A Look at Hebrews 4:1-13
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it”(verse 1).
The Bible gives a promise for entering God’s rest that still remains even within the context of the new covenant. The Sabbath has not been abolished nor has it been changed –– it is a weekly reminder that the Creator rested after creating the heavens and earth in six days. We must be careful that we do not “fall short.” To ‘fall short,’ a Hebrew phrase for sin, refers to an archer’s arrow aiming for a target and ‘missing the mark.’ We must not ‘miss the mark’ of entering the Sabbath and sin.
“For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (verse 2).
Is it surprising that the Israelites had the gospel preached to them? Over the centuries, the gospel has been dwindled down to be only the New Testament with John 3:16 as its foundation. However, the Israelites received the good news of salvation through Moses. Deuteronomy 18:15 describes a future deliverer, a prophet to be raised up from among the nation of Israel to whom they were to listen. It was a gospel of good things to come that are still in the process of becoming reality.
Israel’s obedience to God’s commandments would be the evidence of their faith setting them apart from the rest of the nations of the world. If they chose to listen to God and follow His ways, they would be a light to the nations and salvation would come to the world through them.
They chose, however, to have Moses speak directly to them rather than God (Exodus 20:19). Because they did not want to hear to God’s voice themselves, Moses became the mediator between Adonai and the Israelites. They had more fear of God than faith in His loving-kindness, so His words meant nothing to them. They didn’t mix His commandments with faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
How often is the word of men accepted over the Word of God because of the fear of having to change, suffer or walk alone? We must not be only hearers of the Word; we must be doers of the Word (James 1:22). We must believe by faith the commandments of God are universal and put aside man-made traditions with centuries of twisted and inaccurate doctrines. According to the writer of Hebrews, faith and obedience go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.
“Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, ‘So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest…’” (verse 3).
Those who put their faith in Adonai and obey His Word will enter His rest. However, if they anger God through a lack of action-based faith, they will be no different from the Israelites in the wilderness who did not enter His rest (Psalm 95:11). According to Hebrews 3:18-19, it is the disobedient who do not enter His rest; it is the disobedient who lack faith.
“And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day (Sabbath) in these words: ‘And on the seventh day God rested from all his work” (verse 4).
This verse is a direct reference to the seven-day creation account. God rested from all His creative work on the seventh day. His example set the cycle for our weekly lives showing us that we are to work and be creative for six days and then rest on the seventh. The seventh-day Sabbath is not just any day that we choose, it is the day that our Creator chose: ”He also blessed the seventh-day and made it holy” (Genesis 2:3).
“It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in because of their disobedience”(verse 6).
From the day Adonai gave the command, it still remains and some will enter into His rest through obedience. Like the Israelites, some will not enter God’s Sabbath rest in spite of having the good news of faith and obedience preached to them.
In the wilderness, some of the children of Israel collected the right amount of manna on the sixth day so they would have enough on the seventh. Others collected too much or not enough and suffered the consequences. Because of their lack of faith, they did not enter into God’s Sabbath rest. Their persistent lack of faith caused an entire generation of Israelites to die in the wilderness and not enter the Promised Land.
According to Paul’s words to the Corinthians, we are to learn from the Israelites’ mistakes and not fall into their same faithless disobedience (1 Corinthians 10:11). However, rather than learning from Israel, anti-semitic church fathers perverted the gospel message and now many people refuse to enter His rest!
“Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: ‘Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’” (verse 7).
God set aside a certain day called Today. He didn’t bless Today like He did the Sabbath. He gave Today another purpose.
‘Today’ is ha yom in Hebrew and means ‘the day.’ ‘Today’ is not about the Sabbath. ‘Today’ is not about setting aside whatever day works for you to rest. ‘Today’ is not about picking another day to call the Sabbath. Today is ‘the day,’ if you have ears to hear His voice, that you are to commit your heart to Him. Today is ‘the day’ you have been given to choose: obey and enter His rest or disobey and ‘fall short.’ ‘Today’ may fall on the seventh-day or ‘Today’ may just be the day of the week that the Creator chooses to write His Sabbath command on your heart. ‘Today’ when He speaks, you are to obey His words. ‘Today’ is ‘the day’ of God’s favor (2 Corinthians 6:2).
“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day” (verse 8).
Though Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, he did not give them ‘rest.’ In fact, it was through the leadership of Joshua that the Israelites slowly acquired the Land through battles with the kings of pagan nations. It wasn’t until the reign of King Solomon that Israel had peace with the nations around them and had ‘rest’ from warfare.
Another ‘day’ is coming when God’s ‘rest’ will be established forever. On ‘that day’ those who have combined faith and obedience in their walk on earth will enter God’s eternal ‘rest.’ They will enter His New Jerusalem and live in His Eternal Sabbath.
“There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” (verse 9).
Some like to spiritualize this verse which only adds to the confusion of the fourth commandment to ‘remember’ the Sabbath day. Read the verse slowly. What do you see? Adonai rested from His creative physical work. Those of us who desire to enter His ‘rest’ must and ‘rest’ from our own creative works, our daily jobs and ordinary work, just as He did.
This verse is not about resting from works like meaningless Jewish man-made traditions, doctrines of your Christian denomination, or works ‘of the law’ for salvation. None of these were the works from which God rested. He did not need to rest from man-made traditions or Christian doctrines nor did He need to abstain from ‘works of the law’ for salvation.
Some teach that the Sabbath is a symbol of the Messiah himself. They believe that when we accept Yeshua’s work on the cross that we somehow enter a ‘personified’ Sabbath rest. Though we may liken Yeshua’s deliverance from the ‘law of sin and death’ as a type of ‘rest,’ he is not a day of the week, especially not the seventh-day. When we keep the fourth commandment to ‘remember’ the Sabbath, Adonai pours His light into the ‘shadow’ of this ‘appointed time.’
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their (Israelites) example of disobedience” (verse 11).
Entering God’s ‘rest’ takes effort because the world never rests; even most church goers never rest. There will always be activities and opportunities for breaking the Sabbath command. Entering into the Creator’s Sabbath ‘rest’ takes purposed action, faith action that expresses itself through obedience.
Some leaders teach that keeping the Sabbath is a burden –– a gross misuse of Scripture. Sabbath is a way to love God. Keeping the Sabbath is our response to His love, grace, and mercy (1 John 5:3). He desires to give us rest from our daily works because he does not want us to be a enslaved to the world system which is really where the burden lies.
Not entering God’s rest is called ‘falling short.’ This is the second time this Hebrew phrase is used making it doubly important. Letting our arrows ‘miss the mark’ is disobedience (1 John 3:4). Intentionally ‘falling short,’ proves that we are not learning from Israel’s example.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (verse 12).
The Word of God, the commands of God, the Torah, and ‘the law’ are all the same expression for God’s ‘sword’ that penetrates the soul and spirit. God judges the thoughts and attitudes of everyone because His Word is spiritually active. It is designed to ‘cut us’ to the heart so we look within, judge our motives, and turn away from a disobedient lifestyle. Anti-semitic attitudes surrounding the Sabbath need to be ‘cut out’ of our hearts. God’s ‘sword’ needs to penetrate our souls and spirits to remove all ‘anti-law’ doctrines so that we can be transformed through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (verse 13).
Nothing is hidden from God. He knows the iniquity in our hearts; He sees every sin we commit and every justification we use for our sin. Our faith actions life will be uncovered and laid bare before our Creator’s eyes. Each of us will stand before the Judge and give an account for the action, or inaction, in our life. Adonai will use His commandments as His standard for righteous judgment.
A Weekly Decision
Sabbath was created by God as part of His eternal plan of redemption. God rested from His creative works and we are to imitate Him. He gave Sabbath as a command to Israel who is our example. When we mix faith with action, we live out the good news and show our vision of hope in the restored eternal Sabbath in the New Jerusalem. The Sabbath will remain in effect until eternity and its complete restoration. By making every effort to enter the weekly Sabbath, we show the world and our Creator that we trust in His provision for our lives now and forever.
©2004 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article, please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.