Recall, also, that the "rest of God" was entered in by "belief" alone. "Gospel..... mixed with faith." (Heb 3:2)
Let us examine further the main example that the author of Hebrews uses to make his point. He spoke of the Israelite nation, and their journey to the promised land. God had laid out a rest for them in this land "flowing with milk and honey." The entry of the Israelites into the promised land was blocked because of their lack of faith. (Heb 3:18) In many cases, the story of Israel can reflect the story of a Christian.
The Israelites crossed the Jordan, and entered the promised land. Immediately, they began conquering city after city. God had provided all things necessary for victory, but victory was fought for, and conditional upon the obedience of the Israelites.
I want us to see this.
Jericho was conquered because of the explicit obedience of the Israelites (Joshua 6). Victory was therefore attributed to God alone. It was not because the Israelites had an impeccable army.
Read the next chapter: Joshua 7 - Immediate defeat.
Achan, one man, disobeyed God. As a result, the Israelites were defeated. Notice also that the city of Ai was small compared to Jericho, yet because of the disobedience of one man, there was defeat. The people of Israel were then in turmoil. "...the hearts of the people melted and became like water." (Joshua 7:5)
The "rest" was disturbed by disobedience.
How crucially God takes this matter of obedience. There was no rest because there was no obedience.
Think of Adam and Eve. Think of Jonah. Think of Saul and the Amalekites. Think of Bathsheba. Think of Samson. Think of Absalom. Think of Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. Think of the rebellion of Korah. Think of Balam. Ringing a bell?
The rest of God was nullified when there was no obedience. It's not that His power was defeated, or that the rest of God was no longer available, but rather that God was unwilling to work with a people that did not obey.
He set the terms for entering His "rest," so he also sets the terms for it's continuance.
The same can be said of the believers relation to God.
Because of faith, we have entered the rest of God. His provision for victory, comfort, guidance, protection, peace and so much more has been made available to us; and His providence will never leave.
However, like the Israelites, we have the tendency to disobey. However small the disobedience, it has the potential to interrupt peace with God.
The work of God is nullified when there is no obedience. It's not that His power is defeated, or that the rest of God is no longer available, but rather that God is unwilling to work with a person that will not obey.
Let me be clear. I do not mean to say that disobedience severs our relationship with God, or makes the Gospel of no value. Not at all. Disobedience does, however, disturb fellowship with God.
Christ set the terms for entering His "rest," so he also sets the terms for it's continuance.
There is blessing in obedience. (John 13:17)
Take note of John 13:22-24.
John 13:22-24 - Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.
We Abide in Christ when we obey. Christ compels us to abide, for then we will bear fruit. There is fruit in obedience. Apart from obedience, there is no fruit.
What I see in Hebrews 3 - 4 is the working of God to make available for us a rest. A provision for us to be at peace with Him, and to enjoy all that comes as a by-product. He provided the same for the Israelites. Yet there is something that threatens this peace, and that is disobedience.
There is spiritual stagnation in disobedience. I don't have to tell you that many Christians live their lives destitute of fruit because of disobedience. You have surely witnessed it.
Hebrews 4:11 - Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
The Israelite forwent so many blessings because of their disobedience. Can the same be said of us?
We like to quote the following verse, but reading it in context sheds new light on it's original intent.
Hebrews 4:12-13 - For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
We are all naked before the Word of God. Nothing can hide, and all disobedience will be portrayed.
We must be diligent to enter the rest of God, which is first entered in by faith, and then continued in by constant obedience. Submission of our will to the will of God; therein we find rest.