Hebrews 4:1-3 (NIV) 1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” …
On verses 1-3a: What “rest” is the writer of Hebrews talking about here? What “rest” is he not wanting his readers to miss? To be clear, the writer of Hebrews is not referring to resting once a week from your normal work as per the 10 commandments. The rest he is referring to here is the rest that comes from trusting in Jesus. God offers this rest to all of us today. This is the ultimate rest, a rest that brings benefit to us not just today but for eternity. As verse 1 says, “since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.”
How do we enter the rest that God offers to us? By accepting and believing the message that Jesus’ finished work on the cross has fully paid for our sins. As verse 3 says, “Now we who have believed enter that rest” (v3).
Hebrews 4:3b-4 (NIV) 3 …And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.”
On verses 3b-4: On the seventh day God rested after completing His work of creation. There was nothing more He needed to do, so God rested. Similarly, God wants us to rest from our work of relying on ourselves and our own effort, a kind of work that will never earn us the rest we are looking for. Instead of trusting in ourselves, God wants us to trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross, believing that Jesus has completed all the work necessary for our forgiveness. As verse 10 says, “anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.”
Hebrews 4:5-6 (NIV) 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.” 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.
On verses 5-6: How do we miss the rest that God has for us? Through unbelief. When I refuse to accept the message that Christ has paid for my sins on the cross, my unbelief results in my rejection of Jesus and my disobedience of God’s command to believe in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
Hebrews 4:7 (NIV) 7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
On verses 6-7: At the beginning of each week a devout Jew following the Ten Commandments would think, “Six more days and then I can finally rest.” But how long must we wait before we can enter the rest that comes from trusting in Jesus? No wait necessary. We can enter that rest today and every day! Don’t wait and delay entering into the rest that God makes available. Today and every day, trust that Christ’s finished work on the cross is enough for you to enter God’s rest.
Hebrews 4:8-9 (NIV) 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
On verses 8-10: When Joshua famously led the Israelites into the Promised Land, many Jews would have thought that physical possession of the Promised Land was the greatest rest God could give the Israelites. But the writer of Hebrews clarifies here that there is a far greater, future rest that God wants His people to enter into — “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (v9). This greater rest is not based on the physical possession of real estate on earth, but based on spiritually possessing a relationship with God in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 4:11 (NIV) 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
On verse 11: Work to rest? It sounds paradoxical but it’s true: we need to make every effort to enter the rest that God gives us. In other words, we need to be vigilant and intentional about not slipping into our old tendencies to trust in ourselves, or to try to earn God’s love by our own merit, and in so doing disobey God’s Word.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the ultimate rest that You make available to me. Today I proclaim that I believe Jesus Christ has done everything necessary to pay for my sins, and that by trusting in Jesus, I can enter the greatest rest possible, the rest that comes from a relationship with You. I come against any propensity in me to trust in myself and my effort, and I thank You that Christ’s finished work on the cross has won all salvation and forgiveness for me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!