Read (Hebrews 4.1-13)
Message Scott Woodburn
In the Old Testament the people of God were supposed to enter the promised land where they would find rest in the Lord. With the benefit of hindsight we know that it didn't work out that way. The generation that left Egypt rebelled in the wilderness and failed to enter the land of promise. Eventually a new generation would enter the land but their time there was up and down with the kingdom of Israel and then Judah eventually being overrun by foreign nations.
But the promise of entering God's rest still stands (v1) with the entry into the land of Judah giving us a little glimpse of the greater rest to come. The one who believes the Gospel will one day enter into eternal rest with the Lord and His people. To have a share in this eternal rest you simply must have faith in Christ. What is faith? Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel. (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q86)
The Gospel has come to us, just as it came to the Israelites in the wilderness (v2) but the Gospel was of no benefit to the grumblers who had come out of Egypt for they did not have faith. Yet, to all who believe in the name of Christ they already enjoy a Sabbath rest (v8) which is a little foretaste of what is to come.
The Jewish Sabbath was a Saturday and was a day that was supposed to be free from work and the regular chores of life. Unfortunately many saw it as an opportunity for legalism. They were experts in what shouldn’t be done on the Sabbath and they delighted in pointing out the failures of others in this regard. The Lord Jesus reminds us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2v27-28)
Christ’s point was that the Sabbath day was not a day for legalistic righteousness but instead a day that is a blessing from the Lord. It is a day for putting all trivial things to one side and focusing instead on the worship of our Lord. Today there remains a Sabbath rest for God’s people (v8) as we meet each Lord’s Day. The Christian Sabbath is the first day of the week called Sunday - the day on which Christ stood again upon the earth.
But there is a greater Sabbath to come. When we meet as Christians on the Lord’s Day we should see it as a little glimpse of heaven. By faith we can enjoy the one day in seven which we call Sunday but by the same faith we also look to the day that we enter the eternal rest promised by God. The rebellious Israelites who complained in the wilderness did not get to set foot in the promised land but by faith we will live in the heavenly city where righteousness dwells.
The Lord Himself has promised these things. He created all things in six days and He rested on the seventh. This doesn’t mean that God is fast asleep, instead God’s rest is symbolic of His rule and reign. Today if you hear His voice remember that His Word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (v12-13)
So may we not choose the path of rebellion like the Israelites in the wilderness. Instead may we put our faith in Christ trusting fully in the promises of God. May we rejoice each Lord’s Day as we take our place in the church of Christ and may we push on, longing to enter the eternal rest of God (v11).
Q65 What is forbidden in the fifth commandment? The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.