Hebrews 3: Finding Rest
“Therefore, holy brothers, who share (partakers) in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the Apostle and the High Priest we confess.” In the first verses of Hebrews 2, we are warned of the danger of drifting, neglecting so great a salvation. How does drifting take place? In Hebrews 10 we read: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The writer tells us here to fix our thoughts on Jesus. We do this when we pay careful attention to the Word in order to obey it. We do not give up meeting with one another for this is where we learn and encourage one another. Only way to stop drifting is to set the anchor. (Hebrews 6)
Jesus is called here, for the only time in Scriptures, the Apostle. An apostle by definition is ‘one sent with a message.’ The apostles were sent by Jesus with the message of the Gospel. But Jesus was sent by God; appointed by God to bring the good news. John 3:17, tells us: “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.”
I have entitled this lesson – Finding Rest, because this is what mankind is looking for. The Christian who is trying in his or her own strength to live the Christian life finds themselves defeated as Paul wrote about himself in Romans 7. And the natural man searches for that which will satisfy his thirst for life with meaning. We live in, for the most part, a godless word, which is why we live in a restless world.
This is why the Lord Jesus invites us to “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.” (Matt. 11) Keep this invitation in mind as we study today’s lesson. For finding the rest which only the Lord can provide is what brings peace that passes understanding in a restless world like this is.
Now among the Jews there were two great men- Abraham, the father of the nation and Moses the one who led them out of Egypt into the wilderness where he received the law of God. The first five books were written by Moses. In these books are contained all of the laws, rituals, feasts, and sacrifices that comprised the Jewish religion and faith. They were all a shadow of things to come.
In this section of Hebrews, the writer compares Jesus to Moses and says He is superior to Moses. Verse 3 tells us: “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of the house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything,”
The ‘house of God’ is not a building. It was neither the tabernacle nor the temple. When they referred to the house of God they meant the people. A church is not a building, it is the people. In Isaiah 66, the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool, where is this house you would build for me?” And Paul told the men of Athens in Acts 17: “God does not dwell in temples made by hands.” Revelation 21 declares: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men.” And in 1 Corinthians 6: 19, we read: “Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit with you which you have of God?”
Remember this fact: God never intended to dwell in any building; He dwells in people, in men and women, in boys and girls. This is and always has been God’s intention since He breathed His life into the nostrils of Adam to make men and women the tabernacle of His indwelling. God wants to inhabit your body, your life and make you to be the manifestation of his life. Paul writes in Ephesians 3: “… you may be a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself.” This is also why Paul admonishes us to ‘present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord’
Adam was once filled with the life of God in his spirit. When he sinned the Spirit departed. He was before the fall what man was intended to be. For it takes God in you to be the true man or woman God created mankind to be. This is the great message of the Gospel. John 3:16 tells us: “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son, that whosever should believe in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” You cannot be the man or woman God intended you to be without God in you. So God gave His Son to us and all who believed in Him were given the power to become the children of God. To be a Christian, you must have Christ in you. And when you put Christ in your life, you put God back into man. “He, who has the Son, has the Father.” This is the good news, the gospel. Conversely, if you do not have the Son, you do not have the Father. Christ desires to live in your heart by faith.
The Gospel is superior to the Law of Moses. Paul tells us in Romans 8: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of Life set me free from the law of sin and death. “
Now we come to the little two letter word, if, which by its placement in this verse has created much concern and different viewpoints.
“And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (NIV) “Whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” (KJV) Charles Stanley says – ‘those who truly accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord must persevere in their faith until the end, no matter what happens. One of the hallmarks of a genuine relationship with God is the commitment to remain faithful to Him through everything because of the conviction that He is sovereign and able to work all things together for the good of those who believe in Him, regardless of the situation.’ And we might add- the promise of I Cor. 10: 13, where God promises never to place more on us than we can bear.
Does this mean we can lose our salvation? No. The Lord, Our Great Shepherd, tells us no one is able to snatch us out of his hands. And in Romans 8 we are told no one or no thing can separate us from the love of Christ.
A true believer will manifest signs of a new life. If nothing changes in their life, nothing happens to their behavior as a result of this, they have been deceived. John writes in I John 2 – ‘ they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that were not all of us.” Something God allowed to come along-drew them out of the body of true believers. In the parable of the sower and the seed, they were the ones who were represented by the soil on the rock. They received the word with joy, but when testing, temptation came along, they fall away.
*So in these verses we find the ultimate proof of reality of true faith- it is in continuance to the end – no matter what happens. Endurance requires strength. I can do nothing apart from Him, but can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
WARNING AGAINST UNBELIEF. THE DANGER OF DOUBTING
The writer now quotes from Psalm 95, Here is our warning of an area of great danger: “ Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as you did in rebellion during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested me and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, they shall not enter my rest.” *This generation lived a restless life, drifting from one location to another, never entering into the rest of the Promised Land. *
The first warning was the danger of drifting, neglecting the word of God, not paying attention neglecting so great a salvation. This drifting creates the danger of hardening your heart. Hearing the Word of God, believing the Word of God, but not acting upon the Word of God, not taking action. When the sower sows the seed, the Word of God, its purpose is to take root and produce the fruit of the Spirit. But a truth in the head which is not acted upon, only puffs one up with pride of knowledge. Truth must be acted upon as a proof of real faith. Faith is a verb, not a noun. Faith is activity taken based upon belief James said a faith without works is dead. James then gives us an example: “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2) God gives us His Word, His promise and then gives us a test to see if we will act upon His word. And a faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.
The forefathers had seen what God had done for them. Yet when the test came and they stood on the borders of the Promised Land- given to them by the Word of the Lord, what happened? They looked at the giants in the land and said we cannot take this land from them. They had no faith in God’s promise and because of that- they never entered the Promised Land. They never entered the rest of God. They were unable to enter because of their unbelief!
What giant are you facing which you do not believe God can conquer? Do you realize what danger you are facing? You are in danger of remaining in the wilderness and never entering the promised rest. When truth is known and not acted upon, it always hardens the heart and refuses like a stubborn mule to act on the truth revealed. What is a carnal Christian? One whose heart is always going astray. Knowing the truth, but not acting upon it. They will have an area (or areas) of their life where they will never get any rest. Do you believe God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do? Then by faith face the giants and do it in God’s strength.
THE SABBATH REST FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
“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. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared an oath in my anger, they shall not enter my rest.” (Hebrews 4: 1-3)
Did you notice the promise to enter His rest still stands? “It still remains that some will enter the rest.’ The door to heaven is still open. The Lord is still inviting people who are burdened and heavy laden to come to Him and He will give them rest. He stands and knocks at the closed door of the hardened heart and says ‘if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.’ (Revelation 3) When Jesus proclaimed, “It is Finished!” He was proclaiming He had done all that needed to be done for man to enter into the rest of God. Three days later when Peter and John saw the empty tomb, they knew the Lord was alive and heaven’s door was open wide. The rest is still available today. But there comes a time in the life of a person who persists in not listening, when his or her heart becomes so hardened they can no longer hear the Word of God.
Again we hear the warning: “Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts. We are told- “There remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his own.”
The Christian experiences the frustration of not being able to live the Christian life. The only one who can live the Christian life is Jesus Christ. Understand this rest is not inactivity. But freedom from the strain of trying to do it yourself. Paul experienced the frustration of trying to live the Christian life in his own efforts in Romans 7. But discovered the secret in Romans 8. Are you living in Romans 7 or Romans 8? Our old nature in entrenched and does not want to give up. This is why Paul told us previously we had to reckon the old nature dead. We have an external enemy- the world society which wants to conform us. We have an internal enemy, our old nature which wants to have its way and not give up. And we have an infernal enemy the devil who is the prince of power of the air and this world system lies under the control of this evil one at this time. In our old nature, our old habits of living and making decisions were formed over years of repetition. Paul describes the frustration of trying to live the Christian life in his own power: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7: 15) Got an area like Paul where sin easily besets you and causes you to continue to stumble? Join the club. Paul said he had discovered a spiritual law: “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7: 19) Good and evil travel on a parallel path. Paul was losing the battle more than he was winning. As a result he was wretched. No wonder Paul could so easily diagnose and recognize the problem of the Galatians for he had been where they were.
How do we live the Christian life? How do we enter into this rest? The next two verses tell us how we accomplish this.
“Let us therefore make every effort to enter the rest, so that no one falls by following their example of disobedience. For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than a two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
At first this seems to be an oxymoron- we have to make every effort, we have to work and labor to enter the rest. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching while Martha was trying to serve the Lord in her own strength in the kitchen. She was upset and frazzled- sure signs it was not working.
Have you ever tried to rest, when you knew there was something you needed to do- and you could not rest until you had done it? You had to work in order to rest. God did not rest in the work of creation until He had completed it. We have in times past as a nation had to fight for peace. Peace comes after the battle is won.
Now the Word of God is referred to as living and active. This is not just logos or rhema, although it refers to these also. This is the Living Word and the Living Word is the Lord Jesus Christ. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God, John tells us in John 1. It is alive, it is powerful and it is sharper than a two edged sword. Notice it is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The Word of God deals with the heart.”For it is out of the heart that evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, and blasphemies”. (Matt 15) “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17) Only the Lord can know the heart, not man, not even yourself. The Word of God will guard your heart with all diligence. The first warning was against drifting and neglecting the Word of God. The result was the hardening of the heart in doubt and unbelief.
To deal with the problems of our old nature and old way of thinking. We must get rid of the old and put on the new. How does the Word of God accomplish this? It strips off the false and exposes the entrenched power of the old nature the flesh. It divides asunder the thoughts and intentions of the heart- for the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
Now let us revisit the earlier verses in Matthew 11: “Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” There is a rest that is given. This is the rest of redemption we receive at salvation. We did nothing to deserve it; we did nothing to earn it. We received it as a gift by faith. Jesus paid it all.
Then Jesus says: “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.” The second rest is a rest that is learned and a rest that is found.
This the rest of obedience, of complete surrender and submission. The prodigal thought he had thrown off the yoke of his father’s rules and would now live a life of freedom, not realizing the deception of the enemy and that he was only exchanging yokes and one he exchanged enslaved him in sin and death.
God delivered the nation of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. The Israelites did nothing but obey Him and do what He told them to do through Moses, they posted the blood of the lamb on the doorpost. But when the spies came back with a report of giants in the land they refused to go in, despite the promises of God, that He had given them the land.
They believed God enough to take them out of Egypt, but did not believe God enough to enter the land He had promised. As a result they all died (except Joshua and Caleb) and never entered the Promised Land, the rest of God.
Jesus has given us the rest of salvation and redemption. But having come out of bondage, are we like the Galatians having begun in the Spirit trying to finish in the flesh. If there are giants in your life which are keeping you as a Christian from taking possession of what is rightfully yours- you are living in the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of unrest, dissatisfaction, and aimless wandering.
We get into the land of rest, the same way we got out of captivity. Paul writes in 2 Colossians: “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in Him.” How did you receive Him? By grace through faith you are saved, and that not of yourself. It is a gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2)
Jesus said we had to learn how to live like this. He is our teacher and He invites us to take His yoke upon us. The yoke is a place of learning. It is by walking with Him and following His lead that we will learn and find the rest for our souls. He is our burden bearer. He is our teacher. Surrender the circumstances of your life to Him. The Christian life is a by grace through faith operation from the beginning to the end. And where does faith come from? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. He promises to never place more on us than we can bear.
“What must we do to work the works of God?, the people asked Jesus. This is the work of God to believe the One Whom He has sent.” (John 6)