Monday, December 9, 2013

The Rest of God - 1/2

For the past few days I have been reading Hebrews. I was chugging along, a chapter a day, until I reached chapters three and four. A lot in those chapters puzzled me. 

The writer introduces this idea of the "rest of God" in verse 3:11. The context is the following: God had refused the Israelites entry to the promised land "because of unbelief." The unbelief of the Israelites had kept them from entering into "the rest of God." We know that they were kept from the promised land, so it is interesting to note that God saw the promised land as a "rest" for the Israelites. Unbelief kept them from it. 

Starting in chapter 4, the writer makes an important connection. Just as the Israelites had the opportunity to enter the rest of God, we also have that opportunity. Just like unbelief kept the Israelites from the "rest of God," so can unbelief keep us from it. Note verse 4:2-3. 

The "rest of God" profits those who have it preached to them, and have it "mixed with faith." Meaning that the "rest of God" only has effect in our lives when "mixed with faith."
Hebrews 4:3 - For we who have believed do enter that rest...
The "rest of God" is an Old Testament parallel to the Gospel.

Pretty neat! God calls the gospel a "rest." No longer do we toil in effort to please or appease God, but instead rest on the fact that he has done all things necessary to please and appease Himself on our behalf. That is, the work of Christ on the cross, and His resurrection. Entering the "rest of God" is only possible because of Christ, and our faith in Him.

The writer uses two Old Testament examples to strengthen his point. 

He used the example of the Israelites entering the promised land. Have you ever noticed that the Israelites did nothing to enter the promised land? God delivered, clothed, fed, guided, defended and manifested Himself to the Israelites, despite their constant grumbling and disobedience. We, also, do nothing to enter the rest of God. It is a work of grace.

The writer also used the example of Creation. Have you ever noticed that God worked to create the entire universe, brought man into creation on the sixth day, and then rested. Adam did nothing, and yet enjoyed the labor of God as a rest. Man did nothing.

God did all things necessary for Adam, the Israelites, and us to enter "His rest."

Clearly there was work commissioned to Adam to subdue the earth, as it was also for the Israelites upon entering the promised land. However, the "works" that the author talks of is not work as a means to material gain. The "works" that the author is speaking of is work as a means of altering eternal standing before God.

Let us also not make the mistake and think that Christians are not called to work. We have much work to do, but this work is an act of obedience and love to our God. We need not "work" to alter our eternal standing.

Knowing all this, I then asked myself the following question: Rest from what?

Verse 4:10 is key in this idea. 
Hebrews 4:10 - For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Those who have entered the "rest of God" have ceased from works. As you can recall, "Works" mean a human effort to appease and/or please God. 

Just like God worked for 6 days, and then rested, we too, because of the grace offered to us, can enter that rest. We do not worry or toil over "work," because all "work" has been completed, and there only remains rest. God has worked, and brought us in on the "sixth day" to enjoy "His rest." We enjoy the fruits of His completed labor.

All the "work" has been completed, and surely, "it is finished."

- Jerry