. . . even though this rest has been ready since he made the world.
We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day:
“ON THE SEVENTH DAY GOD RESTED FROM ALL HIS WORK.” Genesis 2:2
But in the other passage God said, “THEY WILL NEVER ENTER MY PLACE OF REST.” Psalm 95:11
So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:
“TODAY WHEN YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DON’T HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.” Psalm 95:7-8
Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labours, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.Hebrews 4:4-11
You will see I have divided our remaining segment into two sections. I have left the last clause of verse 3 above the quote of verses 4 to 11. I have also highlighted several segments to assist you in picking up on the main thrust of this second segment. The writer of Hebrews is helping us to see that despite the oath God made after dealing with the rebellious Israelites, the message to the Jewish Christians in his day and also to us in our day is that God has made His rest available since the foundation of the world. Following the LORD’s frustration with the recalcitrant Israelites in the wilderness, the statement in David’s time is that God’s rest is still there for people to enter. God set another time for entering His rest. Then the writer of Hebrews caps it off by saying again “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labours (work). . . So let us do our best to enter that rest.” Is it clear to you yet? You don’t have to do the work; he has already done it for you. You just have to rest in His rest and appropriate the benefits.
The writer of Hebrews has made it clear to those of us who follow God’s Messiah (the Christ child) that God’s intention for His people is for us to enter the rest He laid for us when He made the world. His intention has always been that His rest would always be there for His people to enter. It is clear it was true in David’s day. It was true in the author of Hebrews day and it is true in our day in the 21st Century. It has always been true and will continue to be available. It was even true in the time in the wilderness. We have seen ‘the rest’ was even hidden in the names of the places they came to. But God in his fore-knowledge knew how they would respond.
There are some questions we must ask of the text before we can fully understand it. For instance, why does the writer talk of “a place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day”? Then the reference to “another time set in David’s day”? What does that mean? Why does he refer to ‘somewhere it is mentioned’, when we must assume someone who knows his Old Testament so well, must know where the reference is? It is a well known verse. It all seems so vague, yet it’s coming from one who quotes other portions accurately.
Secondly, there are the repeated references to “today” set in the days in the wilderness. There is the reference to “today” set in the time of David’s day and finally “today” set in the time frame in which the writer is writing the letter to the Jewish Christians before the persecution of Nero begins. Why all these references to “today” in the midst of indistinct settings? Many have questioned ‘what is the certain day’ In verse 7, he appears to be talking of a certain day set at a time when God appointed for them once more to enter His rest? Why are there all these certain vague time settings? It has confused Bible readers and experts for a long time. What are these certain days in the course of history? And why are the Scripture references general and vague when in fact there are clear verses that are being referred to? Why all this vagueness about certain days?
I could answer these questions in the way that the commentators and bible experts do by discussing the options of what days could be meant or discussing why distinct references to Scripture are not used. For instance the discussion regarding the references to the prime Psalm that is in focus here which we have been focused on for a number of Gems is Psalm 95. The issue of “somewhere in Scripture” arises out of the Greek word [pou] meaning “somewhere”. Commentators have said it’s likely because the author has three verses in mind as possible references (Genesis 2:2, Exodus 20:11 or Exodus 31:17. So he wrote “somewhere in Scripture”. Oh really, is that the reason?
Others grapple with the reference to David’s day questioning as to why the certain day in David’s time was left vague. Was it even a Psalm of David? Some commentators point out the lack of clarity as to whether it was David who wrote the Psalm or one of the other psalmists. The authorship of Psalm 95 is a little confusing; it was anonymous in the Massoretic Text (MT) but the Septuagint (LXX) refers to the Psalm as a psalm of David. There is discussion among the commentators as to whether the indefiniteness of Hebrews 4:4 , which is not found anywhere else in the New Testament, stems from the influence of Philo or the practice of the rabbis.
But maybe we should approach this vagueness another way. The text says God set [horizo] – ‘determined’, ‘appointed’, fixed a certain day. What does that mean when it seems so hard to determine what specific day is meant. Simply because we need to look at it a different way. We humans seem to want to know the specific day so we can be ready. Surely, the meaning of this string of “todays” stretched over long periods of time suggest that God’s appointed time for us is always TODAY. We don’t set the day; God does. If we don’t respond when God is at work, convicting us of our need to respond and submit to Him, when will we? I have told you in Gem 1656 of a time when God did something spectacular in sending me home early from a geography conference I was attending. It was one of those moments I knew I needed to respond and ask questions later.
Isn’t that exactly what the writer to the Hebrews is explaining in this passage? There is indeed an indefinite definiteness to when God sets the day for you and me and anyone else He chooses. Don’t spurn your day of hearing God’s voice. I can think of times when my heart was beating fast and my ears were ringing. My body was advising me that God was speaking to me but to my shame I chose to ignore it and claim that I would respond another day. I imagine that we have all done that. I did it when I had opportunities to accept God a couple of times before August 19th 1973, but I passed them by. I even said to George Curle on Sunday night August 19th 1973, “No George, I am not a faith person. I operate on the facts, not faith.” He said, “Ian, everyone is a faith person. God will never give you all the answers. He will always leave you a faith-gap short.” I am convinced God brings us to the point of us knowing we have to make a decision. The moment is left hanging for us to decide if we will respond or not. What will you do? This is your moment to choose to follow Jesus. You know it, He knows it, but the issue still remains what will you do?
I can think of many times I have known people or heard of people who have come to the brink of decision only to turn away and say something like that Iranian man I told you about in Gem 1855. Don’t leave yourself being almost persuaded and pass the moment by. I know a person we had been talking to over months about Christianity with many late night sessions into the wee small hours. A number of times she seemed close to the point of decision. Then one day she told us she had been sky-diving and her main chute had not opened. She desperately tried to reach her reserve chute but couldn’t get to the toggle which was stuck out of reach up her back. She told us. “I thought: this is the moment that most people would become a Christian but I am not going to.” At that moment the main chute toggle came into her hand again. She pulled it and her main chute opened on that pull. There are times we can wilfully resist God’s moments of decision. We have all done it it to one degree or another but perhaps never that defiantly.
I am going to let slip another gem from Deeper Bible 201. It just seems the appropriate moment. It is interesting in the context of Luke 15 that there is the refrain – “And great was the rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” Yes the element is repeated at the end of the sheep segment and again at the end of the coin segment. But where does it actually belong? It belongs at the end of the son segment. Sheep (unless they are figurative ones) don’t repent. Coins can’t repent but sons certainly should. Notice it is not there for the son segment. Why not? Question: Did the elder son repent? Did Esau repent as the parallel to the elder son in ‘this parable’? Well actually the writer of Hebrews gives us a clue. Look in Hebrews 12. What then is ‘this parable’ waiting for?
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.Hebrews 12:15-17
Do you understand that we think we are the ones in control? We decide the day we will respond to God or not. But that is a fallacy; it is not true. God sets the appointed time. There are many times in Scripture where that principle is made clear. I will leave you to find them for yourself, it might drive the point home in a clearer way. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews has made it clear three times in this section that God is the one who sets a certain day, calling it ‘today’. Why is it called “today”? Look at Gem 2076 for the answer to that question. Respond to your racing heart and pounding ears and invite Jesus into your life while you still have the chance. You do not know the day appointed for the end of your days on this earth. I know of many who, like the woman sky-diver, have put the moment off only to find that was their last moment to decide because it is God who gives you the opportunity to truly repent and not you yourself. Many have rejected the moment and died soon after. Respond to Him while you still can. When you hear God’s voice, or when your body is telling you God is speaking to you – don’t harden your heart! Rather respond to His voice and enter the appointed rest.
REST in That Certain Day; Don’t wRESTle.Ian
When God sets our spirit free then our emotions and body begin to fall in line. We determine how long the process takes by our submission or resistance.Bob Gass
What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely.Franklin P. Jones
Don’t allow the noise of the world or the indications in your own body let you miss your God-given moment of decision.Ian
If you oppose what God intends to bring to pass then you pit yourself against the One who formed the heavens and the earth by His words.Ian
not sure I should ask this given what i have just read but i am going to anyway. “….there remains a sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9) LITV. Does God’s rest mean we should refrain from our labours on the sabbath or is this rest our physical death?
I think if you put this Gem together with the sermon by John Tucker then you will be able to answer your own question Ross.
or is it the moment we accept Christ as Saviour and Lord?
Yes, what is the moment that we enter into our rest? It is fair to say that it is different for each person. Some may well commit their lives to Christ but yet not enter into their rest until some years later.