“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9
What is this sabbath rest spoken of in Hebrews chapter 3 and 4?
For one thing, we know from Hebrews 3:1 and 4:9 that it concerns Christians. Our walk is likened to Israel‘s journey from Egypt through the wilderness and into Canaan.
We know it is a place of rest from our own works, efforts and struggles. 4:10
We know that only unbelief keeps us out of that land. 4:11
The Exodus from Egypt
Israel‘s 400 years of slavery in Egypt is an illustration of our condition before we were saved. We were slaves of Satan and knew nothing of true freedom. We were, as Hebrews 2:15 describes, “all our lifetime in bondage” to religion and self-effort; trying, but failing to gain merit with God.
Then in the fullness of time God gave them Moses to lead them out of Egypt and slavery. That took place at the first Passover described in Exodus 12. You remember that each family had to slay a lamb and smear the blood on the doorpost of their house so that the death angel would pass over them as he went through Egypt that night killing all the first born of the land. The death angel passed over the homes covered by the blood.
What a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was slain for our sins! How important it is that we trust in that shed blood for our salvation! Those covered by the blood of Christ will never experience God’s condemnation. Are you covered by that blood? Are you trusting the blood sacrifice of Christ on Calvary as your only merit for salvation from sin and judgment?
Next day, after the angel of death had struck Egypt, while Israel had been spared; they began their journey from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. You remember the miracle of crossing the Red Sea on dry ground and then later the Egyptian army being drowned in the Red Sea as they pursued after Israel.
The rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy describe Israel‘s journey through the wilderness on their way to Canaan. Those books speak, not only of their journey, but also of the laws, the Tabernacle and the sacrificial system that God gave them for dealing with their sins and living their lives so as to please Him.
Their destination, the land of Canaan, does not speak primarily of Heaven, as many of our Christian songs teach; but of a life of victory we can experience as we live in a sin-cursed world. Yes, Canaan is a picture of the life that every Christian ought to be living here on earth right now. This life in Canaan, though filled with battles with Satan our enemy, is described as a life of REST.
REST is the key word in Hebrews 3 and 4.
As Israel journeyed through the wilderness they eventually came to Kadesh-barnea in the northern desert just south of the border of Canaan. Number 13-14 tells the story of how Israel sent twelve spies into Canaan to spy out the land so that they would be prepared to enter. Ten of those spies brought back a negative report of unbelief. “It was too dangerous. There were too many enemies. It was impossible.” Only two spies, Caleb and Joshua, brought back a positive report. ” Yes, there were enemies, but with God’s help, they could enter the land and be victorious!”
Israel listened to the majority report and gave up right then. They moaned and groaned and said it was impossible to enter. God became angry with them and sentenced all the Israelites twenty years old and older to continue to wander in the wilderness until they were dead.
Forty years later when all were dead, God called Joshua to lead the new generation, including eighty-five year old Caleb, to enter Canaan and begin conquering the enemy. That story is told in the book of Joshua. Basically, they were told to rest in the Lord, obey Him and watch Him conquer the enemies and enable them to possess the land. This is told in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua.
What dangers do we face as Christians?
Through the sin of failing to trust God, we risk the danger of never entering the land of Canaan, the victorious Christian life. We risk the danger of just existing all our days, walking as living zombies with no purpose, no joy and no victories over sin. That’s the warning in Hebrews 3:7-11. Though saved, we depart from the living God and live our lives as though He were dead.
I’m afraid that Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years is a picture of many Christians who go through the motions of Christianity, but with no reality of walking with the Living Lord and experiencing His purpose, joy and victory in their lives.
Hebrews 3:13 instructs us to be aware of those defeated Christians and exhort them daily, lest their hearts become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Be aware that if we entertain and coddle even just a little sin in our lives, our hearts will gradually become calloused and hardened to where we don’t care.
We Christians who rejoice in our eternal security in Christ need to be especially cautious that we do not use that truth as an excuse to become careless about sin. If you’ve not read it, I encourage you to read my article on eternal security in our SALVATION series.
How do we partake of Christ?
Note the exhortation in Hebrews 3:14 “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfastly to the end.” How do we partake of Christ each day? We partake of Him as we read and take heed to His Word daily. His Word is the daily food that sustains us. Find a church that is faithful to the Bible where you are faithfully fed. Use this web site to help feed your soul as you test by the plumb line of the infallible, living Word of God what I or anyone else writes or says.
What must we fear?
Hebrews 4:1 warns us to fear something. What is it that we are to fear? Certainly not our eternal security in Christ. A Christian need not ever fear losing his salvation. Read Romans 8:28-39 for a powerful statement on why this should never be our fear. Our standing in Jesus’ righteousness can never change.
Certainly we ought not be concerned whether we are pleasing God through the Sabbath observance or through any other ceremonial law for Israel under the Old Covenant. That is not even an issue. If you have come to Jesus as your Saviour and are trusting Him, the observance of ceremonial laws and sabbaths should have no place in our lives. Those are all shadows of Christ. We have Christ Himself. The only value of studying those shadows is that we can learn more about Jesus.
If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation and for your life, you have nothing to fear as far as your standing is concerned. I John 4:18 says that “perfect love casts out fear.”
What is it then that Hebrews 4:1 is telling us to fear? The fear should be that of falling short of entering into Christ’s rest. We should fear displeasing our Heavenly Father.
Do you remember when you as a little child were warned by your parents to stay out of the street so you would not be hit by a car? As a little child, did you live each day in mortal fear of being hit by a car or being punished by your parents. Of course not! While you played in your yard or in the park with your parents or an older brother or sister, you didn’t even think of the dangers of the street; however, if your ball rolled out into the street, you were fearful of venturing out into the street. Even if a car didn’t hit you, you did not want to risk getting punished for disobeying your parents. Hopefully, your friends exhorted you to stay out of the street. So in our walk with God Christian friends and pastors exhort us to avoid seeing how close we can play with fire without being burned. They exhort us to come to church when we are beginning to get discouraged and slack off. See Hebrews 3:13 and 10:24.
How do we labor to enter this land of rest?
Hebrews 4:11 asks that question.
For one thing, we get into the Word of God. 4:12 It exposes the thoughts and intents of our heart like nothing else can. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring us to conviction of sin.
As we struggle with our infirmities and sins, remember that Jesus our great High Priest walked this earth as a man experiencing all the temptations we face yet without sin. He invites us to come boldly before His throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace to help us discover His victory when we are tempted. 4:14-16
Have you come to know Christ; not only as your Saviour, but as your Victory and Rest? I’m not teaching present perfection. I John 1:8-10 teaches that we will not be sinlessly perfect until we arrive in Heaven in our glorified bodies at the Rapture of the Church.
However, even though we are not perfect yet, we can learn to enjoy consistent victory over sin as we come to Jesus, our Sabbath Rest. Jesus invites us in Matthew 11:28-30 to come to Him, learn of Him and yoke with Him in service. We will discover the wonderful rest that comes in fellowship and service with Him.
My prayer for you, dear reader, is that your eyes will be opened to grasp this wonderful, life-changing truth of discovering The Lord Jesus Christ; not only as your Saviour, but as your Lord, as your Life, as your Victory over sin and as your Sabbath.
To the sinner, sick of his sins and tired of trying to run from God; to the Christian weary, worn out and burned out, trying hard to live for Jesus and serve Him- and failing; Jesus invites, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.The key to salvation is resting in Jesus. The key to living the Christian life is resting in Jesus. The key to serving the Lord is resting in Jesus.
Sin is pleasurable. Sin is attractive. Sin is exciting. Sin is fun. No one, but God, is going to convince us otherwise. But we must understand that the Bible teaches that our sins infuriate God. He must punish us with eternal damnation in Hell. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die!" Ezekiel 18:4 "The wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23 "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable,(perverts) and murderers and whoremongers, (those guilty of illicit sex), and sorcerers,(fortune tellers) and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8
The fact is that YOU are a sinner. I am a sinner. Everyone born into the human race is a sinner and we all deserve to die and go to hell. This is the teaching of God's Word, the Bible. What can you and I do to make ourselves presentable to God? NOTHING! We are helpless and hopeless to save ourselves. That's the teaching of Ephesians 2:11-12
But thank God, there is good news for sinners and only for sinners. God can do nothing to help the self-righteous. But if God is speaking to you through His Word and has convinced you that you are a helpless, hopeless sinner headed for eternal damnation, then God can intervene and save you. The Good News is that God Himself came down to earth in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and paid the penalty for your sins on the cross 2000 years ago. Three days later He rose from the dead. His death and resurrection provide His gracious Gift of Eternal Life for anyone who will receive Jesus and REST in His complete, final sacrifice for our sins. Yes, salvation is as simple as RESTING in Jesus. Will you quit struggling and trying to impress God with your self righteousness? He describes it as filthy, smelly rags.. Isaiah 64:6
Perhaps you had taken the step of salvation earlier and you have been struggling to try to live the Christian life and all your efforts have failed. Though Christ has saved you, you still struggle with sin and are constantly defeated. I have a word for you also. Give up the struggle and REST in Jesus. His invitation to come to Him and rest is addressed to defeated Christians as well as to the lost. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.
Throughout the Bible we are taught to rest in God. Read and meditate and rest in some of God's promises to you.
"Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord." Exodus 16:23 The seventh day of the week was given to God's people,
Israel. For further teaching on the Sabbath, go to my article on the SABBATH on this web site.
"My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest." Exodus 33:14
In Deuteronomy 3:18-20 God challenges Israel to conquer the Land of Canaan which He has given them and possess it until He has given them rest.
Numbers 13-14 tells the story of how the older generation failed to trust God to conquer
All the old generation wandered for forty years and died in the wilderness except for two men, Caleb and Joshua. These two men had the opportunity to conquer
Canaan with the younger generation.
Joshua 21:43-45 tells of how God gave them victory and rest in
In Hebrews 3-4 the Christian is instructed to learn from
Israel the importance of resting in Christ. I encourage you to read these two chapters carefully and prayerfully and ask God to help you to learn of this rest in your own life. Note that our rest as Christians is the theme of these two chapters.
Going back to our text in Matthew 11:28-30, note that rest comes as we accept the yoke of Jesus. Think of the yoke on two oxen or two horses. Jesus is the strong one. You and I are the weak ones. But when we accept His yoke on our necks and bow to His will in our lives and allow Him to direct us, the load that was once heavy, becomes light. The neck that is yielded to Christ is not rubbed sore trying to fight the yoke. His yoke becomes easy.
In John 15 Jesus likens us to branches in His grape vine. He is the vine. We are the branches. How do we bear fruit? How do we live for Christ and serve Him effectively? It's easy. Just abide in the vine and allow His life-giving sap to flow through us. Only then can we bear His fruit and He alone gets the glory. That's how we serve Him without growing weary and experiencing "burn-out".
Read, meditate and rejoice in this wonderful truth from Isaiah 40:28-31 "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
I encourage you to read and mediate on Psalm 37. Like the cow lying down in the pasture and ruminating on its cud, read and ponder this comforting Psalm.