Journal Heb 4 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “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 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.” Heb 4:1 and 10-11
Observation: When you see the word “therefore”, you have to see what it is there for…
Analysis: Fear, a powerful motivator. Seems out of place with how Christianity is presented today. Yet, the Bible cannot be read without running into this word from time to time.
The Writer continues to tell the story of Redemption, focusing on Israel. In Chapter 3, God redeemed Israel from Pharaoh and Egypt, leading them through the symbolic baptism of the Red Sea with Moses at the lead.
After the disobedience at Sinai (throwing a dance in honor of a golden cow), God gave them to wander around for 40 years—and not letting Israel enter “his rest” (Canaan) until that generation was gone, kaput, not around anymore. That is the “promise of entering his rest” reference in Verse 1.
What about the second part? If I read the sentence carefully, I see the following:
- Entering God’s rest equals resting from my works (just like God did from his).
- Being driven, striving to enter that rest seems to be given and expected.
- There is a potential of failure inherent in this process.
If someone reads this differently, I would like to know. But it is how the sentence is constructed.
So, to “enter His rest”, one must rest from his (the individual’s) works. In other words, my works are not the value transacted to gain His rest. “All my works are as filthy rags”, says Paul. No value, not the “key” to enter the rest of God. So, stop working?
No, of course not. Strive to enter His rest—must expend effort to enter the Rest of God. Introspection and review of the Gospel is the key here. The “Awe” of the Gospel, not just mental alignment of the Gospel, is what “renews my mind and heart.” (Ro 12:2) I start reacting like I have to do something to gain “favor” with God, are the steps to the “path of destruction” and the wandering of Israel.
Can I fail? The Word insinuates that so it must be true in some respect, it is a theological speed bump. Separating God’s Sovereignty from Human Responsibility for a moment, His love is everlasting, no question. He is for us, not against us, etc. etc., but my RESPONSIBILITY is to respond to Him—starting with, not obedience to His instructions, but to KNOW Him and His ways.
I have to carve this theological pie into slices because Knowing Him is systematic. Of course, obedience to His command is important. Of course, the spiritual disciplines are important; of course, doing what is expected is important—but it is not the Fullness of God.
“I will be your God” is what God told Israel. Everyday I awake, I have to ask that question of myself and affirm “You, O Lord, are my God. You have said, “seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”” Ps 27:8
Prayer: Father, help me to truly fear You in the context that you mean. Help me to not put my own spin on it to make me feel better about myself. Install in my heart a holy fear.