The Sabbath Rest Remains

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).

There is a promise for entering God’s rest and it 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 the Hebrew idiom for sin, and like in archery, we must not ‘fall short’ and 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 hear that the Israelites had the gospel preached to them.  This is because we think of the gospel as being the new testament only with John 3:16 as its foundation.  However, the Israelites received the promise of salvation through a coming deliverer who they were to listen to (Deuteronomy 18:15).  It was a veiled gospel; of good things to come.

Their obedience to God’s commandments would be  the evidence of their faith and would set them apart from the rest of the world.  If they followed His ways,  they would be a light to the nations from which salvation for the world would come. 

They chose, however, to listen to Moses rather than have God speak to them directly (Ex. 20:19).   Moses became the mediator between God and the people because they did not want to hear to God’s voice themselves.  They had more fear than faith in God’s  loving-kindness so His words were of no value to them and they didn’t mix them with faith and. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

How often do we accept and believe the word of men over faith in  the Word of God because we fear having to change, suffer or be alone?  We must not be hearers of the Word only; we must be doers of the Word (James 1:22).   We must believe and obey the commands of God by faith and put aside the teachings of men and centuries of watered-down inaccurate doctrines.  According to 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).

We who put our faith in God and the truth of His Word enter God’s rest.  However, if we anger God by a  lack of action-based faith, we will be no different than the Israelites in the wilderness who did not enter His rest (Psalm 95:11). “And to whom was it that he swore that they would not enter his rest?  Those who were disobedient.  So we see that they were unable to enter because of lack of faith.” Hebrews 3:18-19 states the reason the Israelites missed the mark was 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 by showing us that we are to work and be creative for six days and then rest on the seventh.  The seventh day 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).

The seventh-day Sabbath rest still remains;  some will enter into it through obedience, some will not.   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.   According to Corinthians, we are to learn from the Israelites’ mistakes and not fall into their same faithless disobedience (1 Corinthians 10:11).

“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.  He called it 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 a new 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 make a choice.  Today is THE day of God’s favor (2 Corinthians 6:2).  Today may fall the seventh-day Sabbath or Today may just be the day 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.

“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 and pagan nations.  It wasn’t until King Solomon that Israel had ‘rest’ and peace with the nations around them.

“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 the above verse.  To do this 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, denominational doctrines,   or works of the law for salvation.   These were not the works God rested from in the beginning.  He did not need to rest from traditions or doctrines nor did He need salvation from sin.

There are some who believe 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 our spiritual rest in Messiah to a type of ‘sabbath’,  he is not the seventh-day weekly Sabbath rest that we are commanded to remember.  When we observe the seventh-day Sabbath, God pours His light onto one of the shadows of His ‘appointed times’.  Then, we begin to see and understand the reality of the 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).

Though we are to make an effort to enter God’s rest, to believe that keeping the Sabbath is a burden is a twisting of Scripture (1 John 5:3).   Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments.  It is one of the guidelines in how we are to love God; our response to His incredible love, grace, and mercy to us.  He wants us to rest from our creatives works whether it’s seedtime or harvest and not be a slave to the world which is really where the burdens really lie.

Not entering God’s rest is considered ‘falling short’.  This is the second time this is mentioned in the passage meaning that it is something important to remember.  Falling is sin and sin is willful disobedience and 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 our soul and spirit.  God is able to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our minds  because His Word is living and active.   It is meant to ‘cut us’ so we look within ourselves and turn from disobedience and live by faith.

When it comes to the seventh-day Sabbath, there are many anti-semitic attitudes  that need to be ‘cut out’ of our hearts. The sword of God’s Word needs to penetrate our souls and spirits to remove anti-law doctrines and renew 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 in our lives and He will use His commandments as the standard for righteousness.

The Sabbath was created in the beginning by God as part of His eternal redemption plan. It was given to Israel and how they lived it out is our example.  This same Sabbath still remains and we have the same decision to make:  enter into God’s rest by faith or disobey.

God’s command to rest from our creative work still stands because we are imitating Him.  By making every effort to enter the weekly Sabbath and ceasing from our own creative works, we show the world that we have put our faith in the Creator of the Universe and trust His provision for our lives.  When we mix our faith with action, we live out the fullness of the gospel and show that we believe in the coming Kingdom of God and an eternal Sabbath rest. 

Faith in Yeshua does not nullify the Sabbath rest because he is Lord of the Sabbath.  As the Son of God, he continued to guard the ‘appointed time‘ obeying his Father’s command.  If  Yeshua is Lord of our lives and he is Lord of the Sabbath, then Sabbath that remains until the end of time should be part of his Lordship in our lives.

©2004  Tent Stake Ministries (Chapter from Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.)

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