Striving For Rest

Striving For Rest

What are you hoping to change in 2023? Do you ever wish you could enjoy more rest (physically, psychologically, and spiritually)?

“Rest” occurs 12x Hebrews 3:11-4:11. Primary application. Goal = why it’s important and how you might find it.

Jesus > Everything

• 1-2 Angels (Jesus speaks a better word, 1:1-2, 2:1-3) <<< Pay much closer attention!

• 3-4 Moses (Jesus is worthy of more honor, 3:3) <<< Do not harden your hearts!

We are too easily distracted by what is worldly and hardened to the Spirit’s work.

We enjoy a foretaste of our eternal rest by honoring the Lord’s Day every week.

Read Hebrews 4:6-11.

Are You  Hearing  the Gospel? (6-7)

“Let us fear” (Heb 4:1). Covenant community is mixed with wheat and tares. The opportunity to enter God’s rest remains open, but some will fail to enter (Heb 4:6). 

Every generation should consider the fate of that former generation. Those under Moses rebelled. David warned the covenant community. The author of Hebrews warned his audience. And now the warning comes to us.

How ought we to hear this warning?

• Dismissive—Wearing our “Calvinist” armor.

• Sensitive—Wrecked with paranoia.

Murray Capill compares believers to smoke alarms. Some go off due to a piece of burnt toast. Yet, others have drained batteries.

We can have an overly sensitive conscience, or one that has grown calloused by sin disobedience (Heb 4:6). Conviction means the Holy Spirit is at work.

We need to call the lost to return (repent). Wandering is dangerous! Warnings preserve. Take heed and reflect. 

God asked Adam and Eve “Where are you?” He had not lost them; they were lost. They did not win a game of hide & seek with God. And neither will you. Where are you?

The good news—“formerly received”—was that God had delivered them from Egypt and the Promised Land was just around the corner. The good news should have given them a better perspective on their trials. But, due to their disobedience, they failed to enter God’s rest.

Our present trials often distract and harden us to the Spirit’s work. We need to ask ourselves:

• Have I heard the gospel? 

• Am I regularly hearing the gospel?

• How am I responding to the gospel?

Encouragement: Your presence reveals a desire for the gospel that contradicts cultural norms. Instead of sleeping in, you showed up! That’s a good way to start the year.

There’s a difference between going to church and hearing the gospel. We can miss it due to poor preaching as well as poor hearing. Are you hearing the gospel this morning?

› Although corporate worship is the highlight, God has set apart the whole day…

Are You  Keeping  the Sabbath? (8-10)

Maybe the thought of ‘rest’ immediately conjures up sleep problems. 1/3 adults don’t get at least 7 hours per night. The consequences are significant and long term.

But, as much as we need to do a better job of sleeping, that has little to do with Sabbath-keeping.

WARNING: This is about to get technical. You’re free to tune out for a few minutes, but v.9 is the central point of this passage and needs to be unpacked carefully.

• “Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμός). This is the only occurrence of the noun in the NT. 

• However, its verbal form (σαββατίζω) occurs four times in the LXX and always means to observe the Sabbath. The noun is the observance.

• Action is grammatically implied with words ending in -μός. It refers to a practice rather than state.

• The word “rest” does not appear in Heb. 4:9 even though it occurs twelve times between Heb 3:11-4:11.

• The BBE translates it accurately, “So there is still a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God” (Heb 4:9). 

Robert Dabney writes, 

“The apostle’s inference is that because God still offers us His ‘rest’ under the new dispensation, there remaineth to us a Sabbath-keeping under this dispensation…Because the rest is ours, therefore the Sabbath-keeping is still ours; heaven and its earthly type belong equally to both dispensations.”

Both Sabbath observance and eternal rest are in view. The earthly experience is a type of the heavenly fulfillment. 

Verse 10 sets up a comparison between the work of creation and redemption.

• God finished his creation work and entered into his rest on the seventh day of the week.

• Jesus finished his redemptive work and entered into his rest on the first day of the week. 

Therefore (v.11), our incomplete/imperfect observance of the Sabbath points to Christ’s complete/perfect work!

The fourth commandment clearly establishes our lack of conformity to the law of God. It convicts us of sin, but then we hear the good news, and are reminded that Christ as fulfilled all of the righteous requirements of the fourth commandment in our place.

When we place our faith in Jesus, his perfect record is credited to us, and he takes all of our guilt. On the cross, Jesus put to death all of the ways you and I have failed to honor the Lord’s Day. We should appreciate that truth and live in the assurance of that gospel reality.

And now, with gratitude and a compelling motivation to please God—enabled by the Holy Spirit—we seek to honor the Lord’s Day with a heart that is moved by Jesus’s example. We enjoy a foretaste of that heavenly state as we observe Sabbath-keeping.

› That’s why it’s important to answer the last question…

Are You  Striving  to Rest? (11)

Preparing for our family beach vacation (clothes, food, books, games). Basic, predictable, but it’s all part of the excitement. Even the tedious aspects build anticipation.

Striving to enter God’s rest involves Sabbath-keeping observance. To ignore the fourth commandment is to miss how its blessings foreshadow our future glory.

Let’s consider several ways we can all improve our Sabbath-keeping to the glory of God (see the WLC 115-121). Don’t focus on what’s forbidden, but what’s encouraged. 

The Lord has set one day in seven apart for you to commune with him undistracted by your worldly employments and recreations. It’s not a burden, but a delight. The Puritans called it the market day of the soul. The Lord’s Day is a day that God says, “Devote yourself to me in word, thought, and deed. And see what a delight communing with me can be.”

• One day not to worry about school, work, chores, spending, politics, sports, or whatever else might distract you today.

• Plan activities that promote the purpose: conversation, interaction, reading, journaling, hospitality.

If the goal is communing with Christ, then rest will be one of the blessings that results from that encounter. Every week we have another chance to bring our weary bodies and souls to Jesus. He restores our hope and strengthens us for the week ahead.

Even though the author exhorts us to Sabbath-keeping, it is an application in the midst of the theme of rest. We observe the Sabbath in order to enjoy the rest it protects. Rest is the gift we receive when we come to Christ and practice undistracted communion with him.

“What fitter day to ascend to heaven, than that on which He arose from earth, and fully triumphed over death and hell. Use your Sabbaths as steps to glory, till you have passed them all, and are there arrived.” 

~ Richard Baxter