Introduction: I am quite surprised with Hebrews as I read and study through it. Hebrews is known as the book of faith, yet as we read it closely we find it is primarily a book of obedience. Which is a definition of faith.
Paul in chps. 1 and 2, has shown how Christ is so much better than the angels which were regarded so highly. They would not think of disobeying an angel. In fact, we find that disobedience to angels brought swift and sure results (2:1).
Then he is presented as so much more than the priest. Again, the high priest was regarded so highly, honoured and respected, yet Christ is more.
Then he is presented as so much better than Moses who was respected so very highly by the Hebrews. The Hebrews of Christ's day were proud of their obedience to Moses. Yet, Christ is as high above Moses as a builder is over the house he built.
He uses the experience at Kadesh and their fathers refusal to obey as the example. Their refusal to step out on faith and obey the word of God. He brings us to chp. 4, with this fresh in our mind. He has pointed out that they missed what God had for them, the promised rest, because they lacked faith. They lacked the confidence in the Lord God Almighty to take care of them, therefore, they refused to obey his word.
He starts here in 4:1, with a reference back to what he has just said. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
God has left us a promise. A promise of rest. A promise just as sure as the promise given to Israel of Canaan. He calls upon, "We who are made partakers of Christ" to fear. What are we to fear? We are to fear that we might harden our hearts and refuse to obey his voice. We are to fear that we might miss his desires for our life.
We are to fear that our hearts might be deceived by sin into thinking something which is not true and preventing our entering into his rest.
There is a fear which every Christian should have and that is the fear of missing his will for our lives. Our enemy is very skillful in painting sin so we cannot recognize it as what it is.
We will see as we go through this chapter that the word of God (OT), was given that our heart, soul and spirit might be compared to God's word and we not get caught in this deceitfulness of sin.
This deceitfulness is very subtle. It will creep upon us and we will not known we have missed His rest until after His anger has been released against us as it was the people of God of old.
Another thing here under fear. We should fear lest we allow some little things to enter in and cause us to miss his rest. I believe there is more danger in little things hardening our hearts than big things.
The promised rest in Christ has been left for us. The danger we should fear is the danger of allowing sin to enter in and missing his rest. He has defined sin in chp. 3:7-19, as "believed not," or refusing to act on what he wanted them to do.
Notice what Paul says here in v. 1. Lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest. This will be confirmed as we go on through. Paul is addressing the Hebrew Christians. These Hebrew Christians knew the OT. They also well knew the history of the Hebrew race and especially what happened at Kadesh in their refusal to obey God, but notice what Paul says to them here.
He says that Canaan was not the promised rest. IT would be a picture of the promised rest, yet it was not that rest. V. 8, confirms that Joshua did not lead them into this rest. That means that even the rest spoken of in the OT was a spiritual rest of obedience to God and not the land of Canaan. Canaan was only a picture, only an illustration of this doctrine of rest.
Notice what Paul does once again in v. 7. He again calls David and Ps. 95:7-11 to their attention. There David tells the Hebrews of his day that there was a grave danger of loosing the rest of God. Through hardening of the hearts. He also spoke of the possibility of entering into this 'rest,' and he lived some 500 years after they came into the land.
Israel inhabited Canaan, yet this was not the rest of God. Only an illustration. Therefore there is no physical location or piece of land where this rest was or is or can be fulfilled. Israel was in Canaan, yet still had to seek that rest. If Canaan had fulfilled the promised rest of the OT then Paul would not have put Heb. 4:9 in here. There still remains a rest for God's people.
The Hebrews he is writing to are invited to enter into this rest just as sure as there fathers were. The danger still exists of missing this rest through unbelief as was the danger of their fathers. Notice the mar. of v. 11. Unbelief= disobedience. Hebrews is a book of obedience to the word and will of God.
Heb. 4:1. The promise of rest was not fulfilled in Canaan. The promise was still left for these Hebrew Christians. The promise is till left for all unto whom the gospel is preached. This promise is offered to every Christian now, v. 6. It was first offered at Kadesh and refused. Joshua led them into Canaan but this was not the fulfillment. His actions only illustrated what was to come.
V. 1, presents us with Paul's argument that there is a promised rest to God's people, yet we can fall just short of it. He will continue on with this for the next 12 verses or so as he presents his OT argument for this thought.
The word seem. This is a mild expression. Rather than out and out saying, "You missed it through unbelief," he says, "You seem to have missed the promised rest through unbelief, disobedience." Or, "You are on your way to missing this rest." I will use an expression like this to tone down my writing or speaking. This keeps it from being mistaken for an attack upon a particular person and then you let the Holy Spirit apply it.
4:2. Paul now points out that as sure as the promise was presented to the OT Israel of Kadesh, it is to God's people today. This was unquestioned and Paul takes it for granted. Look at what he says.
The word was preached to them, yet the word preached did not profit them---.
We can find this word which was preached unto them in Num. 14:6-9 and Deut. 1:29-36.
God had promised them a tremendous blessing and rest in Canaan, yet the preached word to his people was unprofitable. Why? (Heb. 4:2)
a. It was mixed with unbelief.
Today, why is the preached word unprofitable to God's people? Why is preached, word of none effect? Why won't the preached word work in peoples heart? Because it has no power?
a. Because people won't act upon what they know to do. Ja. 1:22; Heb. 5:14, doing what we know to do will give us more to know to do.
4:3. Paul goes on to tell of the rest in Christ as we who have believed do enter into rest. Those who have taken the step as Esther did, "This is what God wants me to do. I'll do it and if I perish I perish."
Paul says that he has entered into this place. Acts 20:17-28, we find him referring to this rest which he has found in knowing he was being obedient to God. The Hebrews at Kadesh could have found this same rest.
As I have sworn in my wrath---
I think here that a child of God can refuse to ear and obey God long enough that he will "lock" them out of the rest we are promised. I think we can put off his voice long enough that he will quit speaking to us.
I believe this can apply to the unsaved just as much. The voice of the Holy Spirit can be hardened against. To where he no longer speaks about our lost condition. I know of Christians today which are in this very fix. They have put off doing what God wants them to do for so long that I don't think He speaks to them any longer. They are hardened and on their way to destruction with no interest in the things of the Lord any longer.
I really don't know why he put this reference to the finished work of God and this sabbath in here. The only reference I can think of is that the work of Christ was finished from even before the foundation of the world. In the fact that it was established in the mind of God before he created the worlds. Therefore it was as good as done, though it still had to be accomplished in human history.
The finished work of Christ is there for the unsaved to trust in.
Also, the finished work of Christ is there for the saved to find victory in. The victory over the world, flesh and the devil which would permit our entering into this promised rest, (II Pet. 1:18-25). Follow the though of Peter on through.
Chp. 2, He talks about living above sin by the power of God, grace. Showing with our lives that we are a chosen, royal priesthood. Thereby influencing others for the kingdom. I just attended a meeting where the preachers were told over and over the only mission of Christ and therefore the church was to save the lost. He came to redeem his people, yet that is just the letter A of the alphabet. He came to show us how to live and give us the power to live it.
V. 4. He compares this rest with God's seventh day rest when he ceased from his work of creation. I think here we could have a picture of both resting from working for our salvation and more in line with the context, resting from having to work it all out on our own.
God no longer put forth his creation effort, but entered into a quit contemplation of his work, (Gen. 1:31). We can find this rest as we just give ourselves over to obeying his every desire for our lives. We can enter into this same rest.
V. 5. He keeps returning to this psalm, Ps. 95. This would be v. 11.
V. 6. The rest was first offered to his people who came out of Egypt at Kadesh, yet they refused to enter into the rest, "because of unbelief." They came right to the promise and refused to trust God and step over. Fear prevented obedience.
V. 7. Now Paul refers to David again and the 95th psalm. Now, this statement referred to here IS NOT made at Kadesh. It is made by David 400-500 years after Kadesh and David is warning God's people not to miss the promised rest in his day. They had been in the land for over 400 years at this time. This proves that the promised rest was not fulfilled when they entered Canaan or David would not have said this.
David considers the people of God still needing to enter into HIS rest in his day. Paul brings it forward to the church just as sure as it was for David's day and Joshua's day and Moses' day at Kadesh.
V. 8. Paul continues on referring back to David as David also refers back to Joshua and Moses. Paul says, "If Joshua had brought them into the promised rest then why did David refer to this rest again as still needing care to enter into."
V. 9. The rest still remained to be entered into David's day and in Paul's day and in our day.
VV. 10-11. I believe the rest he is referring to here is to quite walking after our own way and working for results and through a conscious effort, walk after his way according to his word by faith and leave the results up to him.
We will fall from that rest through unbelief, disobedience.
V. 12. I think this confirms this rest as being obedience to his word by faith. Because it does reveal the innermost being.
VV. 12-12., obviously go together. These show us that we cannot escape the notice of our God. Everything is revealed and open to him. All motives, hypocrites, beliefs, feelings, thoughts, in fact, ALL THINGS. We can name nothing which is not open to him.
The Word of God has access to everything. The reference here would be to anything which carries God's truth to us, whether the written word, spoken word, Christ, the Holy Spirit or whatever means God uses to speak his truth.
God's truth is all powerful and penetrating.
The idea here is that God's truth lays open the heart, mind and soul before him and for us. It lays out the truth is such a way it cannot be escaped, although many do try.
QUICK means alive as used in Eph. 2:1. It is not dead and still but alive and moving. It is alive and active.
POWERFUL contains the very power of God. It wakes up the conscience, alarms the fear; exposes the very inter-most secrets of the heart. It causes the sinner to tremble in the face of coming judgment. Its power has in the past turned the world upside down.
It has conquered kingdoms and established countries. There are no words which can describe what effect it has upon mankind.
'Sharper than any two-edged sword,' or an alternate reading here would be 'two-mouthed' sword. This speaks of a sword devouring all that is before it, such as in Isa. 1:20.
The word of God is often compared to a sharp sword or to arrows, Ps. 45. This speaks of its ability to cut deep and to the very heart. It reaches the very heart, the very center of action, it lays open motives and feelings.
The two-edge sword was common among the Roman armies. It made it easier to go into the victim as well as cutting both ways.
This sword goes so deep that it penetrates and divides the soul and spirit. The soul here is the animal life.
I think the spirit here is the new nature as we continue on with the thought of the saved entering into the rest of God. The 'soulish' life will prevalent the entering into this life of rest. The spirit life will allow us to enter in and the word of God is so sharp it will divide the two.
The soulish life would be the life which we live after our desires. We do something because we want to. This would be in every area: Control of temper, church attendance, staying out of bars, and controlling our language.
The spiritual life on the other hand would be doing something because God's word tells us to. The word of God is so sharp it can divide the two. I Cor. 10:31, we are not to even drink unless it is to his glory, in obedience to him.
Of course this also applies to the sinner. So sharp it can divide and kill what he is depending on other than God.
'Joints and marrow,' again, the illustration here is the complete penetration and separation with nothing escaping its penetrating power.
"discerner--," it exposes thoughts and intents of the heart. It exposes sin no matter how well it is hidden. It exposes motives. IT is TRUTH and exposes anything which is contrary to truth. This truth forces men to face facts.
This has overwhelmed me recently. People do not want to face facts and especially sin. They will harden their hearts and bow up like a old tom cat coming face to face with a dog.
They will try to run. They will try to hide. They will do whatever they have to do to keep from coming face to face with the truth.
This can get discouraging to say the least as you see people you love and have even led to the Lord become so defensive against the truth.
As you see them try to avoid or even escape the truth and go where the truth is presented in such a way that it is not so uncomfortable.
Very few people want to be confronted with the truth unless the truth will confirm what they want to believe or how they want to live.
I cannot get over it. I guess that's because I have always wanted to know the truth in matters. Then claim the grace of God to deal with it. At least I am willing to be made willing in matters.
Lam. 5:20-21, we need the Lord to turn some hearts to himself in response to the truth.
Now let me point out, this TRUTH is not like the truth we might find in a math book. In fact, truth and facts are two completely different things. Truth is the word of God and can only reflect God's word.
The TRUTH as found in His word has the very power of the CREATOR behind it. A person could confront truth (facts), and it have no affect upon him, but they confront God's word very long and they will be FORCED to do something sooner or later, (Jn. 14:16-Rom. 7:7, truth exposes sin).
This truth is like shining a bright light into a dark corner.
The context here in the rest, is that the word of God will reveal the Christian who is deceived or is a hypocrite and is unable to enter into this rest.
There are two points which need to be made:
1. The purpose of the word of God is to lay open the secrets of men. Nothing else will do it. It has the power of God in it to do this.
2. The truth should be preached in its entirety with this conviction. The word of God is to be preached and then the Holy Spirit will direct the knife into the area it is needed. Or he may use it to heal.
The word of God is to be preached and the results left up to him.
The best illustration of this verse is I Ki. 3:15-28.
V. 13. Follows the line of thought. The word of God lays everything open for us to see, yet he already knows what is there. It is all laid bare before him. Everything is exposed to him.
Now, this could lead to a problem. If you knew everything about me I would be fearful to be around you. God knows all about us. He knows our inabilities and sins which prevent our entering into his rest, yet notice v. 14.
Yes, he does know even those things that we hide so well from others and even from ourselves, but we can still come boldly before the God of truth, righteousness and justice. Why? Because we have a Great High Priest who knows exactly what we have and are going through.
Paul has already pointed out that he took on the nature of man not angels and here he refers to this. He shows us here one of the reasons why he took on the nature of man.
Remember what he is dealing with here. He is dealing with the old Hebrew priesthood and showing that the better Priest, Christ Jesus:
1. Know all about us, vv. 12-13.
a. No human can do this. Not even the Aaron priesthood.
2. He also has experienced every temptation we do, vv. 14-16.
a. Again, no man can say this. Each of us have temptations in different areas.
3. He is now in the heavens.
a. The human priest was stranded here. He did not have direct access to the Father, but only through the sacrifice.
4. He knows our feelings and infirmities.
a. The Aaron priest was still a man. He could still get very hard, cold and indifferent to people and their needs. In fact, he could not comfort them (inner comfort), in their infirmities. Christ can not only identify every infirmity, but he is "touched" by them.
b. Might mention here, his patience doesn't wear out. I can see someone fail and fall the first time and I may be touched by it. They pick up and go again and fail again, and fail even again.
This time I am not quite so 'touched' by them. This happiness several times and I'll say, "serves you right."
Our Great High Priest is not like this. No matter how many times we fail and fall, as long as we are willing to repent he is 'touched' by our infirmities, even 70 time 7.
Paul's encouragement here is to the Hebrew Christians who were being influenced to go back into the Hebrew method of worship. Paul says, "Hold fast your profession" of Christ. Don't give it up. He is so much more than the Aaron priesthood.
V. 16. Remember what he is building up to here.
1. Rest missed through unbelief, or sin. That sin may not be known to anyone and we may hide it very well also from everyone.
2. The truth of God lays it all bare. There is nothing hidden from him. This could cause us to give up.
3. He knows our every feeling and infirmity. He can identify with us. He knows about those things which lay hold and hinder us.
4. Leaves us with v. 16. Therefore, we can come boldly before the throne of grace to find mercy and grace in the time of need.
a. Remember the context. It is to find mercy, grace, strength, that we can obey God and enter into his rest.
b. Mercy and grace to deal with the problems of fear and discouragement which prevents our entering into his rest.
The old man will cause fear and doubts resulting in disobedience to his will, but there is mercy for the sinner and grace to overcome everything.
Ps. 103 is a good passage here. I am probably more thankful for this than anything. Also, Ps. 136.