Reading for Tuesday, July 24: Hebrews 4
The precarious image of a young child walking on thin ice comes to mind as I read these first few chapters of Hebrews. The writer is fixated on the possibility of falling away from faith. He’s painfully aware of his fellow journeymates who have chosen to neglect this great salvation. “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it,” (v1). Failure is most definitely an option here.
But the Hebrew writer matches this painful reality with an awareness of the present opportunity to embrace God’s promises. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” This is the third time he’s quoted Ps. 95:7. The Hebrew writer wants us to experience God’s call in the present. Even for those who might have turned away, today marks a fresh opportunity for repentance, to accept God’s Sabbath rest. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his,” (v9-10).
God gifts us with His word as we journey toward this rest. This word is a living being in itself: “For 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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (v12-13). God’s word is powerful to reveal our hearts, to uncover us, to lay us bare. This is necessary if we are to enter God’s rest. We cannot enter encumbered by our burdens, our guilt, our shortcomings. These are stripped of us in our accounting before the Lord.
But how can we stand before Him in this manner? Surely He will reject us outright on account of our unbelief, our fears, and our sin! But it is precisely this point that the Hebrew writer anticipates as we sets forth this glorious truth: “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (v14-16). Praise God! Through Jesus, we find mercy and grace! In Jesus, we have a great high priest who goes before us, who mediates on our behalf! In Jesus, we have One who understands, who sympathizes, who remembers all our sleepless nights and our laborious days and our temptations and anxieties and fears and doubts. These don’t merely pile up on the ledger against us; instead, they are met by an advocate who understands and sympathizes. And He responds with grace and mercy on our behalf.
This is truly Sabbath rest indeed.
Rest from our guilt.
Rest from our pain.
Rest from fear.
Rest from doubt.
Rest from achievement.
Rest from judgment.
Rest from sin.
Rest from death.
God’s Sabbath rest is the location of true life, life eternal.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”