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. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God[b] would not have spoken of another day later on. 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.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
As the reverberating squall of our newborn daughter filled the hospital room, my wife gently responded with comforting tenderness, “Hi baby. Momma’s here. I love you.” The voice of motherly affection once muffled by the womb met our daughter’s freshly minted ears with distinct clarity. I witnessed in wonder our daughter stop crying as she looked in recognition toward her mother. This kind of security a newborn child has in her mother’s care is like a signpost to the deep soul rest basic trust gives in God’s loving presence. Hebrews 4:1-11 is an invitation to enter in.
The text preaches from Psalm 95 to give a warning and encouragement to those who have heard of the remarkably good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection (Hebrews 1:1-3). Like Israel in the wilderness, there remains the danger of disbelief. God powerfully delivered the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt yet disbelief lead to disobedience and disobedience to death—“They shall not enter my rest” (Hebrews 3:11). Are our temptations that different?
I have noticed in my social circles a common response to “How are you?” is “Good but busy.” Why is that? Certainly there are many good and necessary responsibilites to give attention to in daily life, but might our ceasless activities reveal a deeper issue? I believe much of our busyness is laziness turned inside out. It is the frantic attempt to fill an unconsious void of purpose and identity through restless doing. In our culture of stressful workism and anxious productivity, one day of rest in seven is a counter-cultural act of freedom in grace. While Israel failed to enter the blessing of God’s promises, there still remains a Sabbath rest for those with confidence in Jesus (Hebrews 4:3, 9-10).
The deep well-being of God’s loving presence is a personal invitation with cosmic scope. Sabbath rest is the culmination of creation (Genesis 2:1-3) and the glorious future of the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1-8). We enter God’s rest in the present not merely for me-myself-and-I but for the sake of the world. In a book titled Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn states, “A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us—not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives.” We can participate in good work with God on Monday in homes, offices, workshops, fields, hospitals, and classrooms because of the God-work we receive on Sunday. Rest is always personal but never merely private.
The ceasless wars, sicknesses, and death that plague our world leaves us longing for the true rest that can only be found in the one who said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Only those who believe in Him can receive a calm and quieted soul in security. The childlike freedom to play, imagine, create, laugh, dance, and learn is given as the fruit of trust. Even when suffering comes, we are free to cry in Jesus’s loving embrace. Rest then is God’s gracious invitation to become like a child finally secure in the pleasure of the one we were created to please. As our ancestor in the faith Augustine prays, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”