In Hebrews 4, we are encouraged to enter the rest of God. However, what does this concept of “rest” truly entail? In North America, “rest” often carries negative connotations, since it is mistakenly associated with idleness. Instead, we applaud those who proudly proclaim, “I only got 4 hours of sleep last night because I worked throughout the night.” Admirable dedication, they say. However, this perspective disregards the vital importance of physical rest. When we neglect our body’s’ need for rejuvenation, it begins to malfunction.
Thus, rest should not be equated with laziness. Instead, it is a crucial period for recharging and revitalizing. Considering the detrimental impact of neglecting physical rest, it becomes even more imperative to tend to our spiritual well-being. Just as our bodies suffer when deprived of rest, so does our spiritual growth when we neglect giving it rest. The author of Hebrews urges us to be deeply concerned if we find ourselves outside the realm of God’s rest. Entering God’s rest signifies entering into a profound fellowship with Him—an aspiration woven into the very fabric of creation.
Genesis 2:15 recounts the pivotal moment when “the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” The Hebrew verb employed here, נוח (noach), conveys not just placement but rest. Thus, the Garden of Eden represents a space where humanity could commune intimately with God. The promise of this future rest threads its way throughout Scripture. In 2 Samuel 7, when God conversed with King David, we witness the profound depth of rest. Though David enjoyed physical reprieve during his reign, God promised him an even greater rest through the advent of the Messiah. This rest encompasses a spiritual restoration and renewal, far beyond mere relaxation. It does not imply an effortless existence but rather the fulfillment of our divinely ordained purpose.
So, when we speak of rest, let us disentangle it from a mere “kick back and relax” mentality. Rest, as the author of Hebrews expounds, constitutes a spiritual recharging that restores us to the glorious presence and intimate fellowship with God. It signifies aligning with our Creator’s purpose for our lives, embarking on a journey of true fulfillment.
Let Us Be Afraid: A Call to Action
In an intriguing twist, the author of Hebrews calls his readers to be fearful, an uncommon directive in Scripture. Typically, we encounter commands like “do not fear,” and “Take courage.” In Hebrews, we are reminded that Yeshua’s sacrifice has freed us from the “fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15). So, why this emphasis on fear? On the one hand, fear is not always negative; there are instances when it is justified and even necessary. For example, if you encounter a venomous spider, it is better to feel fear than to boast of courage in that moment.
Moreover, fear serves as a catalyst for action. When we sense a concern or identify a problem, fear prompts us to respond. Paul, for instance, openly shared his fears with the Corinthian community, expressing his concern that they might be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ, just as Eve was deceived by the craftiness of the serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3). His deep apprehension led him to devote his life to traveling, writing letters, and teaching about God, combating false doctrines.
Similarly, we are urged to embrace fear as a motivation for action. The author of Hebrews reminds us to be afraid that, while we think we have entered into God’s rest, we have fallen short of it. Let us remember that there is no such thing as standing still in our spiritual journey. It is indeed a fearful thought to believe we are in good standing with God when, in reality, we are not. The term “seem” can be better understood as “to be declared,” while “fall short” (ὑστερέω) implies failing to reach or arriving too late. This same term is used in Romans 3 when Paul declares, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Therefore, we are called to embrace the fear of falling short of God’s rest while the opportunity is still available. It serves as a powerful reminder to continuously examine our lives and ensure that we are truly on the path of righteousness. Let this fear stir within us a sense of urgency to pursue God’s rest, striving to live in alignment with His will and drawing closer to His glorious presence.
Today is the Day of Salvation
In Hebrews 4:7, the author tells us that today is the day of salvation. The invitation to enter God’s rest remains open. It is tempting to push important matters to tomorrow, saying, “I’ll dedicate my life tomorrow” or “I’ll address this issue tomorrow.” However, James reminds us, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Therefore, we are called to respond today.
What is striking is how the author highlights the significance of this statement. Typically, when referencing the Hebrew Bible, the author simply states, “as it is written” or “as it is written by the Holy Spirit.” However, in this instance, the author specifically identifies David as the source. Why? To emphasize that this promise is not confined to ancient Israel at Kadesh Barnea; rather, it transcends time. Even after Kadesh Barnea, David extended the same invitation in his Psalm: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.” Centuries later, Yeshua echoed this call with His words, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And today, as we gather here, the author of Hebrews extends that same invitation.
Let us not underestimate the urgency of this moment. Today, the opportunity to experience God’s rest, His grace, and His transformative power is within reach. We are reminded that life is fleeting, and we cannot predict what tomorrow holds. Therefore, let us seize this day, opening our hearts to the voice of God, and responding with faith and surrender. Today is not merely another day—it is a divine appointment, a sacred opportunity to encounter the rest and restoration that only God can provide. May we wholeheartedly embrace this invitation, knowing that today is truly the day of salvation.
Finding True Rest: What Does It Really Mean?
Rest is not synonymous with relaxation. Instead, Scripture consistently emphasizes the importance of diligence and productivity. Paul’s words to the Thessalonian community reflect this principle: “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (1 Thessalonians 3:10).
Entering God’s rest may actually lead to busier lives as we embrace our mission for the kingdom. Consider the life of Paul, as described in 2 Corinthians. He endured immense hardships for the sake of the Messiah: “Are they servants of the Messiah?…I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked…I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Now, I am not suggesting that such trials await each of us who enter God’s rest. However, amidst the challenges, Paul discovered the secret of peace—a steadfast foundation in the Messiah. Reflecting on the six days of creation, we recognize that God brought order and structure out of chaos. He does the same in our lives. As Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 14, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
The invitation to enter God’s rest extends to us today. Although we anticipate a future and complete rest, where we will dwell with the Lord eternally, we can already experience transformative shifts in our lives. As we embark on the journey towards true rest, let us remember that it does not entail idleness, but rather a harmonious rhythm of work and rejuvenation. It is a state where our souls find peace and our lives find purpose, all rooted in our relationship with the Messiah. May we embrace the invitation to enter God’s rest and discover the transformative power it brings to our daily lives.