what is a sabbath rest? Hebrews study pt. 5

Updated: May 5

This post is part of a series. Read the previous post here: https://tinyurl.com/t9d4puw

READ HEBREWS CHAPTER 4 HERE: https://tinyurl.com/txdv37r

LISTEN TO HEBREWS CHAPTER 4 HERE: https://tinyurl.com/sdaqff3

Hebrews Chapter 4- What it Means to Rest in God

This is a chapter I was particularly excited about reaching because any time the Bible speaks on Sabbath it sparks my attention. I am fascinated with the concept of Sabbath- the fact that it was created before sin and listed as one of the Ten Commandments. I am even more intrigued by the fact that so many God-loving people completely discredit or ignore it (read my post: The Ignored Commandment). In my Bible, the heading in this Chapter blatantly reads, "A Sabbath Rest for the People of God". Before I began writing about this for you, I took some time to read several online Bible commentaries on this section of scripture. If you would like to reference what I read, I will list those links here:

1. Enduring Word Bible Commentary

2. Matthew Henry Commentary


4. Ministry Magazine

5. Bible Gateway Commentary

I gathered several good insights from the opinions of the authors who wrote the articles I listed above. Because I hold a rather "unusual" value for a seventh-day Sabbath compared to other Christians, I wanted to broaden my perspective. There was nothing I really disagreed with from the other commentaries, but I did feel that many authors spent time creating or subliminally dealing with the notion of a literal vs. a spiritual sabbath rest. In my opinion, the message in Hebrews is not entirely literal or entirely spiritual, it is both.

As with anything we read in the Bible, it is always good to keep what is being said in context. Throughout the entire book of Hebrews so far, there has been reference and parallel points drawn from the story of Moses and the Israelites. Until Jesus came, the Jewish community seemed to give the story of the Israelites the most credit as being a message from God. This makes sense because after all, this is when all the fundamental laws of the Jews were basically established (take a moment to read through Leviticus and you'll see what I mean!). The first few verses of Hebrews chapter 4 are again referencing the Israelites and advising us not to be like them.

Hebrews 4:2 says, "For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them..." This verse is reminding us of God's promises to the Israelites- specifically the promise that they would enter into a Promised Land if they just trusted and obeyed God. If you've read through the first five books of the Bible you know all too well that the original Israelites did not make it to the Promised Land at all! All of their grumbling, complaining, and lack of faith got in their own way. Hebrews is stating that it can be the same with us. If we do not trust God, we cannot receive his blessings or enter into heaven someday. Gifts are only received if they are accepted, and it is the same with God's love and grace.

Hebrews 4:4-5 reminds us of God's rest in the creation story (Genesis 2:2). Hebrews 6 says, "it still remains for some to enter that rest..." While I would agree that this is stating that the choice of following God is freely available, I also think it points out that we can choose to honor Sabbath in an effort to strengthen our spiritual walk with God. Hebrews chapter 4:7 promises us that when we hear God calling to us we can decide to turn away from our own selfish choices and instead choose God. It tells us, "Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts." In the same way that putting our faith in God allows us to have peace in our lives and ease of mind, taking one day a week off from our work also provides us a safe haven. Hebrews 4:9-10 reads, "there then remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters into God's rest also rests from their works just as God rested from his." If we are truly going to rest as God did, we need to take a day off from work just as he did.

A famous text is nestled in the pages of Hebrews 4- "For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Notice that phrase "the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." This is a reminder that everything we do (or don't do) for God, is a heart issue. I believe this pairs well with the topic of taking a Sabbath day off. Sabbath on its own is essentially meaningless unless it has value to us. It doesn't make sense to honor the sabbath or any of the other principles in the Bible unless we love and have a personal relationship with God. This also shows us that when we believe in God and know that the Bible is inspired, we need to follow what it says. The Bible is what we measure ourselves with- it is how we know if we are living our lives to the best of our ability or not.

Finally, Chapter 4 comes to a close with the mentioning of Jesus as our High Priest. The phrase, "Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess" again shows the value in doing what we feel the Bible is asking us to do. We don't do it to be saved, we do it because we are saved. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus understands our temptations and our struggles. He understands that we can get caught up in our daily lives, and work. But it also says that Jesus was able to overcome it. Because we have Jesus, we can live our lives for God in boldness and confidence. It also uses the word "profess" pointing out that aside from having a relationship with Jesus ourselves, we also need to encourage others to get to know him as well.

Pondering Points

1. What problems or risks might arise if we pick and choose what parts of the Bible we want to follow?

2. How can we experience God's rest and peace of mind when we go through trials?

3. The Bible says that "The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword" what does that description and imagery mean to you?

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