In Hebrews 3 and 4, our author has another warning to give us!
DO NOT FAIL TO ENTER GOD’S REST THROUGH UNBELIEF! (it happens)
Here is another Hebrew-Jewish concept—the ‘rest’. It’s a motif from the great story of God’s mighty rescue in the Exodus event. In that story, there is an ever repeated promise to the Israelites, of a safe, secure, and fertile land they could call home instead of being eternal wanderers.
Yet surprisingly (or perhaps, not so surprisingly) though they had witnessed God’s wonderful rescue from Egypt and enslavement, they failed to trust God and were not permitted to enter the promised land (the ‘rest’). They wandered and perished in their wanderings.
Our author sees this rest as a ‘type’ for Jesus’ followers to be at rest in Him and with Him and to have ended all our religious labours and strivings to be okay with our Lord God. It’s another way of explaining the glorious New Covenant of Jesus
He warns :
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:12-13).
Turning away from the living God—it can happen to any of us. So the Lord in His ever-wondrous design provision, has planned for us to be a member of his body, that is, we must be joined to a living body.
Did you know that the word member in times past always meant just that—part of a living human body? In fact this old meaning still survives in the word dismembered when we refer to someone having lost a limb.
Nowadays, the word member has changed so much that its use in biblical texts has become totally misunderstood and interpreted as having a name on a data base. That’s a deplorable loss. Membership in Christ’s Body is so much more than that.
For starters, it is the essential anti-fall-away remedy! Why it’s so important to be often in the company of cheerful brothers and sisters who look after one another—that’s true worship! It’s God’s design to grow us. Encouragement!
This community, like all the apostolic groups we find in the NT scriptures, did not have a pastor or priest, no professional Christians over them, a practice out of whack with Jesus’ new wine, the New Covenant. No, they were ALL responsible for the watching-over, for encouraging one another and the growth of one another.
They were reminded by the writer, as brothers and sisters—this is a family, like a household—to have continual and consistent contact with one another.
This had to be done in such a way that each could be encouraged daily not to fall away, that they would not fail to enter God’s rest, that freedom of the Spirit, that transforming grace that ends all futile attempts to be holy and instead brings God’s ways supernaturally rolling into their/our hearts and minds.
In so many ways, the wondrous work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ people can be blocked by clergy presence. The clergy/laity divide is an utterly foreign idea to these people of the apostolic period. It was a later addition and as a consequence, a subtraction, a declension, from God’s great design for our edification and growth into maturity.
We either continue in ignorance with traditions ignoring the word of God, or else we think we know better than God, we think our ways are more practical and efficient.
When I was a practising architect, to arrive at a building site and discover that the builder had “improved” on my design to change room sizes or window positions, was insulting and discouraging. How much more insulting and contemptible it is to God to ignore His great design for our growth into maturity.
And we must stick with His design plan while there is still a time that can be called “today.” If we don’t, sin may fool us. When we first became his people, we were sure about Christ, so let’s hold tightly to our faith and God’s plans until the end and encourage one another (13-14).
Our author reminds his readers that it is by faith that God’s people enter this wonderful rest—a state of assurance and joy with total cessation of striving to please God by what we do. Ceasing concern over whether we are good enough or that bad stuff, whatever that is, can keep us from the break.
Time to truly love God as he surely loves us. Here is another warning for them and for us too: Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
This ‘striving’ is a striving of faith, not of our efforts or our good works. To fail to believe, to trust him, is to disobey. It is to hold his wonderful design, grace and love in contempt. We will not able to enter His rest because of unbelief.
The promise to enter the place of rest is still good (chapter 4:1-11), and we must constantly take care of one another that none miss out. We have heard the message, just as those early Israeli pioneers under Moses in the desert did. But the many failed to believe what they heard, and the message did not do them any good. Only people who have faith will enter the place of rest.
We should do our best to enter that place of rest, so that none of us will disobey and miss going there, as they did (11).
What God says is certainly alive and active! His word is actually sharper than any kind of top quality sword. In fact, it can cut separately through our spirits and our souls and separate our joints and marrow, until it exposes the desires and thoughts of our hearts, to use the author’s surgical metaphor (12-13).
So you see, we can’t hide anything from God! He sees through everything, and we will have to tell him the truth, own up completely, one day.
So, it’s today, not tomorrow, dear friends, ‘cos tomorrow will never come, eh?