For the past few weeks I have been stuck in Hebrews 3 and 4. When I say stuck I don’t mean in a bad way. I just keep sensing that I need to read and reread this passage because of something there I’m not seeing yet. The end of chapter 3 and the whole of chapter 4 seem centred around the idea of rest. The verses are complicated, the flow of the reasoning is easy to miss so to grasp what they are saying you have to slow down. So I’ve spent the last 2 weeks going over and over this scripture, seeking to hear what God might be saying to me through it. I am beginning to see that there are different types of rest in that passage. The first is the rest that God promised his people when they left Egypt, the rest of the promised land. There were a group of people who refused to believe and obey in the wilderness which meant they would never see the rest of the “Promised Land.”

As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
— Hebrews 3:15-19

They refused to surrender, so they missed out on the “rest”. But the text continues speaking about another rest, a “sabbath rest”…

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
— Hebrews 4:9-11

So there is a rest for us too, a rest that is more than just a location, a promised land, a well-deserved day off. There is a rest from “works” just as God rested from his works.

I think this is more of a deep soul rest, an ability to be at peace and at rest regardless of the circumstances of life around you. It’s a state of life where we are not driven by the compulsions toward success or affirmation by others. A place where, in the words of the writer of Hebrews, we can “rest from our works.” It’s a place where we know that no matter what we are held in the love of God. That His love for us is not based on our ability to achieve or succeed. That other’s perceptions of us can never negate the reality that once we come to Him and ask for forgiveness we are His and are seen in His eyes as deeply loved, holy, and blameless children of God. So much of our lives seem wound up in earning this peace and rest. We think that one more achievement or personal success, or a certain amount in our bank account will finally push us into that place where we can relax. So we keep moving, faster and faster, frantically seeking the thing our heart desires. Yet the harder we “work” the more elusive this rest seems.

And yet it still is available. This is the rest I think that the writer is talking about. A calm centre in the middle of the frantic storms of life, a place where we are fully known by God…and fully loved. It’s a transformative place, where God begins to change us in deep and lasting ways. So how do we get there? What does it mean in the writer’s words to “…make every effort to enter that rest”? I have some ideas, and they may not be what you think. I’ll share them in my next post.

Jeff KuhnComment