The primary focus in chapter four has to do with “entering the rest” of God. This idea has its origins in the very first chapters of Genesis, when after creating the earth in six days, “God rested from all His works” on the seventh day. Throughout the Old Testament, this “sabbath” rest became a picture of the present and future eternal rest a person experiences when they become a follower of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews alludes to this when he makes reference to Psalm 95, where God promises that those who have hard hearts “will not enter [God’s] rest.” This calls to mind the early generation of the Israelites, who, being sinful, were unable to enter the Promised Land, saying that those who disobeyed, “were unable to enter because of their unbelief.” The Jewish readers of the book of Hebrews would have understood the disobedience of their ancestors as a lesson to be remembered today. In fact, in chapter three those readers were warned to be careful not to allow anyone in their community to develop an “unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
In chapter four, the writer offers hope that the “promise to enter [God’s] rest remains” for those who have received and believed the Gospel. This is incredible news for anyone who has decided to follow Jesus! Why? The key verse is Hebrews 4:9, which says, “therefore, a sabbath rest remains for God’s people.” In other words, what’s in the past is in the past. What matters most is the present and the future. Not only does every believer in Jesus get to “rest from their works,” as God rested from His, an eternal rest awaits as well. “Today, if you hear His voice,” you can enter the promised eternal rest of God because of Jesus. Keeping with his earlier exhortation that his readers be careful so they “don’t drift away” from their belief in Jesus, the writer of Hebrews now urges his readers to “make every effort” (or “be diligent”) so that you can enter into God’s rest. Once you’ve accepted God’s gift of salvation, give your full attention to living a life of obedience to Jesus.
The author ends this section by affirming that the truths being communicated about entering the rest of God are rooted in the written Word of God. He states that God’s Word is living, effective, sharp, and penetrating. God’s Word evaluates the deepest parts of our souls. God is intimate with our thoughts and motives. God sees all, and knows all, and our lives are accountable to Him. All the more reason for us to give our full attention today to establishing our eternal future through faith in Jesus.
Therefore, a sabbath rest remains for God’s people.
Old Testament References
- Genesis 2:2
- Exodus 19:3-6
- Psalm 95:7-8, 11
- Romans 12:1-2
- Galatians 6:9
- James 1:12
- Read Matthew 11:28-30. Have you found rest for your soul? Does the way you follow Jesus remove burden from your soul?
- Have you experienced a time when reading or hearing the truth of the Bible had a penetrating impact on your life? What were the specifics?
- Do you tend to have more “fear of man” or “fear of God?” How does remembering that (a) no creature is hidden from God and (b) we must give an account change your perspective?
Assume you are 100% convinced that God’s Word, the Bible, is living, effective, sharp, and penetrating. In addition, assume you believe the Bible is able to judge and influence your heart, your mind, and your soul. Now write down your specific plan for deeper interaction with the Bible. Make sure your plan is a “SMART” one. Is it specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound?
[expand title=”Life Group Questions”]
- Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Hebrews 4:1-13. What truths about God can be understood from these passages? What observations can be made about people? What questions come to mind?
- Reflect on the words “work” and “rest” in your life. What comes to mind? Take time to share your rhythms of work and rest.
- Read Hebrews 4:10-11. What works should we commit to resting from? How is that challenging for you?
- What does spiritual rest look like in your life? How will you prioritize this in the future? How can you involve others in your plan?
- Read Matthew 11:28-30. Take time to pray for one another and thank Jesus in prayer for the spiritual rest he provides us through the Gospel.