The passages for our continuing study are from Hebrews 3:7-19 and 4:1-11. The author continues what seems to be stark warnings about drifting away. The author quotes Ps. 95 second part of the song which calls Israel to be diligent in pursuing the Rest that God has already prepared for them. Rest here is best understood as a life of faith and obedience in which a person softens his heart, steers away from the drifting currents to a life that embraces Jesus along with his sufferings. Pursues a Rest that is greater than one provided by Joshua, resembles the Rest that God entered on the seventh day – so .. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Heb 4:11
As we read the Psalm 95, we see the worship and praise song switch in the middle of verse 7 to an “instructional song.” The way the verses are numbered you may almost miss the transition from worship to instruction. Nevertheless the psalmist is instructing his readers to consider the path that God lead Israel through. Hebrews author says the “Holy Spirit spoke” through David in bringing to their attention their need to move from an “unbelieving heart” to one that is soft and ready to accept God’s direction and correction. Another idea that Hebrews author picks up from this Psalm stems from the word “Today” in the Psalm. The authors instructs them to be prepared and have a sense of urgency towards obedience. Delayed obedience is itself disobedience, the Hebrew believers should be prepared and not surprised to face trials as the Israelite’s faced when they didn’t find water in the desert. The two incidents in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 both show a nation that at two different times is both tired and weary, but also is marked with unbelief in God’s provision.
Sin of Unbelief
While the author could urge Hebrew believers about a number of things to keep themselves pure and free from sin, he states carefully in 3:19 “They did not enter because of their unbelief.” The author is being deliberate to point out the risk that is posed by an unbelieving heart. Like Israel, we have to be resolved to face difficulties in life with faith that God will bring us through. The type of faith seen in Shadrach, Mesech, Abed-Nego in Daniel as they said to the king “Even if our God does not” Daniel 3:18. This come from a heart resolved to following God believing in him as we recollect what he is already done and trusting him for the unknown troubles that show up in our life. As Pastor Jeff mentioned, if you sense a heart of unbelief in you, you can always cry out “I believe but help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24
Make every effort to enter the rest
In Hebrews 4:1-11, Hebrew’s author continues his treatise expanding the Psalm 95’s interpretation and giving a through analysis of “entering his rest.” This can be seen as a very systematic study of the Old Testament’s idea of Rest in a illustrative way about what exactly Jesus is calling us to. The author says “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” talking to us about the New Testament “people of God” entering a “Sabbath-rest” that brings to rely more on God. This is the sort of rest seen in Matthew 11:28, not one that does not “labor” or work or does nothing but makes every effort to come to God through Jesus and find our labor to rest “just as God did from his” in the creation prologue of the Bible.
In a way entering this rest is the hardest work that the Christian will ever have to do. There is a diligence and discipline needed that will carry us into the rest that only God provides.