The Sabbath Rest Remains

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 stands even within the context of the new covenant.  The Sabbath rest has not been done away with or changed for it is an eternal reminder of the Creator’s rest.  We must be careful that we do not fall short of entering His rest.  ‘Falling short’ is a Hebrew idiom for sin, and we must not ‘fall short’ and like an arrow in archery shooting for a target,  miss the mark.

“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).

Sometimes it is surprising to read that the Israelites had the gospel preached to them.  This is because the gospel had been whittled down to be the new testament only 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 the veiled gospel of good things to come.

Israel’s obedience to God’s commandments would be  the evidence of their faith and would set them apart from the rest of the nations of the world.  If they followed God’s 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 God and the Israelite people.  They had more fear of God than faith in His loving-kindness so His words held no value 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  as well (James 1:22).   We must believe by faith the commands of God and put aside the teachings of men along 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 believe God and the truth of His Word will enter His rest.  However, if they anger God by a  lack of action-based faith, they will be no different than 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 have a lack of 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).

It still remains, however, that some will enter into God’s rest through obedience. Some will not enter  God’s Sabbath rest in spite of having the good news 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.  The disobedient children of Israel did not enter into God’s Sabbath rest.    Their persistent disobedience caused an entire generation of Israelites to die in the wilderness and not enter the Promised Land.

According to Paul’s words in Corinth, 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, it seems that because of the gospel, many 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 you setting aside whatever day  works for you to rest or pick 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 make a choice.   Today may fall on the seventh-day Sabbath or Today may just be the day of the week that the Creator chooses to write His Sabbath on your heart so that you can enter into His rest.   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 from the wilderness into the Promised Land, he did not give them rest.   In fact, it was through Joshua that the Israelites slowly claimed their Land through battles and wars with kings of pagan nations.  It wasn’t until King Solomon that Israel had peace with the nations around them and ‘rested’ from warfare.

Another day is coming when God’s rest will be eternally established.  On that ‘day,’ written about in Revelation, those who have combined faith and obedience in their walk on earth will enter God’s rest, His  New Jerusalem and 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 brings confusion to the fourth commandment of remembering the Sabbath day.     Read the verse again slowly.  What do you see?  God rested from His creative physical work.   Those of us who desire to enter His rest must imitate Him and rest from our own creative works, our daily jobs just as He did.

There is no suggestion in this verse that ‘resting from works’ means resting from meaningless Jewish manmade traditions, doctrines of your denomination,  or ‘works of the law’ for salvation.  None of these were the  works from which God rested in the beginning.  He did not need to rest from manmade traditions or church doctrines nor did He need salvation from sin.

There are some who teach that the Sabbath is a representation of the Messiah himself. They believe that when we accept Yeshua’s work on the cross for our salvation that we somehow enter a personified Sabbath rest.  Though we may liken Messiah’s delivering us from the law of sin and death as a type of ‘sabbath’,  he is not a day of the week, especially the seventh-day Sabbath God commanded His people to remember.  When we keep the seventh-day Sabbath, God pours His light onto one of the shadows of His ‘appointed times.’   With His light, we begin to see and understand the reason for  Sabbath and  the Messiah who called himself  ‘Lord of the Sabbath.’

“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 Sabbath takes serious action on the part of the believer.   This is not works-based action in order to be saved;  it is faith expressing itself through love for our Father and his commandments (Galatians 5:6).

Some church leaders teach that keeping the Sabbath is a burden which is a gross twisting of Scripture (1 John 5:3).   Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments.  It is one of the guidelines describing how we are to love God.  Keeping the Sabbath is our response to His incredible love, grace, and mercy to us.  He desires to give us rest from our creative works whether it’s seedtime or harvest. He does not want us to be a slave to the world’s ways which is where the burden really lies.

Not entering God’s rest is considered ‘falling short.’  This is the second time the writers says this meaning that it is doubly important to remember.  Letting our arrows miss the mark is sin and sin is disobedience to God’s commandments.  Consistently ‘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 each person’s mind  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. There are many anti-semitic attitudes surrounding the Sabbath  that 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 are transformed through the renewing of our minds. 

“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 in creation is hidden from God, especially the hearts of His people.  He knows the iniquity in our hearts; He sees every sin we commit and every justification we create.  Our actions of faith or faithlessness in this life will be uncovered and laid bare before our Father’s eyes just like it was with the Israelites. We will all stand before the Judge of the Universe and give an account for the actions  or inactions in our lives.  He will use His commandments, His Torah, as the standard for righteous judgment.

A Weekly Choice with Eternal Vision

Sabbath was created in the beginning by God as part of His eternal  and complete plan of salvation.  God rested from His creative works  and we are to imitate Him.  He gave Sabbath as a command to Israel and they are to our example of obedience or disobedience.  When we mix faith with action, we live out the gospel as preached to them and show forth our hope in the coming eternal Sabbath.

Faith in Yeshua does not nullify the Sabbath. As God’s Son, he  had to obey all of his Father’s commands or he would not have been sinless.  With God in the beginning at Creation, he is ‘Lord of the Sabbath.’  The Sabbath still remains until eternity and we have the same decision as Israel:  enter into God’s rest by faith or disobey.  By making every effort to enter the weekly Sabbath and taking a day off from regular creative work, we show our Creator that we trust in His provision for our lives now and forever.

©2004  Tentstake Ministries, chapter from Journey with Jeremiah on amazon.com

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