Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
The Israelites of the Exodus failed to reach the Promised Land; only their offspring did, along with Joshua and Caleb. Two reasons are given for their failure. First, they did not respond in faith to what God told them (Hebrews 4:2). To hear God's Word is one thing; to accept it by faith is another. Second, they did not obey God (v. 6). Faith and obedience go together; there is no point in claiming to have faith when it is not demonstrated through obedient actions (James 2:18, 26). Paul writes, ″The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love″ (Galatians 5:6). Jesus connects this love with obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23), for true obedience is always rooted in love for God and neighbours. Because of their lack of believing faith and loving obedience, the Exodus generation did not enter God's rest in the Promised Land.
This lesson has continuing relevance for readers. ″The promise of entering his rest still stands″ (Hebrews 4:1). The rest that God promises has spiritual significance; it is ″a Sabbath-rest for the people of God″ (v. 9). It is connected with our salvation in Christ and echoes God's rest on the seventh day after His creation of the universe (v. 4). To enter God's rest is then theologically applied to resting from our own work (v. 10). The gospel of Christ offers us salvation and rest because we are saved not on our own merits but on those of Christ. Just as God completed His work of creation in six days, Christ has also done all that was necessary to save us, declaring, ″It is finished″ on the cross (John 19:30). All that is required of us is to trust Christ by turning to Him for our salvation. When we do so, we will find our rest (see Matthew 11:28-30).
It is easy to lose our rest-when we turn back from Christ to our former way of life. We will never find spiritual rest outside Christ. The terms ″none of you″ (Hebrews 4:1) and ″no one″ (v. 11) express the hope that all who hear will respond with faith and obedience. ″Make every effort″ (v. 11) suggests that sincerity and commitment are important; we must look for the perfect rest which is the culmination of the rest we begin to experience after placing our faith in Christ. It is serious business.
How can we respond in faith to what we hear? How can we fail to do so? What is God saying to you today?
We are saved by faith in Christ, but why is obedience important to demonstrate that we have faith? How can a Christian ″make every effort″ (Hebrews 4:11) to enter the rest that is found in Christ?