Read Hebrews 4
A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God
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 good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 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.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 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.”
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; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Jesus the Great High Priest
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4 is a key passage detailing Jesus as our sabbath rest. This chapter tells us that entering into God’s rest should be a major priority for believers (v. 11). What is God’s rest? Why do we need to enter into it? In order to define God’s rest, the author of Hebrews references the Promised Land and the sabbath system that God instituted, all which the readers of Hebrews would have been familiar with. This chapter takes us back to the exodus generation who were unable to enter into the Promised Land. The unbelief and disobedience of the Israelites kept them from entering into God’s rest. God promised them in the book of Deuteronomy that He would go before them and do the work on their behalf (Deuteronomy 12:9-10). God promised to take care of them, they only needed to trust Him. They only needed to release control—or what made sense in their finite minds—to experience rest in its perfect form. As we know, the Israelities did not trust God. They rebelled against Him. They did not obey His voice. They heard the word of God, but they did not receive and believe it with faith. As a result of unbelief, the Israelites were unable to enter God’s rest. This was a warning for believers of the day.
The author pleads with the readers to not reject God’s provision for sabbath rest in Christ. The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew word “shabbat” which means to stop, delight, rest, and worship. God commands the Israelites countless times in the Old Testament to remember the sabbath. In Exodus 20, God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments, one of them being, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.” The keeping of the sabbath was a sign of the covenant between God and Israel (Exodus 31:13). Rest and sabbath are rooted in a dependence on God. Apart from Him we can do nothing. We are able to enter into God’s rest not by relying on our own works, but by believing in the promises of God. In creation, God took the seventh day to rest. God did not need to rest, but He knew that we would. God wove rest into the rhythm of creation and life. He took on a human requirement in order to show the importance of it. He modeled it for us.
All of these sabbath laws in the Old Testament were ultimately pointing to Jesus. He is our eternal rest and our ultimate sabbath. Matthew 11:18-20 is a great reminder for us! Jesus famously says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.” When we seek Jesus, we find His grace and His rest. This chapter concludes saying, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (v. 16). True rest is ultimately accessed by faith and found in a relationship with Christ. Just as the sabbath is based on ceasing from our work and trusting in God, our salvation is the same way. We can not work our way up to God; we simply trust in the finished work of the cross. He did the work on our behalf. We can rest in the fact that we are sealed in acceptance through Christ. He provides eternal rest for our souls.
- What does it look like for you to daily enter into the rest that Jesus provides?
- Have you ever practiced the discipline of Sabbath? What does the sabbath teach us about God?
- God’s rest is also found in God’s Word. Write down and reflect on the characteristics of God’s Word in verse 12. How do these characteristics impact the way you see Scripture?