Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hebrews 4 – Diligent Rest

Diligent Rest

Hebrews 4:4-13

God's Word is the way to "rest" in His righteousness.

An entire generation of the children of Israel failed to enter into the rest that was promised by God because of their fear and unbelief. Even though they had heard God's prophet (Moses) and seen God's power (plagues, and red sea deliverance), they failed to believe in God's promises. They lacked the FAITH to experience the fullness of all that God had planned for their lives.

Last week we found that the answer to fear and failure is FAITH. The author tells us in chapter 4 verse 3, "For we WHO HAVE BELIEVED do enter that rest". But where does this faith come from in the life of the believer? Do we whip it up with positive thoughts or work it up with passionate deeds?

God is very clear about where faith comes from, "So then FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the WORD of God" (Romans 10:17 NKJV). The way to faith is the Word of God! Therefore, the way into God's promised rest is found in the diligent study and application of God's Word.

In Hebrews 4:4-10 we will discover that there remains a promised rest for the believer; and in vv. 8-13 we will see how we can enter that rest – by diligently following God's discerning Word.

I. The Remaining Rest (4:4-10)

At this point the writer of Hebrews begins a discussion on the nature of the true rest that God has in store for His people. What a blessing it is to be at peace and rest! We live in such a restless world. The peace and rest that are offered by the world are merely cheap imitations of what God has in store for us.

4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; 5 and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest."

6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said:

" Today, if you will hear His voice,

Do not harden your hearts." (as in the rebellion)

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

A. Creation Rest – Completing the first work

"For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works'; and again in this place: 'They shall not enter My rest'" (Hebrews 4:4-5 NKJV).

Israel's Sabbath designated a day to rest to cease your daily work, honoring the fact that God stopped his creative work when he was done on the 7th day. Jews failed to keep the Sabbath as God intended. They made it a horrible burden instead, for compulsive people to count every step taken, and every weight lifted. Matthew 12:1-8 tells us how the disciples plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath day. "They plucked ears of corn and were guilty of reaping! They rubbed them and were guilty of threshing!" The Talmud says "In case a woman rolls wheat to remove the husks, it is considered sifting; if she rubs the head of the wheat, it is regarded as threshing; if she cleans off the side adherences, in her hand, it is winnowing." The extremes to which the rabbis went bordered on the insane. It was forbidden to stop a container from leaking!

Remember the Sabbath was called Holy. Physical things for general use were called "common". But things separated from general use for God's purpose were called Holy. In the creation "week" God made the physical universe and each "day" had finite beginning and end period called the "morning" and "evening" but not 7th day, it was not given a finite beginning and end because God's creative work is done, so His rest continues.

The second rest discussed by the writer is…

B. Canaan Rest – Freedom from wandering

This rest was forfeited by Israel at Kadesh-barnea. "Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience,7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, 'Today,' after such a long time, as it has been said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.' 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day" (Hebrews 4:6-8 NKJV). The rest was forfeited at Kadesh-barnea because of unbelief but was offered again upon Moses' death when Joshua assumed command of Israel.

Even when they entered the Promised Land, Israel did not completely obey and root out the inhabitants of the land. As a result there was conflict, and struggle; there was always an enemy at the gate waiting for an opportunity to cause trouble. What a great lesson for us when even the redeemed fail to root out those old familiar sins from our own lives. We leave in place an opportunity for temptation that Satan will use against us at our weakest moments. As it was with them, it still is with us that through doubt and disobedience, even the heirs of God's promise, can fail to rest in what God has provided.

C. Calvary Rest – The work of redemption is done

"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:9-10 NKJV).

When Christ died upon the cross of Calvary, He cried, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). He had finished the work God gave Him to do. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12) Today, God rests in Christ's finished work on the cross and so should the Christian. That is one reason why believers do not keep the Old Testament Sabbath, for our rest is not in a day but in a Person. We enter into the reality of what Jesus meant when He said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find REST for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)." As far as the believer is concerned, he has already entered into rest. His salvation is based on a finished work.

A missionary to Africa offered a ride in the back of his pickup truck to a native who was walking along the road, carrying a heavy pack. The African gladly accepted the ride. After a few miles the missionary glanced in his rear-view mirror and was surprised to see the man standing upright in the back of the truck, still holding his pack on his shoulders. The missionary stopped the truck to see why the man was still carrying his load. The man's reply, "I didn't know the truck could carry both me AND my load".

Calvary rest frees us from the burden of our sin under the Law. We can rest it all on Christ along with all the other heart-aches and problems of life! The writer wants to see this accomplished in his readers. He wants their state to match their standing.

However, resting in the finished work of Christ for our salvation does NOT mean a cessation of all activity. Perhaps an illustration will help us here.

George Mueller of Bristol England died in 1898; his death was a national event. It is recorded of his funeral that nothing like it was ever seen in the city. Businesses closed so that their employees could witness the event. Thousands lined the streets leading to the cemetery. On Bristol Cathedral, flags flew at half-mast. Black shutters were up in the windows around town and blinds were drawn. The whole city mourned. Obituary notices appeared in newspapers nationwide. England's Daily Telegraph summed up the life of this great Christian: "Mr. Mueller robbed the cruel streets of thousands of victims, the prisons of thousands of felons, and the work-houses of thousands of helpless waifs." The Bristol Times said, "He was raised up for the purpose of showing that the age of miracles is not past." He founded, five large orphan houses. More than ten thousand orphans had been loved, housed, fed, educated, and settled in gainful employment. Day schools and Sunday schools in many lands had benefited from his incredible generosity. Nearly two million Bibles and Bible portions had been circulated through his efforts. Three million books and tracts had been given away. A poor man, solely dependent on God, Mueller had received and given away the astonishing sum of $7.5 million dollars (that's 188 million in today's dollars)! He also established 117 schools which offered Christian education to over 120,000 children, many of them being orphans. He was so well-known for providing an education to the children under his care, that he was accused of raising the poor above their natural station in life.

George Mueller pointed an unwavering finger to the Source of his strength. Telling of his daily habit of having a quiet time with God in meditation upon the Word of God and in believing in, simple, child-like prayer he said, "I have always considered it the first business of the day to get my own soul happy in the Lord".

This passage concludes with a warning. God's living Word must be the ultimate test of our profession of faith. The Word of God makes manifest all motives. It is God's way into rest.

II. The Way of God's Word (4:11-13)

A. Discipline (Diligence) with the Word

11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

How can we be diligent to enter into rest; through God's holy Word?

    1. Read It

Here we solve the paradox of diligent rest. You have to finish. God finished creating before he rested. Israel had to overcome fear and fight to stop wandering and enter the rest of Canaan land. Jesus had to die, so that He could be resurrected, and finish the work of redemption.

There are many Christians who will adamantly tell you that the Bible is God's inerrant and infallible Word to mankind; yet, they do not read it. God has chosen to reveal Himself through written words that have been accurately preserved. Our brothers and sisters that live in communist of Muslim countries, suffering persecution, understand this. They risk their lives in order to simply hold a copy of or even a portion of the Scriptures. While we in America take for granted God's Word and carry it only to church (if we can find it from the previous weekend).

Today, the Bible is available to us through such a variety of media (audio, visual, digital), and reliable and readable translations! Biblical illiteracy, in our context, is without excuse.

    2. Study It

Although discipline with God's Word begins with reading, it should continue with studying. The most useful thing you can do in Bible study is to understand the context. The time, the audience, the author, all help us understand what we read. As you read, check out the footnotes, read the supporting passages and see how God begins to peel back layers of meaning. Just remember that footnotes and commentaries are not infallible.

Write down questions you might have and things that God has shown you. Dig into the history, the archaeology, and the theology of each passage. Ask, "What did that mean to the readers then, in their context, and what does this mean to me now today?" Pay attention to the structure of each sentence. What is the subject, what is the object, and what is the verb? Look for things that are: emphasized, repeated, related, alike, unlike, or are true to life. Ask, "What does this say?", "What does this mean?" and "How does this work?" Paul admonished young Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).

    3. Memorize It

David said, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalms 119:11 NKJV). Internalizing God's Word through memorization is an incredible way to increase your faith. Try this. Simply write down a passage of Scripture that inspires you on a note card. Read it several times a day; while you're waiting in line, sitting at a stop-light, or during a break at work. Read it over and over again every day for a week and your mind will begin to absorb it. Eventually you will not even need the card. Once you internalize these passages of Scripture, the Holy Spirit will then bring them to mind when you need them most.

    4. Meditate On It

Meditation simply means – to reflect on or contemplate. You simply think about that which you have studied and learned. You roll it over in your mind. What we think about in our heart of hearts reveals who we really are. Jesus said, "Whatever a man thinks in his heart, so is he". This is why Paul encourages us to, think on, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--MEDITATE on these things" (Philippians 4:8 NKJV).

5. Share It

We must be diligent to read, study, memorize, and meditate upon the Word of God because we are to share it with others. Part of the great commission given by our Savior is, "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). What a privilege it is to share the truth of God's Word! No greater message has been given to man! This great responsibility of sharing should not be taken lightly. Those of us who have given our lives to sharing the truth of God's Word will be held to a stricter judgment. We must share it prayerfully and carefully because, just like a knife, it can be used to heal or to destroy.

B. Desire for the Word

Our diligence with the Word will lead to an increased desire for the Word. As we begin to saturate our souls in the Scripture we will be driven by a desire for more. We will discover the blessing and direction that God's Word brings to our lives, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105 ESV). We will begin to hunger daily for God's truth, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4 ESV). "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7 ESV). "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.10 More to be DESIRED are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward" (Psalms 19:9-11 NKJV). The more we dig, the more we desire, the more we desire, the more we delight.

In Psalm 119:103, David wrote, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Later on in verse 162 he declared, "I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure!" David found great delight in God's Word. In the written Word we find rest, hope, peace, and a deeper relationship with God! We also find reformation. God's Word is living and powerful and it will perform surgery on your soul.

C. Discernment of the Word

In this context, the author explains that it is God's Word that discerns "the thoughts and intents of the heart". In other words, you may fool others with a profession of faith, but God knows the truth. In fact, the writer goes on to say in verse 13 that "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but ALL things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give an account." Everything is laid bare by the truth of God's word, every sin is exposed. It is important for us to remember that anything we hide from God will one day be uncovered by God; but anything confessed and surrendered to God, will be covered by the blood of Jesus. We will one day witness with our own eyes the devastating power of the Word of God when He comes in glory and with ONE WORD slays the gathered armies of the earth in the battle of Armageddon.

There is a rest that remains for the believer to enjoy, but it is accessed by faith which comes from hearing God's Holy Word! This is the secret of diligent rest.

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