Chapter 4 of Hebrews really sets up and could be included with chapters 3 and 5, but in Chapter 4, we see the promises of His rest. It's a chapter that speaks to the rest we all desperately need in our fast-paced, demanding lives. In the midst of life's chaos, God offers us a profound and sustaining rest.
Remember, the book of Hebrews is written to 2nd generation Christians from a Jewish background, so this book is to encourage those considering going back into Judaism or struggling to step into Christianity from their Jewish faith. This knowledge is essential because, through the book, we see references to specific Jewish historical and religious events and beliefs. In this portion of the book, from Chapter 1 to Chapter 10, The writer is communicating that Jesus is better than angels, Moses, who is their greatest leader, and their priests; this new covenant is greater than the old covenant, and Jesus is better sacrifice, and a better sanctuary.
Chapter 4 is a continuation of Chapter 3, where the writer communicates that Jesus is better than Moses. This was a considerable statement in the eyes of the Jews. Think about it for a second. Moses was the leader that brought them out of their slavery in Egypt. This is a hard act to follow, right? He is a national treasure, but the writer continues to prove Jesus is greater.
The first verse of chapter 4 describes a promise of "entering" a rest that is available to us. Do you see the wording of that first verse as intentional to parallel the rest that was promised to the Israelites when they entered the promised land? What is this rest that is referred to here? It has several meanings in the scriptures: 1) The seventh day of Creation and the weekly sabbath commemorating it; 2) The promised land of Canaan; 3) Peace with God now because of our relationship with Christ through faith; and 4) Our future eternal life with Christ. This Jewish audience would have been familiar with all 4 of those meanings.
In that context, this first verse has a greater significance with the knowledge of what happened in Numbers 13 and 14 when Moses and the Israelites first arrived in Canaan. They sent spies into the land that God had promised to give them. They let fear and outside forces prevent them from entering the promised land, "the promised rest," and the Hebrews writer warns us not to do the same thing. That decision to not enter the rest, the promised land, then cost that generation the opportunity to experience the promise of God.
God is saying to you that rest is available to you, a rest that is for today, but also an eternal rest and the way to "enter" that rest is through faith. It is through a life with Christ, which is only possible through faith.
The writer describes the 7th day of creation, where God rested. God didn't rest because He was tired but to indicate the completion of His creation. The world was perfect, and God was satisfied with it. This rest is a foretaste of our eternal joy when creation will be renewed and restored, every mark or sin will be removed, and the world will be made perfect again. Our Sabbath rest begins when we trust in Him to complete His good and perfect work in us.
We can embrace this rest not by working harder but by trusting more. It's not about doing; it's about being, being in God's presence, being at peace in His love. Verse 10 (NIV) - "For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his."
This verse reminds us that entering God's rest means resting from our striving and works. It's a rest that mirrors God's own rest after creation. It's a rest that says, "I trust You, God, to take care of me." In surrendering our striving and anxieties, we find the freedom of true rest. It's not about giving up but giving in to God's loving care. Verse 11 (NIV) - "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience."
Today, can we make a commitment to not make the mistake of the Israelites and miss out on the promise of God by worry, fear, and anxiety? Today, let's commit to TRUST God; in that, we will find the rest we desperately need.
But before we end this devotion, I would be remiss to not draw our attention to verses 12 and 13. "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all Creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable." Hebrews 4:12-13 NLT
This is one of my favorite verses about the power of God's word. This book isn't like any other book. The Bible comes alive when you read it, and that's why, during different seasons, different things catch your attention. It is not just ink on a page but God's revelation to man! What a good reminder for us to keep the word of God in our lives and to not take it for granted.