I am wrestling through Hebrews 4, and actually went to include Hebrews 3 today in my reading as I struggle to understand it.
Here’s the part that got me thinking. Hebrews 4:12-13 are such familiar verses, quoted so many times, but never in context.
12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
I find myself asking, Why here? Why now? Why following this discourse on rest? I think there must be something I am missing, and I want to get inside the head of the writer of Hebrews to understand the flow of his thoughts. There is a reason these verses about the word of God fall here, and, O Lord, I need Your help in understanding.
So in chapter 3, there are three rests that I can see — one was Moses’ rest that was denied the Israelites as they wandered. Hebrews 3:15 – 19 says,
15As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
The second is God’s sabbath rest which He instituted following creation. It signified completion. Hebrews 4:4, 9-10 refer to this —
4For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way:”And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
The third is our rest, that we enter through Jesus. The writer of Hebrews is warning the readers that we not have an unbelieving heart like the Israelites. They were unable to enter the rest because of their unbelief. They rejected the good news that had been told them. Hebrews 4:1-3a says,
1Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3For we who have believed enter that rest…
And then the verses leading up to the familiar verses about the word of God — Hebrews 4:8-11
8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
If God entered His rest through a completion of His work, and the Israelites failed to enter their rest through disobedience and rebellion (ergo, they did not complete their work), then what is it that God wants of me? The logical conclusion would be that He wants a completion of the work in me. Rest comes with completion.
The word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing the division of my soul and my spirit, of my joints and my marrow, discerning my thoughts and the intentions of my heart, somehow this brings the completion of God’s work in me.
And yet NO! The completion comes through Christ alone. He is our high priest who allows us to draw near the throne of grace, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
I must still ponder this more…