Monday, April 30, 2012

Entering God's Rest

I'd like to draw your attention to God's rest intended for the people of God.  Let's begin by looking at Israel's example.

Israel’s Example
  • They hardened their hearts, went astray from God in their hearts, and did not know His ways (Heb 3:8-10).
  • They had an evil, unbelieving heart that fell away from the living God (Heb 3:12)
  • When they heard the Lord’s voice, after Moses brought them out of Egypt, they provoked Him to anger (Heb 3:16)
  • They were disobedient (Heb 3:18)
  • The Word they heard did not profit them, since they did not combine it with faith (Heb 4:2)
  • They were unable to enter God’s rest because of unbelief (Heb 3:19)
  • God swore in His wrath that they would never enter His rest (Heb 3:11)
  • These things happened as examples for us and were written for our instruction (1 Cor 10:1-12)

God’s rest
  • God’s work has been finished from the foundation of the world (Heb 4:3)
  • He rested from all His works on the seventh day (Heb 4:4)
  • Jesus said, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." (Joh 5:17)
  • God rests even while He works righteousness, healing, salvation, and everything good
  • This is God’s rest
  • It is different from entering the promised land on earth.  This is not the rest that Joshua gave them on the other side of the Jordan (Heb 4:8)
  • There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Heb 4:9)
  • A promise of entering His rest still remains (Heb 4:1)
  • We who have believed enter that rest (Heb 4:3)
  • Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Mat 11:28-30)
  • Then He demonstrated what that looks like.  Immediately following that in Matthew 12, Jesus was going through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and the disciples were picking heads of grain to eat.  The Pharisees objected to this practice, which they said was breaking the law.  But Jesus taught that it was lawful.  He taught that God desires mercy (love) and not sacrifice.  He also taught on many other instances with words and through his practice that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
Hearing God's Voice
Hearing God's voice is critical to entering His rest.  But it's essential to combine what you hear with faith.  I would like you to observe a continuity found in Hebrews 4.  It's a recurrence of the following terms that are similar but not identical: gospel, spoke, voice, Word, and speaks.  Here are the verses:
  • "For indeed we have had the gospel 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." (Heb 4:2)  We and the Israelites had the gospel preached to us.  Their problem was that they didn't combine what they heard with faith.
  • "God again set a certain day, calling it 'Today.' This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage 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 later about another day." (Heb 4:7-8) Long after the time of Joshua, God spoke through David about entering His rest, as recorded in the Word of God. He warned that we must not harden our hearts if we hear His voice when He speaks.
  • "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 4:12-13).  This is a key verse in chapter 4, because it connects all these similar terms together.  This is why we must combine what we hear with faith.  When God speaks, he uses His voice to proclaims His Word, his gospel message. And the Word He speaks is actually living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow.  His Word discerns the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts.  So when we hear it, we are accountable for how we respond.  Nothing is hidden from God's sight, not even our attitudes or intentions! We must give an account to God for it all.
  • "See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven." (Heb 12:25).  God is still speaking to us today.  We'd better be sure we are listening and that we combine what we hear with faith, rather than harden our hearts.  If we have faith, we will enter His rest.  If we harden our hearts, we will fall through disobedience.
Lessons Learned
  • Let us fear lest anyone comes short of entering God's rest (Heb 4:1)
  • Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb 4:7)
  • He who enters this rest, also rests from his work just as God rested (Heb 4:10)
  • Entering requires diligence, so that no one will fall through disobedience (Heb 4:11)
  • When you hear the Word, remember that it's powerful, active and sharper than a two-edged sword
  • It’s not just your outward actions that matter, but your thoughts and intentions.
  • These are all laid bear and open for God to see and judge (Heb 4:12-13)
  • We must hold firmly to the faith we profess in Jesus, the Son of God (Heb 4:14)
  • He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses.  He was tempted in every way, yet without sin (Heb 4:15)
  • Let’s draw near to His throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16)
  • We’ve been sanctified (Heb 10:10)
  • He has perfected us who are being sanctified (Heb 10:14)
  • There is forgiveness for sins (Heb 10:19)
  • We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus (Heb 10:21)
  • Let’s draw near with a sincere heart and a full assurance of faith (Heb 10:22)
  • If we go on sinning willfully, only a fearful expectation of judgment remains (Heb 10:26-31)
  • Don’t throw away your confidence (Heb 10:35)
  • We are not those who shrink back to destruction
  • We are those who have faith to the persevering of the soul (Heb 10:39)

Putting it All Together
There's a rest that remains for the people of God.  But let's not be like the children of Israel, who failed to enter that rest.  In spite of experiencing God's deliverance from bondage, and His supernatural provision, they fell short of entering His rest.  Even though they heard His voice, they hardened their hearts and did not obey Him.

It's possible to fall away from the living God and not enter His rest.  This is what happens if we go on sinning deliberately after we come to know the Lord.  In this case, only a fearful judgment remains.  In other words, there is no other sacrifice that can save you from God's wrath.  No amount of prayers from your loved ones or from you will save you once you die in that condition.

This is why we need to hold firmly to our faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  It's only as we come to Him that we truly find rest for our souls.  His burden is easy and His yoke is light. We need to persevere to the end and encourage one another toward love and good deeds.

This is different from the weekly Sabbath that we take from work to honor the Lord on Sundays. According to Hebrews, this rest comes to those who hold on firmly to their confidence to the end of their lives and do not fall away.  Our weekly rest is a time to cease from all our work, except doing good, so that we can honor the Lord.  This weekly rest just a foretaste of our future rest.

Without faith it is impossible to please God.  It's not enough just to hear the message.  You've got to combine it with faith and obey the Lord.

I also believe that even though God's rest is yet future for us, we can begin to enter into that now, not just on a weekly basis, but even on a daily basis.  In other words, even as we go about our necessary labor, we can rest in the midst of it.  We can cease from striving, and move in the Lord's mighty strength, gentle leading and supernatural guidance. Then we are no longer trying independently to make something happen, we are trusting the Lord and working with Him.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Author's note: I strongly urge you to read my follow up post about Keeping Sundays Holy, in order to more accurately understand what God expects of us on a weekly basis.  I also recommend reading David Wilkerson's message, Honoring the Sabbath, which I discovered after writing this article, as well as Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy, Resting from Work and Faith Works! I invite you to visit the Home page of this blog. You can access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  "Resting in His Arms" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. You may visit the Danny Hahlbohm Gallery.  Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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