Hebrews 4

This devotional is written by Carla McGonagle.

Hebrews 4

A Sabbath-rest for the people of God
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

‘So I declared on oath in my anger,
“They shall never enter my rest.”’

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘On the seventh day God rested from all his works.’ 5 And again in the passage above he says, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’

6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it ‘Today’. This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.’

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Jesus the great high priest
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Reflection

In today’s passage, Hebrews 4, there are three main points that stand out to me.

The first one is in v16, where the writer encourages us all to ‘approach God’s throne of grace with confidence’. I like this image - Jesus is the great high priest; he is the king sitting on the throne. This verse reminds me of Revelation 4 which describes the throne in heaven. We are invited to enter the throne room and to approach the throne of grace. Jesus is there waiting for us, always ready to receive us. Anytime.

The second point that stands out is in v12-13 ‘For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow’ I really like this image of God zooming in to the joints and marrow level. God is forensic. It’s like he has x-ray vision, not only on the physical level, but the mental, emotional and spiritual levels too. He knows our attitudes and our intentions; he knows the reasons why we do or don’t do something. There are no secrets from God.

The third and probably main point of Hebrews 4 is the idea of ‘Sabbath-rest’. This letter was written to a group of Christians who were very familiar with the teachings of the Old Testament. There are many Old Testament references in Hebrews, one of these is the term ‘Sabbath-rest’.

What does ‘Sabbath-rest’ mean? We talk about the presence of God, of being filled with the Holy Spirit, of resting in the Spirit, entering a ‘Sabbath-rest’ is similar to this. In v11 the writer urges us to ‘make every effort to enter that rest’ which seems a bit paradoxical. However, it means taking the time to put God first, to set aside time to worship, to pray, to spend time with God. Or even better, live in that state of rest all the time, carry it with you throughout the day, live and walk in God’s tangible presence, practice the presence of God.

Have you had an experience of resting in God’s presence, of resting in the Spirit?

Think about this now … did you experience a sense of peace … a sense of freedom … a sense of love?

Pray

Lord we thank you for giving us rest today and every day. Thank you that we can approach your throne of grace with confidence. Thank you that we can come to you weary and heavy-laden and you will give us rest. Come Holy Spirit we pray.

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