Hebrews 4:3 -16 God’s Rest and How to Enter It
“There remains therefore a Sabbath Rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9)
What is the promised Sabbath Rest? How do we enter it? To understand what the Sabbath Rest is, we must understand what it is not:
It is not keeping the observance of the Sabbath Day (Saturday). The fourth commandment is the only commandment not brought over into the New Testament. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told to observe a certain day. However, the “Lord’s Day”—the Day of Resurrection —is a time for Christians to celebrate the eternal rest that Christ has purchased for us. We celebrate the Day of Resurrection each Sunday. The spiritual writer Madame Guyon said, “It is a day when our only work is to give our undivided attention to His still, small voice.” It is not the rest of inactivity, nor is it a rest from weariness. It is not a social or political rest where we are free from war.
The Rest of God
It is the rest of faith. (Hebrews 4:3) Faith gives rest because faith rests in God. It allows God to do all that He desires to do in and through us. The rest promised to us is the invitation to enter into God’s own rest by faith. We are destined to find our rest in God and not in anyone, or anything else. St. Augustine stated, “You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.
The author of Hebrews says it this way: “For he who has entered His (God’s) rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10) What are “our works?” The writer of Hebrews calls them “dead works.” (Hebrews 6:1, 9:14) Dead works are works that do not begin in God, self-initiated works that we do without consulting God; we just “assume” God will like our ideas. Dead works are anything not done in faith. This would include “works of the law,” that is, attempts to be more spiritual through observing rituals or keeping certain days. Our labors are often our own attempts to be righteous through our own efforts – keeping the law in order to obtain salvation.
Faith knows what the rest of God is. By faith we understand what God is doing in the world and how we can be a part of His work, rather than attempting to do good works that originate only in our minds.
It is the finished work of Jesus Christ that this Epistle to the Hebrews puts forth as the foundation of our faith. By faith we draw close to God; we enter into His presence and rest. The Holy Spirit makes us partakers of Christ, so that we know with confidence that we are standing in the center of God’s will.
Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land; they had rest from war. But he could not lead them into God’s perfect rest. Only Jesus can do that. Jesus accepted His Father’s will as perfect, and He lived in that will. He always waited on His Father to guide Him. Ultimately, He “became nothing,” (Philippians 2:5-8) so that the Father’s will could be completed in Him. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “. . . not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)
The mark of a person who knows the rest of God, who rests in Him, is a deep restfulness of spirit even while being active in the world. He or she knows that just as God rested from His work in creation, we can also rest from our self-initiated works. When we first become Christians, we want to work hard for the Lord. This is a good thing, but God wants to lead us into a deeper walk with Him. We learn this through many failures, often through burnout. When we enter into the rest of God, we find there the power to allow God to “do great things through us.” Through this power of the Holy Spirit, we allow God to work in us. The apostle Paul says, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:29)
As the hymn says, “To God be the glory, great things He has done!” And greater things He will yet do, as we rest in Him.
When we first went to Korea in 1961, we were busy learning the Korean language. We studied seven to nine hours each weekday, for two years. We were often tired and frustrated at not seeing many results. We attended Youngnak Church and listened to the beloved pastor, Han Kyung-jik, preach every Sunday. We had to “pretend” to understand, when we actually had no idea what he was saying. But after about a year, something wonderful happened. The first sermon I completely understood was entitled, “Not I, but Christ.” (오직 예수). We learned not only the language; we learned to enter the rest of faith.
How do we enter into this rest?
“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:11)
Hebrews 4:11-16 shows us two ways to enter the Rest of God.
- The Word of God will bring us into God’s rest. (4:11-13)
The Word of God is living and active. The living God is the source. When you open your Bible, God Himself will speak to you directly. J.B. Phillips learned that the Word of God was more alive than he himself when he translated the New Testament. He said, “I felt like an electrician working on the wiring of a house, but forgetting to turn off the electricity before I began working!” God’s Word is living and actively working in us because of its source: God Himself. God’s Word is sharp, piercing into our most intimate thoughts and intentions. God’s Word sees me perfectly and leads me into God’s Rest.
Remember 5 important purposes of God’s Word as you seek to enter the Rest of God.
- God’s Word will break us. Jeremiah 23:28-29 tells us that God’s Word is like fire to burn away our sin and worthless thoughts. God’s Word is like a hammer that shatters a rock. God’s Word will break the hardness of our hearts and cause us to cry out to the Lord.
- God’s Word will heal us. Psalm 107:19-20 says, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” Healing for our souls, our minds, our emotions, our bodies, comes from God’s Word; for God meets us in His Word.
- God’s Word will feed us. Jeremiah 23:28) Today’s manna is the Word of God. Feed on it daily and let it enrich your soul.
- God’s Word will remold us. The apostle Paul tells us to not be conformed to the anti-God world’s way of thinking, but to renew and transform our minds, our way of thinking. (Romans 12:2) Daily meditation on God’s Word is the most important tool we have to allow God to remold us into Christ’s image.
- God’s Word will empower us. Read through the Book of Acts, and you will discover the powerful truth that Judy Smith, who with her husband Ron, first established YWAM’s School of Biblical Studies (SBS), discovered: Nothing, absolutely nothing, can stop the Word of God!
- Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, will lead us into God’s rest. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Jesus has entered the Holy Place, “passing through the heavens” and into the presence of God. He did not enter into a tabernacle made by human hands, but into the actual Holy of Holies, into the presence of God, His Father. To enter into the holy place of God, we must have someone to lead us. That Person is Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest who is supremely exalted yet who totally identified with us. He will lead us into the presence of His Father, where we will know that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5) When Jesus takes us into the Holy Place of God, He says to the Father, “Here am I and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:13)
The two gifts we receive each morning as we enter boldly to the throne of grace are mercy and grace to help in time of need. The mercy that forgives our sins and casts them into the deep sea of forgetfulness. When we draw near to God’s mercy-seat, we first receive mercy, and we know that God pardons our sin and accepts and loves us. God will remember our sins no more. Then we find grace that is sufficient for all our needs, grace to help in any time of need.
This reminds me of one of the great hymns of the Christian faith. “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord” (Korean hymnbook #251)
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Refrain: Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Take some time to meditate on God’s Rest, then enter in before His throne and receive His mercy and grace.