return (2 Thessalonians 3:6-16). What it means is living in God’s strength (Philippians 2:13), his Spirit in us accomplishing what we never could accomplish alone (John 15:5). We work in collaboration with God to bring his kingdom on earth, but not because he needs us. Participation in his purposes is the very best way to flourish.
Are you working under your own steam? Do you, deep down, doubt God’s power and think you can do a better job by yourself? Are you resisting the invitation to rest in God’s grace? His Word is able to expose the truth (vv 12 and 13). Maybe now is the time to come clean.
Father God, thank you for the invitation to rest in you. I acknowledge that I am not always good at letting you carry my burdens. Please search me and show me what I need to change, in your loving kindness. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.