“Strive to Rest” – Hebrews 4:1-11

September 2nd, 2018 (Labor Day Weekend)

Hebrews 4:1-11

“Strive to Rest”

Aux. Texts: Matthew 11:28-30

Call to Worship: Psa 95

 

Service Orientation: God created us to rest in Him.   Without Jesus that is impossible.  We should make every effort to be and remain “in Christ”.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:   Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. — Hebrews 4:11

 

Background Information:

  • In the third chapter of his epistle, the writer of Hebrews quotes at length from Ps 95 and speaks of the unbelievers who were cursed by God and died in the desert. Although the author speaks of the unbelievers in chapter 3, he addresses the believers in chapter 4.  The admonition of 3:12-14 is now resumed and is substantially enlarged in 4:1-11.  The question that is raised is this:  Is the promise of entering God’s rest, given to the Israelites but forfeited because of unbelief, still valid in our time?  The answer is a resounding yes.  The message of entering the rest that God promises is the same and still calls for acceptance in faith.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 103-4)
  • (V. 1) The writer is saying that God’s rest was available from the time Creation was completed. The “rest” was thus the rest he himself enjoyed.  The earthly rest in Canaan was no more than a type or symbol of this.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 40-1)
  • (V. 1) He draws the conclusion, that there is a sabbathizing reserved for God’s people, that is, a spiritual rest; to which God daily invites us. (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 98)
  • (V. 1) The word we have translated beware (be careful – NIV) literally means to fear (phoebeisthai). This Christian fear is not the fear which makes a man run away from a task; nor the fear which reduces him to paralyzed inaction; it is the fear which makes him put out every ounce of strength he possesses in a great effort not to miss the one thing that is worth while.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 38)
  • (V. 1) A healthy respect for the power and judgment of God, detailed in 3:7-19, underlies the exhortation to “fear” (NIV, “be careful”) in 4:1. In other words, it is due to their lack of fear (i.e., respect) toward God that people need to fear negative consequences of their spiritual condition.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 162)
  • (V. 1) In the congregation that originally received the epistle, the possibility that someone had fallen short of appropriating God’s promise seems to have been real. The expression to have fallen short may have been borrowed from the sports arena; it conveys the meaning of being left behind in the race and thus failing to reach the goal.  When someone does not reach the goal, he cannot give even the appearance of having arrived.  In the eyes of the spectators in the arena, the contestant has failed.  He cannot receive a prize and in many cases even forfeits sympathy.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 105)
  • (V. 2) The last clause in 4:2, depending on the wording in a number of ancient manuscripts, varies in translation. There are two usual ways of translating the clause.  One of these is, “because if [the Word] was not united by faith in those who heard.”  This translation is by far the more prevalent, frankly because it fits the context and is readily understood.  The manuscript evidence, however, favors the second translation, “because they did not share the faith of those who listened.”  The implication is that among the Israelites in the desert were two people who obeyed the Word of God:  Joshua and Caleb.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 106)
  • (V. 2) It does no good to hear if we do not believe. That is the point here.  Hearing the good news of the rest of God is of no benefit, no profit, to any person at any time unless the hearing is united by faith.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 99-100)
  • (V. 3) It is significant that the writer of Hebrews constantly quotes from the OT Scriptures. He never appeals to the words of Jesus or the teachings of the apostles, although he was acquainted with the gospel (Heb 4:2).  For him and for the recipients of his epistle, the writings of the OT were authoritative.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 107)
  • (V. 4) The writer does not precisely locate his quotation (Gn 2:2) but contents himself with the general “somewhere.” Nor does he say who the speaker is, though once again it will be God, the author of all Scripture.  Locating a passage precisely was not easy when scrolls were used; and unless it was important, there would be a tendency not to look it up.  In the present case the important thing is that God said the words, not where and when they were spoken.  The passage speaks of God as resting from his work on the seventh day.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 40-1)
  • (V. 6) Because the first generation had passed the opportunity by, God set another day. The idea that the wilderness generation was finally rejected was one the rabbis found hard to accept.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 42)
  • (V. 7) They disobeyed God and forfeited their place. Ps 95 was written long after that generation had failed to use its opportunity and had perished.  Its use of the term “Today” shows that the promise had never been claimed and was still open.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 42)
  • (V. 8) The KJV translates the name Joshua as “Jesus” here in 4:8. Both names have the same Greek spelling, and the writer may have had a play on words in mind.  However, since this verse refers to Israel’s history, the word is better understood as referring to the Israelite leader Joshua.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,52)
  • (V. 8) The object in thus describing our rest is to show that it is not to be found in this world, but is reserved for the world to come.  The argument of this verse–its opening “for” denotes that further proof is being supplied to confirm what has been said–is taken from the self-evident principle that rest is not enjoyed till work is ceased from.  This world is full of toil, travail and trouble, but in the world to come there is full freedom from all these.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 210)
  • (V. 9) This rest which is reserved for the people of God is properly called a “sabbath rest”–a sabbatismos or “sabbath keeping”–because it is their participation in God’s own rest. When God completed his work of creation, he “rested”; so his people, having completed their service on earth, will enter into his rest.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 109)
  • (V. 9) The words “sabbath rest” are one word in the Greek, occurring only here in the entire Greek Bible. This “rest” provided by God didn’t even have a word descriptive enough for the writer, so he coined a new one, calling it “a sabbath rest.”  The kind of rest the author described is different from what the Israelites expected.  This rest refers to what God did when he completed creation.  It pictures the rest of the Sabbath–not the legalistic inactivity demanded by the Jewish Pharisees, but the joyful, festive adoration and praise for God characterized by the early church.  God’s promised rest includes perfect fellowship and harmony with him.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,53)
  • (V. 9) In the OT “the people of God” is the nation of Israel, but in the NT it signifies believers. The rest the author writes about is for such people.  Others cannot enter into it.  This is not so much on account of a law or rule denying them entrance as that they shut themselves out by disobedience and unbelief.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 43)
  • (V. 10) The opening “for” of v. 10 shows that what follows furnishes a reason why God’s people, now, must keep the sabbath. That reason invests the sabbath with a fuller meaning than it had in OT times.  It is not only a memorial of God’s work of creation, and a recognition of the Creator as our Proprietor, but it is also an emblem of the rest which Christ entered as an eternal memorial of His finished work; and inasmuch as Christ ended His work and entered upon His “rest” by rising again on the first day of the week, we are thereby notified that the Christian’s six work-days must run from Monday to Saturday, and that his sabbath must be observed on Sunday.  This is confirmed by the additional fact that the NT shows that after the crucifixion of Christ the first day of the week was the one set apart for Divine worship.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 211)
  • (V. 11) To be concerned about one’s own salvation is commendable; to pray for one’s fellow man is praiseworthy; but to strive for the salvation of everyone within the confines of the church is exemplary. We ought to take careful note of members who may be drifting from the truth in doctrine or conduct and then pray with them and for them.  We are constantly looking for spiritual stragglers.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 104)
  • There is no mention of Jesus or Christ in all 11 verses of this passage. But, the entire book is written to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus over the prophets, the angels, Moses, and now Joshua and the conquest.  So even though Jesus is not mentioned in these 11 verses, He is certainly the object of the entire book of Hebrews. — Pastor Keith

 

The questions to be answered are . . . Why all this talk about rest?   What is the writer of Hebrews attempting to communicate to us?

 

Answers:  Since Creation, it was God’s desire that mankind rest with Him in an intimate and marriage-like relationship.   But it was lost in the Fall.  The writer of Hebrews is trying to get us to see that the only way we can recapture that rest is by being “In Christ.” We should make every effort to enter that rest.

 

By the time of Christ, the Fourth Commandment—“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”—had become the unintended basis for exotic legalisms.  To ensure that no work be performed on the Sabbath, thirty-nine clarifications of work were devised, with each category capable of endless subdivision.  One category forbade the carrying of burdens and hedged it with minute prohibitions for every situation.  Anything equal to, or heavier than, a dried fig was declared a burden.  So it was permissible to carry half a fig on the Sabbath, unless one put it down and picked it up, thus doubling the weight to a full fig and so breaking the Sabbath!

Similarly, if a person was in one place and extended his or her hand, which was holding a piece of fruit, into another place, and the Sabbath began at that moment, the person would have to drop it that instant.  Otherwise he or she would be breaking the Sabbath by transporting a burden from one locality to another.

Happily, one could pick up a child on the Sabbath, provided the child’s hands were first examined to make sure they had nothing in them, for otherwise that would involve lifting a burden.  Less happily, false teeth were not permitted on the Sabbath because they might fall out, and the poor denture-wearer would be tempted to pick them up, thus sinning against the Sabbath.

Another category prohibited travel on the Sabbath.  So the rabbis defined a permissible Sabbath day’s journey as two thousand cubits (1,000 yards).  To walk one inch further was an egregious breach of the Sabbath.  However, if a rope was tied across the end of one’s street creating an eruv, then the legal fiction was that the whole street became a single house, and so one could walk 1,000 yards beyond the rope.  Interestingly, present-day Orthodox Jews have perpetuated the eruv by marking off areas of modern cities with symbolic “gateways” of thin wire stretched between tall, slender poles.  Today there are eruvim in such cities as Los Angeles, Toronto, and Miami.  The eruv that contains the White House dates from 1990.

One of the largest of the 39 categories dealt with guarding one against labor.  Here, women were forbidden to gaze into a mirror on the Sabbath, because they might discover a white hair and be tempted to pluck it, which would be a grievous sin.  While eating, a radish could be dipped in salt, but not left too long, since one would then be performing the labor of pickling the radish.  Spitting was allowed on the Sabbath, provided one spit into his handkerchief or on the rocks.  But it was unlawful to spit on the ground, because one might inadvertently scuff the spittle and the earth with his sandal, thereby plowing and cultivating the earth.  So being a righteous person under this system depended more or less on which way a person spit!  And so went the legalisms and abstruse rules ad infinitum—all to hedge the Sabbath.  ( R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 67-9)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Rest

 

Quotes to Note on Sabbath-Rest:

The basic command is, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.”  The word “Sabbath” (Hebrew šabbāt) derives from the verb šābat, “to stop. cease, rest.”  Therefore rest–not working on that day–is a key aspect of this command, as we will see in verse 14.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 185)

 

What was that rest of God on the seventh day?  It certainly could not have been weariness as if six days of calling all into being had tired him out.  In 40:28 Isaiah reminds us, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary.”  Nor was it inactivity as if he stopped watching over the sparrows or counting the hairs on our heads.  In Jn 5:17 Jesus told the Jews, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

God’s rest on the seventh day was the rest that follows finished and holy work, a rest characterized by perfect contentment and infinite satisfaction.  It is this rest, this eternal blessedness and total fulfillment, that he wants to share with his children.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 35)

 

It is plain (our author implies) that the “rest” spoken of in Ps 95:11 is not the earthly Canaan.  For that land of rest was occupied by the Israelites of the second generation, who entered it under the command of Joshua.  The people addressed in the ninety-fifth psalm were already living in the land of Canaan, as their ancestors had been for generations now.  Likewise, the “rest” which they were in danger of forfeiting through stubbornness of heart must have been something different from the “rest. . . from all their enemies round about” which God had given to Israel in Joshua’s day (Josh 23:1; cf. 21:44).  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 108)

 

For hundreds of years it was firmly believed that only a Sabbath enforced through social legislation would keep society from sliding into a kind of unwitting slavery, protecting the vulnerable from the powerful and quashing the punitive obsessive-compulsive who lurks within us all. One of the bitterest public policy debates in 19th-century America, in fact, was over whether offering postal service and opening public institutions on Sundays would harm our national character and lead directly to barbarism. (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath, March 2, 2003)

 

We note first that he twice quotes Ps 95:11–“They shall never enter my rest” (vv. 3, 5; cf. 3:11, 18).  His purpose is not to imply that his readers will not enter the rest, but rather to show that God calls the rest being offered “my rest” because it is the rest he himself enjoys.  This in itself is a stupendous revelation.  It means that when we are given rest by him, it is not simply a relaxation of tensions, but a rest that is qualitatively the same rest God enjoys–his personal rest that he shares with us!

To catch something of the idea here, imagine yourself invited by Prince Charles to enjoy his “rest.”  You are picked up by the Royal limo at Heathrow and whisked into London and through the gates of Windsor Palace where you are shown its glories.  Then the two of you motor north in his 1968 Aston Martin to Balmoral Castle where you relax before a fire, scratch the ears of the royal hounds, put on a kilt and explore the royal trout streams.  You are sharing what Prince Charles calls “my rest”–his personal rest.

The sublime fact that we share God’s personal rest, the rest he enjoys, ought to set our hearts racing!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 110)

 

The land of rest to which the author calls the hearers has more to do with a spiritual state of right relationship with and blessing from God.  This promise does have vast implications for physical and emotional well-being, but the beginning place must be with one’s spiritual condition.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 161)

 

Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, best known for his tales of the golem, pointed out that the story of Creation was written in such a way that each day, each new creation, is seen as a step toward a completion that occurred on the Sabbath.  What was Creation’s climactic culmination?  The act of stopping.  Why should God have considered it so important to stop?  Rabbi Elijah of Vilna put it this way:  God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so.  The implication is clear.  We could let the world wind us up and set us to marching, like mechanical dolls that go and go until they fall over, because they don’t have a mechanism that allows them to pause.  But that would make us less than human.  We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember. (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath, March 2, 2003)

 

Jesus spoke of quite another kind of rest–rest for the souls of men (Mt 11:28-30).  This is nearer to what the author means.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 42)

 

The story told by the Sabbath is that of creation: we rest because God rested on the seventh day. What leads from God to humankind is the notion of imitatio Dei: the imitation of God. In other words, we rest in order to honor the divine in us, to remind ourselves that there is more to us than just what we do during the week.  (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath, March 2, 2003)

 

In this chapter, the word “rest” is used in three different ways:  (1) the rest Israel had been promised in Canaan; (2) God’s rest after creating the world (see 4:4); and (3) the rest experienced by Christians–both now and in the future.

Dt 12:9-11 describes the “rest” that Israel had been promised in Canaan:

 

• the land itself

• security and protection because they were God’s people

• rest from fighting (peace)

• God’s presence through the tabernacle (and later the temple)

While the next generation of Israelites did enter and possess the land, this was still only a shadow of the final “rest” that was to come.  The Jewish people refused God’s plan and rejected their Savior; thus, the promise of entering his rest still stands–God has made this rest available to Christians.  Since God had barred the rebellious Israelites from the Promised Land, the promise stands for those who remain obedient to him.  The promise has not been fulfilled, but neither has it been revoked.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,47-8)

 

Because the Lord of the Sabbath had come, the shadow of His Sabbath rest was no longer needed or valid.  The NT does not require Sabbath observance, but rather allows freedom as to whether or not any day is honored above others.  The only requirement is that, whatever position is taken, it is taken for the purpose of glorifying the Lord (Rom 14:5-6); and no believer has the right to impose his views in this regard on anyone else (Gal 4:9-10; Col 2:16).

From the days of the early church (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2), Christians have set aside Sunday, the first day of the week, as a special day of worship, fellowship, and giving offerings, because that is the day our Lord was raised from the dead.  But the Lord’s Day is not the “Christian Sabbath,” as it was considered to be for many centuries and still is in some groups today.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 287-8)

 

God’s perfect rest is a rest in free grace.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 96)

 

Rest also means freedom from whatever worries or disturbs you.  Some people cannot rest mentally and emotionally because they are so easily annoyed.  Every little nuisance upsets them and they always feel hassled.  Rest does not mean freedom from all nuisances and hassles; it means freedom from being so easily bothered by them.  It means to be inwardly quiet, composed, peaceful.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 96)

 

The Sabbath instructed all humankind that there is more to life than work. (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 71)

 

First of all, the sabbath is a gift of God as much as it is a command (Ex 16:28-29).  The Lord’s blessing of the sabbath is the provision of the sabbath as a gift for human existence.  The sabbath belongs to the providential work of God in providing for the continuity of life. It is given to bless human existence.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 81)

 

During the old dispensation the week began with six days of LABOR.  These were followed by one day of REST.  Later, by the labor of his vicarious suffering Christ, the great High priest, procured for “the people of God” “the eternal Sabbath rest” (Heb 4:8, 9, 14).  By faith in him believers even now (in principle!) enter into this REST, which is constantly being followed by their LABOR of love, that is, by their works of gratitude for salvation already obtained for them as a free gift.  The order LABOR–REST is therefore changed to REST–LABOR: very appropriately the week now begins with the day of REST.  In summary, Jesus asserted his authority over the Sabbath by interpreting it by word and deed as being a day of true freedom, a day of rejoicing, of rendering service of love to each and to all, and, in and through it all, by worshiping God above everything else!  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 515)

 

The fast-paced, problem-prone, project-oriented existence many of us live resists the spiritual life, pushing away recognition of God’s voice with its invitation to rest.  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 165)

 

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass the author comments on this aspect of modern society through the character of the Red Queen, who says to Alice, “Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”  (George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, 165)

 

This is a definition of that perpetual Sabbath in which there is the highest felicity, when there will be a likeness between men and God, to whom they will be united.  For whatever the philosophers may have ever said of the chief good, it was nothing but cold and vain, for they confined man to himself, while it is necessary for us to go out of ourselves to find happiness. The chief good of man is nothing else but union with God; this is attained when we are formed according to him as our exemplar.  (John Calvin, Commentaries: Hebrews, 98)

 

I don’t like formulaic approaches to the Christian life that obscure the fact that it is an exciting, dynamic relationship with the living God.  However, in 4:2-3 we find a very simple equation for entering into the rest God has for us:  HEARING + BELIEVING = RESTING.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 62)

 

Presumably the original readers would have recognized the spiritual nature of the “rest,” which the writer has so far not defined.  He does, however, give some hint in the next statement–although his works were finished from the foundation of the world–as if he wants his readers to switch their minds back beyond the wilderness wanderings to the creation itself.  The my rest of the quotation and the his works of the comment are clearly closely connected.  What believers can now enter is none other than the same kind of rest which the Creator enjoyed when he had completed his works, which means that the rest idea is of completion and not of inactivity.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 112-3)

 

From Matthew 11:28-30:(v. 28) Kopiaō (to grow weary, or “to labor”) carries the idea of working to the point of utter exhaustion.  John uses the term to describe Jesus’ fatigue when He and the disciples reached Sychar after a long, hot journey from Jerusalem (Jn 4:6).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 275)

 

(v. 28) Anapauō (to give…rest) means to refresh or revive, as from labor or a long journey.  Jesus promises spiritual rest to everyone who comes to Him in repentance and humble faith.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 275)

 

(v. 30) The word easy is in Greek chrēstos, which can mean well-fitting.  In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken.  The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on.  The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not chafe the neck of the patient animal.  The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 20)

 

103 Q.  What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?

  1. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publically, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath. (Dt 6:4-9, 20-25; 1 Cor 9:13-14; 2 Tm 2:2; 3:13-17; Ti 1:5; Dt 12:5-12; Ps 40:9-10; 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; Heb 10:23-25; Rom 10:14-17; 1 Cor 14:31-32; 1 Tm 4:13; 1 Cor 11:23-25; Col 3:15; 1 Tm 2:1; Ps 50:14; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8 & 9; Isa 66:23; Heb 4:9-11)  (The Heidelberg Catechism, GRC Publications, 1988, 57)

 

God’s “rest” refers not to inactivity, but to completion of the plan.  Everything God will do had already been planned and foreseen.  The point is that God’s rest has been available to his people since the dawn of time.  The “rest” offered in the Promised Land merely pictured the true and final rest for those who believe.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews, 50)

 

What then is this sabbath rest which awaits them?  It is evidently an experience which they do not enjoy in their present mortal life, although it belongs to them as a heritage, and by faith they may live in the good of it here and now.  How they may do so is illustrated with a wealth of biographical detail in ch. 11.  And in that chapter we have further references to the eternal homeland which is the heritage of believers, the saints’ everlasting rest–the “better country, that is, a heavenly one” which they desire, the “city” which God has prepared for them, the well-founded city of which he is both architect and builder (11:10, 16).  Of this city of God men and women of faith are citizens already, although the full exercise of their civic privileges in it is reserved for the future.  (F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the NT: Hebrews, 110)

 

What does this passage tell us about rest?:

 

I-  God’s Promise of His rest since Creation still stands. (Heb 4:1, 9-10; see also: Gn 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:14-17; 35:2; Dt 3:20; 5:12-15; 12:10; Isa 58:13-14; Jn 5:17)

 

Adam and Eve were completely righteous when they were created.  They walked and talked with God as regularly and as naturally as they walked and talked with each other.  They were at rest, in its original and its fullest sense.  They relied on God for everything.  They had no anxieties, no worries, no pain, no frustrations, no heartaches.  They did not need God’s forgiveness, because they had no sin to be forgiven of.  They did not need His consolation, because they were never grieved.  They did not need His encouragement, because they never failed.  They only needed His fellowship, because they were made for Him.  This was their “rest” in God.  God completed His perfect work and He rested.  They were His perfect work and they rested in Him. . . . The entire purpose of the Bible and the entire working of God in human history have one theme:   bringing man back into His rest.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 101-2)

 

God finished his great work and rested, but it was not a cessation from work, but rather the proper repose that comes from completing a great work.  Jesus referred to his Father’s ongoing work saying, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (Jn 5:17).  God’s repose is full of active toil.  God rests, and in his rest he keeps working, even now.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 111)

 

On the first six days of creation it is said that morning and evening came; that is to say, each day had an end and a beginning.  But on the seventh day, the day of God’s rest, there is no mention of evening at all.  From this the Rabbis argued that, while the other days came to an end, the day of God’s rest had no ending; the rest of God was for ever.  Therefore although long ago the Israelites may have failed to enter that rest, it still remained.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 36)

 

It is worth noticing that in the creation story each of the first six days is marked by the refrain “And there was evening, and there was morning.”  However, this is lacking in the account of the seventh day.  There we simply read that God rested from all his work.  This does not mean that God entered a state of idleness, for there is a sense in which he is continually at work (Jn 5:17).  But the completion of creation marks the end of a magnificent whole.  There was nothing to add to what God had done, and he entered a rest from creating, a rest marked by the knowledge that everything that he had made was very good (Gn 1:31).  So we should think of the rest as something like the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment, from the completion of a task, from the exercise of creativity.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 41)

 

The rest God promises is spiritual, not physical.  Whatever physical or earthly benefits the Lord may give us, His basic promise is to give us spiritual rest, spiritual blessing.  Some of God’s most faithful believers are the busiest, the hardest working, and sometimes even the most afflicted people imaginable.  Yet they are in God’s salvation rest.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 104)

 

To show that God’s rest is spiritual rather than physical, our writer compares the words of David in Ps 95 with those of Gn 2:2.  The Genesis account says that God began His rest AFTER He had finished His physical work, the six days of creation.  On the 7th day God began a rest that hasn’t ended or been interrupted.  Therefore, God is STILL resting and eager to share His rest with all who will enter it by faith and obedience.  Going in and taking the promised land (in the power of God) is a picture or type of the spiritual rest awaiting those who believe the Lord and want to work with Him.  For proof that God’s rest is a working rest, we have Jesus’ own words. . . “My Father is working and I am working with Him” (Jn 5:17).  If God is resting and Jesus is working with Him, then God’s rest is a WORKING REST.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 87)

 

The words of our Savior in Jn 5:17 respecting the Sabbath day, “My Father worketh hitherto” in nowise conflict with Gn 2:3.  God’s “rest” there was from creating new kinds of creatures; what Christ speaks of is His work in doing good to His creatures; it concerns God’s providences, which never cease day or night, preserving, succoring, governing His creatures.  From this we learn that our keeping of the Sabbath is not to consist of a state of idleness, but is forebearing from all the ordinary works of the preceding six days.  The Savior’s own example in the Gospels teaches us that works of absolute necessity are permissible, and works of mercy proper.  Isa 58:13, 14 informs us how the Sabbath is to be kept.  Jn 5:17 linked to Gn 2:3 also contains a hint of the eternal “rest” of heaven:  it will be a ceasing from all the carnal works in which we were engaged here, yet it will not be a state of idleness as Rv 22:3 proves.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 205)

 

Rest comes from working.  Rest comes from laboring.  Rest comes from obedience.  Rest comes in seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  Rest comes from God’s will being done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Jesus did not say, “Take my chair” or “Take my mattress.”  That’s equipment for sitting and sleeping.  There’s no sitting.  There’s no sleeping.  He said, “Take my yoke.  You’ll be working, walking, moving forward, carrying what I tell you to carry, even your own cross.  Life might be uncomfortable, hard, and trying, but (irony of ironies) walk my way and you’ll find rest–the refreshment that comes with forgiveness, the renewal that comes with purposeful living, the rest that comes from working for me!” (See 2 Cor 4:16-18; cf. Rom 8:18; Mt 5:10-12).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 307)

 

So the purpose of the Sabbath was to give the Israelites time to reflect, not on their works, but on God’s works.  They were then to find refreshment in knowing that their physical needs were supplied not by their toil, but by the God who had created the universe and had given them life.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 103)

 

The sixth day of Creation was a busy one.  The first Sabbath was the first full day of life for Adam and Eve.  It marked the first time they went to sleep and woke up with the discovery, unlike the mayfly, which lives but a day, of a tomorrow.  They discovered that life went on!  Every Sabbath, like the first one, we should awaken with a deep appreciation of what it means to wake up and live another day.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life, 125)

 

Just as God had rested after His work of creation, so too He now permitted Israel to rest, liberated as she was from the slavery of Egypt.  The Sabbath day showed who Israel was:  a people chosen and liberated by Yahweh, who could be assured of His providential sustenance of her life, sustenance that did not depend on her laborious exertion.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 116)

 

Why had God taken “six days” to make what is described in Gn 1?  Had He so pleased, all could have been done in one day, yea, in a moment!  Obviously it was for the purpose of teaching us.  Just as the great God employed in works of usefulness, in providing for the temporal necessities of His creatures, so should we be.  And just as God has ceased from all the works of those six days and on the seventh day “rested,” so must we.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 204-5)

 

The Israelite Sabbath institutionalized an astonishing, hitherto undreamed-of notion:  that every single creature has the right to rest, not just the rich and the privileged. Covered under the Fourth Commandment are women, slaves, strangers and, improbably, animals. The verse in Deuteronomy that elaborates on this aspect of the Sabbath repeats, twice, that slaves were not to work, as if to drive home what must have been very hard to understand in the ancient world. The Jews were meant to perceive the Sabbath not only as a way to honor God but also as the central vehicle of their liberation theology, a weekly reminder of their escape from their servitude in Egypt.  (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath, March 2, 2003)

 

The author argues that the purposes of God are not frustrated because Israel of old disobeyed him and failed to enter the rest he had promised his people.  The promise remains.  If the ancient Israel did not enter God’s rest, then someone else will; namely, the Christians.  But this should not lead to complacency.  If the Israelites of an earlier day, with all their advantages, failed to enter the rest, Christians ought not to think there will be automatic acceptance for them.  They must take care lest they, too, fail to enter the blessing.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 39)

 

Once God had completed his work of creation he began his rest, and he longs that ultimately all his people should enter into that rest.  God’s gracious promise of rest has not been withdrawn.  The invitation is still open, but we must realize that in the course of our pilgrimage the pursuit of this rest might well be costly.  We must strive and apply ourselves diligently to the journey ahead.  But we should not imagine that it can be attained by works.  It is God’s rich gift to the faithful and obedient pilgrim at the end of his days when he ceases from his labors as God did from his.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 90)

 

When we read Genesis chapter one, we notice that each day of creation is described the same way, “There was evening and there was morning.”  But of the seventh day this is not said.  Each of those six days of creation had an ending as well as a beginning, but of the day of rest this is not stated.  Of course, that seventh day also had to be a twenty-four hour day as the others, but the rest it symbolized has no ending.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 35-6)

 

II-  God’s rest, lost at the Fall through disobedience and unbelief, does not come through Joshua.  (Heb 4:2, 6, 8; see also: Nm 13-14; Ps 95:7-11; Ezek 20:12-24)   

 

The OT “Jesus” (Joshua) had led his followers to the land of Canaan.  But that was not the real rest but only a type.  And that is why the real rest was offered by David in his “Today” and now to us in our “Today.”  So the great truth is, there was a “Jesus,” the son of Nun, who failed to lead his people to true rest.  But now there is another Jesus, the Son of God, who can.  He is the pioneer and captain of our salvation–the ultimate Joshua (cf. 2:10).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 112)

 

But as soon as the writer of Hebrews notes the existence of God’s rest from creation and the call to men to enter God’s rest with him, he reminds us of the words, “They shall never enter my rest.”  In other words, God’s rest was complete from the beginning of the world.  Man was called to enter that rest with God from the seventh day of creation.  Yet because of sin, rebellion, hardness of heart, and unbelief, men did not enter in.  Men have come short of God’s rest because of the Fall.  (Walter Chantry, Call the Sabbath a Delight, 91)

 

True rest is the enjoyment by the creature of perfect harmony with his Creator, and it can therefore only be rest in God.  As such, it is totally incompatible with unbelief and disobedience toward God.  Hence the inability of the rebellious Israelites to enter into God’s rest.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 155)

 

Since Moses was unable to lead the Israelites into Canaan, the writer reflects on the position of Joshua, who did lead them in.  But he shows that even Joshua did not secure for his people true rest.  Joshua failed for the same reason as Moses, that is, through the people’s unbelief.  This leads the writer to exhort his readers to seek that superior rest, which he goes on to imply is found in Christ.  (Donald Guthrie, Tyndale NT Commentaries: Hebrews, 110)

 

Unbelief leads to willful disobedience, which results in an inability to come to repentance.  And what is the conclusion?  The answer is forthright and to the point:  eternal condemnation.  Therefore, says the writer, let us make every effort to enter God’s rest.  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 113)

 

The “rest” of 3:11 and 18 refers to Canaan, and though Joshua actually conducted Israel into this (see marginal rendering of 4:8), yet the apostle proves by a reference to Ps 95 that Israel never really (as a nation) entered into the rest of God.  Herein lies the superiority of the Apostle of Christianity; Christ does lead His people into the true rest.  Such, we believe, is the line of truth developed in our passage.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 192)

 

God’s true rest comes not through a Moses or a Joshua or a David.  It comes through Jesus Christ.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 104)

 

Wouldst thou have thy heart rest nowhere but in the bosom of God?  What better method could Providence take to accomplish thy desire than pulling from under thy head that soft pillow of creature-delights on which you rested before?  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 45)

 

Now, in verses 8 and 9, the teacher returns to the historical situation of Joshua, claiming Joshua did not give the people rest even though chapters 21 and 22 of Joshua indicate that rest had been won.  Our writer counters this apparently obvious truth by saying that if Joshua had truly provided the rest, David would not have spoken at a later time of the rest yet to come, of another day or period in which obedience had to be exercised in order to receive the rest.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 103)

 

Should anyone object that a new generation entered into the rest of the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, the reply is given that if this had been the rest intended, then God would not speak later (in Ps 95) of another day.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 160)

 

What our author is saying is that God’s promise of rest did not and does not have a merely earthly fulfillment, but is rather eschatological in purport, and therefore still awaits the people of God in all its fullness.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 160)

 

It was a glorious thing when Joshua led Israel’s hosts out of the wilderness, across the Jordan, into the promised land.  Truly that was one of the outstanding epochs in their national history.  Nor would the apostle, directly deprecate it.  Yet if the Hebrews would but mediate for a moment on the nature of that rest into which the illustrious successor of Moses led their fathers, they must see that it was very far from being the perfect state.  It was only an earthly inheritance.  It was filled with enemies, who had to be dispossessed.  Its continued tenure was dependent on their own faithfulness to God.  It was enjoyed comparatively only a short time.  Different far is the rest of God into which the Apostle of Christianity will yet lead His people.  Listen to His own words, “In My Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that, where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn 14:2, 3).  Here, then, we may see the superiority of Christ over Joshua, as the rest into which He brings His people excels that into which Joshua conducted Israel.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 208)

 

When we obey, we do not suffer from the guilt of disobedience which is unrest.

 

Rest is a reward for obedience.  We forfeit this when we rebel and disobey.

 

Emmanuel Mounier, the founder of the French “personalist” philosophical movement, writes that human life is characterized by a “divine restlessness.”  The lack of peace within our hearts spurs us on a quest for the meaning of life–a command imprinted on “unextinguished souls.”  Pope John Paul II sums up the matter elegantly:  “One may define the human being, therefore, as the one who seeks the truth.”  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 10)

 

There are a number of philosophical and spiritual implications of Sabbath recognition, appreciation, and observance, not the least of which has to do with not being enslaved but being free to pursue a godly life.

That is why the Sabbath was given to the Israelites immediately after the Exodus.  To this group of ex-slaves the idea of a day of rest was not only enticing, it spoke to the essence of their being.  For generations, they had toiled under the whips of the Egyptian taskmasters.  Who would not be moved by a day of liberation in which all people could acknowledge the freedom granted by God?  This is our freedom from servitude under human masters, the ultimate freedom of the human soul from oppression, toward its true purpose:  to serve God.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life, 104)

 

They did not trust God to bring them through the difficulties that lay ahead; and therefore they never enjoyed the rest they could have had.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, Hebrews, 36)

 

People know a great deal about Christ, but they do not know him personally–they don’t combine their hearing with faith.  They are not real believers who take God at his word and obey him.  Religion without obedience to God has no value.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,49)

 

III-  We enjoy God’s promised Sabbath-rest only by being and remaining “In Christby faith.   (Heb 4:2-3, 7, 11; see also: Isa 58:13-14;  Mt 11:28-12:14; Mk 2:27-28; Lk 6:1-11; Rom 5:1; Col 2:16-17; Heb 3:7-19; Rv 14:13)

 

Restlessness is a gift of God.  If we are not restless, we would never search for God.

 

Sabbath rest was instituted as a symbol of the true rest to come in Christ.  That is why the Sabbath could be violated by Jesus, and completely set aside in the NT.  When the true Rest Land came, the symbol was useless.  “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:16-17).  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 101)

 

Jesus claims to be the fulfillment and embodiment of the Sabbath day, the sanctuary temple, and even the Scriptural Law, the three realities dearest to the people of God.  And thus salvation comes not through keeping the Sabbath, perfect obedience to the Law, or temple sacrifice, but only through faith in Christ.  Salvation comes (do you remember the last chapter?) Only to those who rest in Jesus, who come to him, weary and heavy laden, for final Sabbath rest (see Hebrews 4).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 316-7)

 

Look around, and be distressed;

Look within, and be depressed;

Look to Jesus, and be at rest.  (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 6-24)

 

God’s rest consists of working with His creation, enjoying the fruit of His labors.  Is that so different from our own experience?  Are not we also refreshed when we work with a hobby or in the yard?  Haven’t we returned home from a vacation exhausted, glad to get back to our homes and jobs so we could “rest up?”  God’s rest includes such projects as building His church, the millennial kingdom, the final destruction of Satan, and the eternal programs which come after that.  The chief thing to see is that God’s rest is NOT a vacation from work, but WORKING with His creation.  Work can be refreshing–if you like it.  And God likes it!  He’s an industrious Person.  Consequently those who enter His rest, find themselves involved with a BUSY Person.  This is why His rest is reserved for those who mean business for Jesus and like working with Him.  The life we’ll have in the eternal future will be a busy one.  A job will be assigned to us on the basis of our faithfulness in this life.  That job will be our rest.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 85)

 

The labor of love for Christ is only another word for rest.  He says, “Take my yoke on you. . . and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29).  Carry Christ’s burden, and your shoulders shall have rest.  We do not mean sleep or idleness when we speak of rest; that is not rest, but rust.  Our rest is found in the service of God.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 94-5)

 

Truly to rest in God is to yield oneself up to the highest activity.  We work, because He worketh in us to will and to do.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 152)

 

The rabbis used to refer to the Law as a yoke, and a disciple as one who put his neck under it.  But Jesus addresses a winsome invitation to those who found the endless details of the Law, as the Pharisees interpreted it, a burden too heavy to bear.

In exercise of His authority He invited all such to come to Him and find rest for their weary souls.  If they would bow under the yoke of the good will of God in submission and obedience, they would discover the secret of the life of blessing.  When yoked with Christ in service, they would discover that the yoke of God’s will raises no sores on the shoulder.  The yoke would gall only if they pulled in a direction other than God planned.  His yoke only rests the one who bears it, for with it there is supplied the strength to carry the load.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 66)

 

Where there is no faith in the gospel, no good consequence can possibly come of it.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 87)

 

If you don’t enjoy rest it may mean that you either are not working hard enough to complete the work God has given you to do so you can rest; or, it may be because you are working with the wrong attitude or spirit to enjoy and benefit from the rest God desires to give you.  — Pastor Keith

 

Serenity and laughter are the marks of being in the place of rest.  The rest of God is not cessation from activity, but a peace within the toil.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 101)

 

That is part of what rest means; to be at His place, at His time, doing the thing He has planned for us to do, confident in His strength and resources, in the design of the system.  This confidence in the foreknowledge and plan of God is a very accurate definition of faith.  (Louis H. Evans, Jr., The Communicator’s Commentary: Hebrews, 102)

 

In God’s rest we are forever established in Christ.  We are freed from running from philosophy to philosophy, from religion to religion, from life-style to life-style.  We are freed from being tossed about by every doctrinal wind, every idea or fad, that blows our way.  In Christ, we are established, rooted, grounded, unmovable.  That is the Christian’s rest.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 96-7)

 

Have you ever watched a play or movie only to be so preoccupied with other thoughts that you could not enjoy it?  Have you not been able to make love to your spouse because your mind is consumed with worry and work?  Have you pushed aside the insistent attempts of your children to talk because your mind is jammed with last-minute details?  Have you not had the time to take care of your body and health because you are overwhelmed with scheduling conflicts?  The Sabbath is the time for putting all mundane actions and thoughts aside so that we can live and appreciate the moment.  The Sabbath experience is the great liberator from your fears of worthlessness without frenetic productivity.  The Sabbath is spirit in the form of time (Heschel).  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 109-110)

 

Jesus says:  “My yoke fits well.”  What he means is:  “The life I give you is not a burden to cause you pain; your task is made to measure to fit you.”  Whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 20)

 

Is it possible for a human being to do all his work in six days?  Does not our work always remain incomplete?  What the verse means to convey is:  Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done.  Another interpretation:  Rest even from the thought of labor.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 32)

 

Nothing is as hard to suppress as the will to be a slave to one’s own pettiness.  Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty.  Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people.  There are many who have acquired a high degree of political and social liberty, but only very few are not enslaved to things.  This is our constant problem–how to live with people and remain free, how to live with things and remain independent.

In a moment of eternity, while the taste of redemption was still fresh to the former slaves, the people of Israel were given the Ten Words, the Ten Commandments.  In its beginning and end, the Decalogue deals with the liberty of man.  The first Word–I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage–reminds him that his outer liberty was given to him by God, and the tenth Word–Thou shalt not covet!–reminds him that he himself must achieve his inner liberty.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 89-90)

 

To enter God’s rest, therefore, means to enjoy the perfect, unshakeable confidence of salvation in our Lord.  We have no more reason to fear.  We have absolute trust and confidence in God’s power and care.  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 97)

 

Faith is always repose in what another will do for me.  Faith ceases to seek help in itself or its efforts, to be troubled with its need or its weakness; it rests in the sufficiency of the all-sufficient One who has undertaken all.  Trust Jesus.  Give up and forsake the wilderness.  Follow Him fully:  He is the rest.  (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 146)

 

If God prepared a rest for humanity to enter into, then they will enter into it.  Perhaps those originally invited would not do so, for there is often something of the conditional about God’s promises.  This is not to say that one is to fear that these promises will not be kept.  It is precisely the force of the present argument that nothing can stop the promises from being kept.  But they must always be appropriated by faith.  There is no other way of laying hold on them.  So if one does not approach the promises by faith, he does not obtain what God offers and the offer is made to others.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 41)

 

The principle is so simple:  the more trust, the more rest.  There is not a fretful soul in the world who is trusting.  “The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (v. 2)–and so it is with us.  Our belief or unbelief makes all the difference.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 109)

 

Being a true Christian under the New Covenant is not a matter of knowing the gospel but of trusting in it.  Having a Bible, reading it, knowing it, taking it to church every Sunday, and even teaching from it do not make us Christians.  Only trusting in the One to whom it testifies makes us Christians.  “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life,” Jesus warned, “and it is these that bear witness of Me” (Jn 5:39).  The issue is not knowledge or work, but faith.  Paul was happy and thankful for the Thessalonian Christians not simply because they accepted the gospel as the Word of God, but because they believed it (1 Thess 2:13; cf. 2 Thess 2:13).  (John MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary: Hebrews, 100)

 

Observing a Sabbath gives you the opportunity to be in the moment, appreciate the deeper truth of existence, and enjoy the taste of eternity in every morsel of this holy day.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 109)

 

God fulfills His promises only in those who accept his Word in faith and trust, whether that happens to be Joshua, Caleb, or “the soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose.”  (William Hendriksen & Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Hebrews, 106)

 

The phrase “weary and burdened” (Mt 11:28-30) does not refer to physical weaknesses or to what we might call the burdens of a difficult life, though it may include them.  It chiefly refers to a sense of sin’s burden and the need of a Savior.  The context makes this clear, for the earlier verses describe the rejection of John the Baptist and Jesus by the Jewish masses, followed by the Lord’s denunciation of Korazin, Bathsaida, and Capernaum for their failure to repent at Jesus’ preaching.  They were not burdened by sin.  They were getting along just fine.  Still, there were people who were burdened, and these people believed that Jesus could lift sin’s weight and turned to him to do it.  These people listened to him, trusted him, and found salvation.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 200)

 

Toil is a curse; work is a blessing.  But all our work darkens into toil; and the invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor,” reaches to the very utmost verge of the world and includes every soul.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 155)

 

There is rest in faith.  The very act of confidence is repose.  Look how that little child goes to sleep in its mother’s lap, secure from harm because it trusts.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 161)

 

”The Lonely Days Were Sundays” is the title of a book about growing up Jewish in the churchgoing South. The lonely Sunday has been replaced by the overscheduled Sunday–soccer Sunday, Little League Sunday, yoga-class Sunday, catch-up-around-the-house Sunday. Americans still go to church, of course, but only in between chores, sporting events and shopping expeditions. (You can now find A.T.M. machines inside megachurches; congregants don’t have to waste a minute between services and the mall.) (Judith Shulevitz; Bring Back the Sabbath, March 2, 2003)

 

I’m convinced that if our civilization were to be uncovered by curious archaeologists thousands of years from now, they would see relics of an anxious society.  Vacation destinations provide havens for those approaching the critical zone of “burnout.”  Treatment facilities house countless victims of mental, emotional, and physical breakdown.  Therapists help calm the fretful, and physicians routinely prescribe antidepressants and anxiety medications.  Our generation is marked by all the ingredients of a society dominated by anxiety, which include feelings of apprehension, uneasiness, worry, and dread.  The word I like to use to describe it is churning.  Churning keeps you awake in the wee hours of the morning, ruins your day by robbing you of focus, and drives some to the brink of dangerous despair.

The only solution to churning is resting.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 60-1)

 

The Israelites failed to enter God’s physical rest in the Promised Land because of their lack of faith.  And even though Joshua led the next generation into the Promised Land, the psalmist shows that there was another, greater type of rest.  Just as the ancient Hebrews could have stepped into the Promised Land and taken full possession at any time through their faith, so Christians can find rest for their souls in the Lord Jesus at any moment–and at every moment–of their spiritual life.  The invitation of Jesus still stands:  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28-29).  (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights: Hebrews, 64)

 

There is a legend that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee, and that from all over the country people came to him to buy the best yokes that skill could make.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 20)

 

Worship Point:  If we understood the rest that God is encouraging us to enjoy, our worship would be more in Spirit and in Truth.  (Mt 15:6-9; Jn 4:24; Heb 4:1-11)

 

This is the real basis of his hallowing and blessing the day of rest. He is saying in effect, “Let my highest creature, the one in my image, stop every seven days and commemorate with me the fact that I am the creator who has done all this. Let him stop working and focus on me, that I am the source of all that he has. I am the fountain of blessing. I have made the very hands and mind with which he works. Let one day out of seven demonstrate that all land and all animals and all raw materials and all breath and strength and thought and emotion and everything come from me. Let man look to me in leisure one day out of seven for the blessing that is so elusive in the affairs of this world.”  (John Piper; Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy; October 6, 1985)

 

“After a week of perplexing problems and heated contest, it does so rest my soul to come into the house of the Lord and worship, and sing, and mean it, “Holy , Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” and to know that He is my Father and takes me up into His life and plans, and to commune personally with Christ.  I am sure I get wisdom not my own, and a superhuman strength for fighting the morals evils I am called to confront.  — Theodore Roosevelt

 

Sunday is indeed a day of joy, but it ought also to be a day of feasting, though not necessarily at an elaborate meal.  As Ignatius well said, “To fast on the Lord’s day is to kill Christ; but to rejoice in the Lord this day, and to rejoice in all the duties of this day, and to rejoice in that redemption that was wrought for us on this day, this is to crown Christ, this is to lift up Christ.”  The Lord’s Day is for a joyous table with family and friends and the needy and the searching.

Finally, Sunday is a day for action rather than inaction.  It is not a day for idleness.  We do not honor the Lord’s day by doing nothing.  It is a day to serve in the church, to teach, to counsel, to reach out to others, to evangelize.  All this and more is to be part of Lord’s Day worship!  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 80)

 

If we don’t come apart and rest, then we’ll just come apart.  —Vance Havner

 

Pushing aside our perpetual concerns for physical survival, we turn to the bigger question of spiritual survival.  By creating sacred time, we are motivated to explore these issues when we otherwise might not.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 106)

 

Observing the Sabbath has changed me from being a gerbil on an exercise wheel to a human being aspiring to “walk in God’s ways.”  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 108)

 

God not only appointed the seventh day, but he blessed it.  It is not only a day of honor to God, but a day of blessing to us; it is not only a day wherein we give God worship, but a day wherein he gives us grace.  On this day a blessing drops down from heaven.  God himself is not benefitted by it, we cannot add one cubit to his essential glory; but we ourselves are benefitted.  This day, religiously observed, entails a blessing upon our souls, our estate, and our posterity.  Not keeping it, brings a curse, Jer 17:27.  God curses a man’s blessings, Mal 2:2.  The bread which he eats is poisoned with a curse; so the conscientious observation of the Sabbath, brings all manner of blessings with it.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 94)

 

At the conclusion of all other days God says of the world “it was good,” but with the addition of humanity it becomes “very good.”  Each Sabbath we are reminded of our potential for doing good.  It is our re-creation each Sabbath that helps us acknowledge our role in bringing goodness to the world.  We are the bridge between the worldly and the divine.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 108)

 

Worship Point for 5-17-17 HFM message: Give honor, praise, glory and worship to the God of the Universe Who loves us enough to encourage us to take 14.28571% of our time to realize Who He is and who we are and what will one day be.

 

We spend the week trying to understand the mysteries of the universe through science.  We perform new engineering feats, we open the mysteries of the atom, and we search the heavens and the earth for signs of life.  On the Sabbath we search for the essence of God.  Shabbat is the antidote to the tendency toward self-idolatry.  On this day, we are reminded that God is God.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 124)

 

At worship we meditate on God’s goodness and praise him and thank him for it.  We hear his Word read and preached, and we learn how to live in a way that is more pleasing to him.  We present our petitions to him and intercede on behalf of others and thus affirm that we rely on him for protection, sustenance, and blessing.  We respond to what we hear through fresh acts of commitment.  So worship affirms the lordship of God over our lives, making it a most appropriate way to keep the Sabbath holy to the Lord.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 186-7)

 

Worship Point for 9-13-15 HFM Message on Matthew 12:1-14: God created Sabbath so we could reflect and be reminded of His provision, protection, grace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, patience and love.   When you do that in spirit and in truth you cannot help but worship.

 

One can understand why the prophets sometimes speak of the abandonment of the whole of OT religion as “profaning the Sabbath” (Ez 20:21; 22:8; 23:38).  There is a subtlety to Sabbath observance.  Because it excludes secular activity, its “holy rest” comes to dominate all of life.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 333)

 

Commit yourself to the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s house, and little else outside of the home will be necessary for the cultivation of a thriving spiritual life.  The Puritans referred to the Lord’s Day as “the market day of the soul.”  Six days a week one buys and sells for the sake of one’s body.  Sunday however we are to “trade” in spiritual commodities for the sake of our souls.  All secular affairs are to be set aside.  All Christians, “after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand,” are to “not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts, about their worldly employments and recreations,” but also are to be engaged “the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy” (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.8).  The key to consistent attendance at public worship (of which we have spoken above as the key to your spiritual well-being) is a commitment to observing the Christian Sabbath.  Or to state it negatively, you will never be able to become consistent about attending public worship until you are convinced that Sunday is not just the Lord’s morning, but the Lord’s Day.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 332)

 

Our engagement in works of justice arises out of a worshipful life.  It comes not out of being activists but out of living in God’s rest, every day.  This is one of the most profound aspects of a Christian social ethic.  It is not that we are meant to find our lives by being community organizers.  It is that, as we live in the rest of God, we live in our true home, in the heart of God in Christ, in whom “all things hold together…Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:17, 20).  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 103)

 

The week has six days, each numbered accordingly, but the seventh day is called the Sabbath, and it was only this day that God blessed:  “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. . .” (Gn 2:3).  The creation of physical things ceased; by sanctifying a “day,” spirituality was created on this, the seventh day.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 100)

 

Gospel Application:  The rest God created and designed us to enjoy can only be found “In Christ.”   (Gn 2:2; Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15; Mt 11:28-12:14; Col 2:15-17; Heb 4:1-11; Rv 14:13)

 

Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord.  —St. Augustine

 

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.  — Blaise Pascal

 

It is an extraordinary injunction, but I think he means, let us labor not to labor.  Our tendency is to try to do something in order to save ourselves; but we must beat that tendency down, and look away from self to Christ.  Labor to get away from your own labors; labor to be clean rid of all self-reliance; labor in your prayers never to depend upon your prayers; labor in your repentance never to rest upon your repentance; and labor in your faith not to trust to your faith, but to trust alone to Jesus.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 99)

 

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”   Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  —C. H. Spurgeon  (Alister Begg, Pathway to Freedom, 228-9)

 

At the end of his great act of creation the Lord said, “It is finished,” and he could rest.  On the cross at the end of his great act of redemption Jesus said, “It is finished”—and we can rest.  On the cross Jesus was saying of the work underneath your work—the thing that makes you truly weary, this need to prove yourself because who you are and what you do are never good enough—that it is finished.  He has lived the life you should have lived, he has died the death you should have died.  If you rely on Jesus’ finished work, you know that God is satisfied with you.  You can be satisfied with life.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 43)

 

For two thousand years Israel’s priests offered atoning sacrifices for sin.  The Bible describes in intricate detail the altar, candlesticks, robes, curtains, laver, and tables involved in the temple ceremonies.  However, there is no description of a chair for the priests.  They did not sit down, because their work was never done.  But when Jesus acted as our great High Priest, offering his body in sacrifice for our sin, no other sacrifice would be needed, and so he sat down.  His posture signals that his work is finished.  Now we can rest in his finished work, with no need to offer additional sacrifices for our wrong.  (Bryan Chapell;  Holiness by Grace, 163)

 

For us in the NT the picture is even clearer.  Those Sabbath days were, as Col 2:17 points out, “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”  In Christ, shadow has become reality.  Through his death and resurrection the way to God’s eternal rest is fully built and opened wide.  (Richard E. Lauersdorf, The People’s Bible: Hebrews, 38)

 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. . .You will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28, 29).  By dying on a cross as our substitute, Jesus “forgave us all our sins” and “canceled the written code that was against us and that stood opposed to us.”  Because he died for us, we aren’t obligated any longer to observe an OT Sabbath day.  Together with other OT regulations, the Sabbath was “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col 2:13, 14, 17).  One NT believer may consider one day of the week more sacred than another; another NT believer may consider every day alike.  “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom 14:5).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 64)

 

Did Christ finish His work?   How dangerous it is to join anything of our own to the righteousness of Christ, in pursuit of justification before God!   Jesus Christ will never endure this; it reflects upon His work dishonorably.  He will be all, or none, in our justification.   If He has finished the work, what need is there of our additions?  And if not, to what purpose are they?  Can we finish that which Christ Himself could not complete?   Did He finish the work, and will he ever divide the glory and praise of it with us?   No, no; Christ is no half Savior.  It is a hard thing to bring proud hearts to rest upon Christ for righteousness.   God humbles the proud by calling sinners wholly from their own righteousness to Christ for their justification.  — John Flavel

 

Setting apart one day regularly to the Lord inhibits the human inclination to justify oneself by job or work.  The Sabbath is a concrete symbol that God’s saving grace is what redeems human life rather than any or all work.  The sabbath is a regular time to stop striving and reaching, to stop trying to justify oneself before God and everybody else; it is a time to remember having been set free and accepted in the ultimate sense and to know that the chief end of life is not found in any human work or accomplishment but only in glorifying and enjoying God.  As such, the Sabbath is an implicit but important pointer toward the reality of justification by faith (Winn).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 82-3)

 

Have you not learned that lesson of despair yet?  Is it necessary for the Holy Spirit to make you despair again? Why not have one good despair and get it all over?  Why despair every few days?  Only because you are still hunting round for something somewhere, some rage of goodness in yourself that you can present to God that will please Him, satisfy Him and answer to His requirements.  You will never find it.  Settle it that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.  Our righteousness, all that trying to be so righteous, the Lord says of it all, “Filthy rags!”  Let us settle this once for all.  If you are looking ahead of what I am saying, you will see what it is leading to.  It is leading to the most glorious position.  It is leading to that glorious issue mentioned by the Lord Jesus in this way, in those days before things became inward: “Learn of me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  That is the end.  But we shall never find rest unto our souls until we have first of all learned the utter difference between Christ and ourselves, and then the utter impossibility of our ever being like Him by anything that we can find in ourselves, produce or do.  It is not in us, in ourselves, in that way. .  (T. Austin-Sparks; The School of Christ, 14)

 

When Jesus was with the Pharisees on the Sabbath he said, “I am not just someone who can instruct you to take rest; I am rest itself.”  Now by his actions here Jesus is demonstrating, “I am not just someone who has power, I am power itself.  Anyone and anything in the whole universe that has any power has it on loan from me.”  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 52)

 

To all of us Christ offers “rest,” not in the other life only, but in this.  Rest from the weight of sin, from care and worry, from the load of daily anxiety and foreboding.  The rest that arrives from handing all worries over to Christ and receiving from Christ all we need.  Have we entered into that experience?  –F. B. Meyer  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,49)

 

First He told them that they had entirely missed the point of the Sabbath.  They had turned God’s wonderful provision for rest and worship into an instrument of slavery for God’s people.  Then He claimed the right to make that assertion by declaring Himself to be the Creator of the Sabbath and therefore the Lord of the Sabbath.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 365)

 

For those who have come to trust in Jesus, he gives rest.  They first find rest from trying to fulfill all the requirements of the law (see Mt 11:28).  Unshackled from this yoke, they can experience salvation and God’s “rest” today.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,48)

 

There are many professing Christians who do not understand what it is to rest because the work of salvation is done; they do not even seem to know that the work is done.  They do not understand that dying word of the Lord Jesus, “If is finished.”  They think there is something still to be added to His work to make it effectual; but it is not so.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 92)

 

Bruce thinks it is “an experience which they do not enjoy in their present mortal life, although it belongs to them as a heritage, and by faith they may live in the good of it here and now” (in loc.).  I should reverse his order and say that they live in it here and now by faith, but what they know here is not the full story.  That will be revealed in the hereafter.  There is a sense in which to enter Christian salvation means to cease from one’s works and rest securely on what Christ has done.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 43)

 

Where else can we go with our guilt?  Who else can take it away?  Then He promised that those who came to Him would receive “rest.”  In biblical terms, to enter heaven is to enter permanent rest.  The Sabbath day each week is designed not only to give us rest from our earthly labors but a foretaste of the permanent rest that is in store for our souls.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 358)

 

Having regarded this verse as setting forth a spiritual rest into which believers now enter, they have altogether failed in their understanding of the second part of v. 1.  That sinners do enter into rest upon believing is clear from the promise of Christ in Mt 11:28.  That the measure in which this is enjoyed, subsequently, will be determined by the degree and frequency with which faith is kept in exercise, we fully allow.  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 200)

 

In v. 8 he had pointed out that Joshua did not lead Israel into the perfect rest of God; now he affirms that Christ, our Apostle, has entered it, and His entrance is the pledge and proof that His people shall–“whither the Forerunner is for us entered” (Heb 6:20).  (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, 210-1)

 

Don’t miss the underlying point here:  Jesus is making clear that as Lord of the Sabbath, He is God.  He is God in the flesh, and as God, He has the authority to determine Sabbath regulations for His disciples.  This authority goes beyond the mere exceptions to the law that gave David the right to eat in the tabernacle or priests the right to work on the Sabbath.  It was absolutely right, then, for Jesus to show mercy to a man on that day.  By claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus was implicitly saying to these legalistic Pharisees that the way to become right before God is not through following certain rules and regulations; the way to become right before God is through faith in Him.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 160)

 

The Jewish Sabbath was only a picture; it anticipated a rest based on the finished work of Christ (Jn 17:4; 19:30).  So in the new covenant, our rest, like that of God, is in a person: Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 228)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Hebrews is telling us to pay whatever price needs to be paid to enter God’s rest through Jesus.  It will be more than worth the sacrifice.  (Isa 58:13-14; Mt 13:44-46; 19:28-29; Mk 10:29-30; Rev 14:13)

 

Busy people often work especially hard the week before vacation, tying up loose ends so they can relax.  Students usually have their final exams right before semester breaks.  When we know a rest is coming, we put extra effort into finishing our work.

Healthy Christians love the work God has given them, doing it with passion and gusto, putting all their strength and care into it.  But Christians love God’s promise of heaven’s rest even more and look forward to God’s rest with great joy.  Today, renew your effort to work hard for God.  Rest is coming.  Relish the thought.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,54)

 

It is a strenuous, costly business to be a Christian.  Believers must strive to enter the rest of the people of God (4:11).  The word that is used describes the intense concentration of energy necessary to reach a desired goal.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 90)

 

But please remember this:  the path to Sabbath rest will always be a contested path.  Haven’t you ever wondered why it seems so incredibly difficult to find these times with God in our life?  Why it seems like such a chore to simply pick up your Bible or get down on your knees to pray?  The enemy knows this path to the Sabbath will lead you to rest and righteousness and perspective and a reordering of your priorities.  And Satan will try to thwart you.  He doesn’t want you to find that path.  Never doubt it!  He has a thousand ways to sidetrack and divert you.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 122)

 

The message here is a warning to people who would be lazy in their spiritual life.  Laziness can cause a person to fall into disobedience.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,55)

 

True rest is the enjoyment by the creature of perfect harmony with his Creator, and it can therefore only be rest in God.  As such, it is totally incompatible with unbelief and disobedience toward God.  Hence the inability of the rebellious Israelites to enter into God’s rest.  (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 155)

 

We labor in our faith.  We strive in our faith for Jesus to save us.  Like the woman with the issue of blood or the man who was paralyzed and let down from the roof to get to Jesus, we have to strive (work) to enter into our rest.  We have to work to enjoy the fruits of our faith.  Let us strive or work so we can put ourselves in a position to allow Jesus to save us.  (Charles Midget, letter from prison; 2-8-11)

 

This statement is an intentional paradox:  labor so that you can rest.  We need to strive to obtain what is ours by promise but not yet ours by experience.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,55)

 

The key to “making every effort” is to study the Bible regularly so that these lessons remind us of how God wants us to live.  We need not repeat the mistakes of the past.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,55)

 

You must not suppose that, when we enter into rest, it means that we are idle.  Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (Jn 5:17).  God rests, yet He works.  Heaven is a place of rest, but it is not a place of idleness: there is holy service still to be done there; so you Christian people, who are perfectly saved, devote all your strength to the winning of others for Christ.  Show your love to Jesus by trying to find some of his lost sheep for him.  Rouse yourselves, my brothers and sisters who have entered into rest, and prove to mankind that the grand old Calvinistic doctrine of a finished salvation does not breed sluggishness.  Rise, I pray you, and show that the children of the freewoman are not slothful, but that the motive of gratitude to God is a higher and more potent one than the selfish motive of seeking to save yourselves.  Let those who want to save themselves go and work for themselves; but as for you who are saved, go and work for Jesus; and let your deeds of holy heroism prove that you are constrained by love to him to do all that you can to bring others to trust in him.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 96)

 

We must do our utmost to focus on the rest.  We must strive to comprehend that it is a divine rest–the rest that God personally enjoys–“my rest” (vv. 3, 5), as he calls it.  It is a Sabbath-rest as old as the universe.  It is joyous, satisfying and productive.  We must do our utmost to grasp this.  There is no room for mental laziness.  Think with all you have on God’s rest as described by the Holy Spirit and as offered to you in this passage.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Hebrews, 113)

 

Our modern consumerist age is deluded to think that life consists of meeting our animal needs: eating, drinking, money, power, sex, and leisure.  Charles Malik, at one time undersecretary-general of the United Nations, saw how badly this missed the real human need.  In arguing for the inclusion of freedom of conscience and religion in the U.N.’s original Commission on Human Rights, he said, “All those who stress the elemental economic rights and needs of man are for the most part impressed by his sheer animal existence…This is materialism whatever else it may be called.  But unless man’s proper nature, unless his mind and spirit are brought out, set apart, protected and promoted, the struggle for human rights is a sham and a mockery.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 85)

 

In summary, these four points:

  1. Accept the gift of one day’s rest a week. Humble yourself to believe you need it. And be willing to admit that your wealth and your significance and your true advancement in life depend far more on God’s labor than on yours.
  2. Devote one day a week to focus your attention on God in a special way. Keep a holy day and devote yourself to those things that deepen your love for God.
  3. Except where you think obedience to God requires otherwise, let that day of rest and Godward focus be on the first day of the week as a witness to the world that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your Sabbath and of your life.
  4. For those of you who are free in your conscience to extend your holy exercises forward into Saturday night, let’s dream together of new ways to sanctify Sunday morning. Could it be that the Lord is leading you to new dimensions of prayer, or new hours of personal Bible study, or new deeds of mercy for the poor, or Sunday morning visitation to a shut-in, or perhaps a home evangelistic Bible study for neighbors who would not come to church but might come to your home? Can you think of any better time to reach your neighbors with the gospel than between 10 and 12 on Sunday morning? Who knows—maybe the city will find its way to Bethlehem on Saturday night, or maybe Saturday night will free up the saints to reach the city on Sunday morning? If any of you has a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not reach in and pull it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good—all kinds of good—on Sunday morning. (John Piper; Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy; October 6, 1985)

 

Canaan was not a good type of heaven, for they were always fighting in Canaan, always having to war against the adversary.  That is a good type of the rest to which believers come.  They do rest.  They know that heaven is theirs, that they are saved; that all their troubles work for their good; that they are God’s people.  Still they have a fight against sin, and that is no more inconsistent with their being at rest than it was inconsistent with the fact of the holy land belonging to the Israelites, though they had still to go on fighting against the Canaanites.  (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 89-90)

 

The dependence we have on him day by day is something God has taught us clearly in his word.  The strength which enables us to conquer temptation is a power which he has supplied by the indwelling life of his Holy Spirit.  In that sense, it is all of him.  But, without careful qualification, it is unwise to describe our present Christian life mainly in terms of “rest.”  After all, there were giants in the land!  Joshua and his contemporaries soon discovered that life in Canaan demanded courageous heroes, not relaxed spectators.  (Raymond Brown, The Bible Speaks Today:  Hebrews, 91)

 

Now, for most of us Sabbath is first to be achieved in the practice of solitude and silence.  These must be carefully sought, cultivated, and dwelt in.  When they become established in our soul and our body, they can be practiced in company with others.  But the body must be weaned away from its tendencies to always take control, to run the world, to achieve and produce, to attain gratification.  These are its habitual tendencies learned in a fallen world.  Progress in the opposite direction can only be made in solitude and silence, for they “take our hands off our world” as nothing else does.  And that is the meaning of Sabbath. (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 175)

 

The apostle Paul regarded the law as a yoke of bondage from which the Christian had been set free (Gal 5:1).  In his “revolt against external law” (P. Cotton, From Sabbath to Sunday, 11), Paul made no distinction between moral and ceremonial law.  It was all a part of that old covenant which was done away in Christ (2 Cor 3:14).  The Sabbath is definitely included in “the bond which stood against us with its legal demands,” which, Paul declares, God canceled and set aside, “nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14).  It is mentioned along with festivals and new moons, all of which are declared to be “only a shadow of what is to come” (2:16, 17).  To “observe days, and months, and seasons, and years” is to be slaves to “the weak and beggarly elemental spirits” (Gal 4:9, 10; cf. Col 2:20).  The observance of days is a characteristic of “the man who is weak in faith” (Rom 14:1-5).

Paul provides no grounds for imposing the Hebrew Sabbath on the Christian.  The Christian is free from the burden of the law.  The Spirit of Christ enables him to fulfill God’s will apart from external observance of the law’s demands.  The author of Hebrews likewise speaks of the Hebrew Sabbath only as a type of “God’s rest,” which is the inheritance of all the people of God (Heb 4:1-10).  He does not tell his readers to keep the Sabbath, but rather urges them to “strive to enter that rest” (4:11).  (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Volume Five, 186-7)

 

So What?:  If you fail to heed this message, you will look back on your life, from the perspective of eternity; with eternal regret, contrition, remorse, and shame.

 

The fact that any of us could fail to act on God’s promises through unbelief, says our writer, should scare us to death.  But you might reply, “It really doesn’t scare me.”  The point is, it should.  It doesn’t scare a blind man to be near the edge of a cliff, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t in danger.  He is, and so is the person who closes his eyes to the fact that this life is one in which we must believe God or suffer the consequences.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 83)

 

Unless the soul is fed and exercised daily, it becomes weak and shriveled.  It remains discontented, confused, restless.  —Billy Graham  (Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 302)

 

“Fred Mitchell, a leader in the world missions, used to keep a motto on his desk that read, ‘Beware of the Barrenness of a Busy Life.’”  (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World,  17-18)

 

When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week?  When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear.  As long as you are running, you are safe.  But running is exhausting – if, that is, we are running from sin or guilt, out of fear.  (Or if we haven’t run in a while.)  However, if we train ourselves to run toward our Refuge, toward Love, we are free – just as we are called to be.  As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural.  As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him.  It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.   (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)

 

There’s a genuine connection between fear and faith.  The man who truly believes God will do as He says (especially concerning the judgment), will fear to disobey Him.  It is when people have no fear of God that they live as they please.  As far as God is concerned, disobedience is unbelief.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Hebrews, 83)

 

Most of the commandments are negatives, but this one is positive–“Observe the Sabbath day”–and there is something basically wrong when it is turned into a day of prohibitions.  It is worth pondering that this commandment is not clearly endorsed in the NT; indeed Paul even seems to put a question mark against it in Gal 4:9-11.  It is important to take a balanced view of it.  It is quite wrong to treat Sunday as if the other days of the week did not belong equally to God; it is quite wrong to make a fetish or an idol of the day; it is quite wrong to get our enjoyment of the day out of imposing irksome restrictions upon others (including, it may be, our own children).  It is above all a day to enjoy, and to share with God.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 41)

 

JESUS:

OUR REST

 

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