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God's Rest Is Ahead Of Us

Hebrews 4:8-11
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 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. (NIVUK)

The theme of 'entering God's rest' is important: it recurs 14 times between Hebrews 3:11 and 4:11. 'Rest' is the 'sabbath' principle of ceasing to work because it has been completed – as God did after creation (Genesis 2:2). 'Entering God's rest' was modelled, in the Old Testament, every seven days in the instruction to 'keep the sabbath day holy' (Exodus 20:8-11); and in the principle of jubilee (Leviticus 25:9-13); and on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31). In the New Testament, the early church met together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) to celebrate Christ's resurrection, anticipating the great resurrection when Jesus will come again (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

When the Children of Israel left Egypt, God was taking them to the land He had promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18), Isaac (Genesis 26:2-3) and Jacob (Genesis 28:15). But God barred the wilderness generation from entering (Numbers 14:23), because of their disobedience. Even Moses was kept out (Numbers 20:12). Even the next generation who conquered the land under Joshua's leadership did not have lasting rest because of their disobedience (Judges 2:2-3). Their sinful, unbelieving hearts was the reason for the warning of Psalm 95:6-11 to Israel and to us – "Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts".

But all those failures to enter God's temporary rest do not mean that He has cancelled His promise of 'entering His rest'. That 'rest' is a metaphor for heaven: it still awaits the people of God (1 Peter 1:3-5). We enter by ceasing from our own efforts to attain God's favour through good works, and accept the efficacy of His finished work on the cross. We are saved through faith and not works (Romans 3:28; Ephesians 2:8-9). Then, having been saved, we need to remain faithful, by avoiding the trap of disobedience.

It is hard to hold an aircraft on a steady course through severe cross-winds or turbulence. It takes maximum concentration, skill and sustained energy to hold a small vessel on a compass bearing in a stormy sea. Likewise, Christians need every ounce of faith, determination, single-mindedness, and confidence in Jesus as the only Way to heaven – if they are to run their course with joy and endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). Without the Lord's help, we cannot do it; that is why we need to depend on His grace as much for our perseverance as for our salvation. But we must cooperate, desire what He desires for us and keep on working with Him. That is the normal Christian life. So, let us 'make every effort to enter that rest'.

God of heaven. Thank You that Jesus has made a way for us to make our home within Your home in heaven. Forgive me when I give up, collude with the Enemy, let sin weigh me down or so wrap myself in the pleasures of this world that I take my eyes off Jesus. I repent of my backsliding and ask for Your help to desire what You choose, to endure for the sake of Christ and to hold a steady course for heaven. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams