In this episode, we dive into Chapter Four of Hebrews. Here the author uses the word “finish” as a synonym to rest. The peace of accomplishment. The joy of fulfillment. Finishing the job means entering God’s rest, being at peace with Him and His Kingdom. Just like The Creator modeled for us in Genesis 2. The call of Hebrews is to be faithful and endure suffering in order to get to rest. There is no shortcut, no easier way.
Finish the job
So now, let’s look at chapter 4. And we’re going to talk about another phrase he uses for finish. He’s got so many different ways to talk about finishing in this book that it’s amazing. That’s mainly what he’s talking about: how to finish. Finish the job.
In this chapter, the phrase that he uses for finishing the job is to enter my rest. Now let me just show you before we read this so you have this in your mind, let me show you Hebrews 4:4: “For he has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’”
Where does that quote come from? Genesis 2. Creation.
So when Jesus was finished, what did he do? He stopped. Why didn’t he stop on the third day? He wasn’t finished. Why didn’t he stop on the fourth day? He wasn’t finished. He didn’t stop on the first day. He didn’t stop on the fifth day. He stopped after the sixth day because that was when he was finished. That’s the point here.
You stop when you’re finished, not half way between. That’s what he means by enter his rest.
So let’s just read it, and I’m going to propose this is real confusing if you read it like we typically read it; but I’m going to offer a way of looking at it that I hope will be enlightening.
“Therefore—” Therefore what? Let’s just go up to Hebrews 3:16. “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was he angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who did not obey?”
So we see they could not enter in because of unbelief. They didn’t finish. So they didn’t get the reward.
Hebrews 4:1-10. “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering his rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as he said, ‘So I swore in my wrath ‘They shall not enter my rest, although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.’
“For he has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this place: ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Since, therefore, it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience.”
“Again he designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today’ after such a long time as it’s been said: ‘Today if you would hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ For if Joshua had given them rest, then he would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered his rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from his.”
The Good News
So let’s look at a few things here. The first thing that can be confusing is the word gospel. Again, because of our Billy Graham-ish sort of immersion, we tend to think of Gospel only in terms of the four spiritual laws and new birth.
Obviously, the people who had the gospel preached first to them in this verse are who? “They had the Gospel preached to them as well as us.” Who is they? Israelites. At what point in time? In the desert. The Israelites in the desert. Was Billy Graham there? No. Do we know about any evangelistic crusades? Did anybody walk forward? Pledge cards? Have any Navigator studies? Follow up? Church attendance?
None of that was present.
What was the good news—and gospel just means good news. It’s a generic term. It’s not a technical term. And you can have good news about most anything. We got good news about our building. We’re going to get to move into it. That’s good news.
What was the good news that these people got in the wilderness? The land is yours if you’ll take it.
Now when did God give that land? He gave it to Abraham.
How long ago was that? 450 years earlier! He took Abraham up to the top of this mountain. He said look at all this. It’s all yours. I’m giving it to you—when? Right now. It’s yours right now. But it took 450 years before they took position of it, even though the grant had happened before.
So here’s the good news: I’m going to take you out of slavery in Egypt, and I’m going to give you a land to possess where you’re going to reign. You’re going to reign in this land. And I’m calling you to be a holy nation and a priesthood so that every nation that comes through this corridor of trade—there were two major trade routes that went right through Israel. It was like the world’s best toll booth. And every nation that comes through—all these people traipsing through—they’re going to see what it’s like to live the way I tell you to live. And that’s the way the world is blessed. Because this is all about restoration. And you’re going to be the ones who show it to them. If you’ll do what I ask you to do. And what I’m asking you to do is stay in the land and follow my word. And if you do, I’ll bless you so much your cattle won’t even miscarry.
That was the good news. And what they did with that good news we’ll look at a bit later. But the summary is they didn’t mix it with faith, and so it didn’t do them any good.
Now did God discard those people as being his people? Did he discard the people in the wilderness? “You’re not mine anymore.” No, he didn’t do that.
What did he do with the people in the wilderness? He provided for them. How did he provide for them? Bread from heaven. What else did he do? Clothes. In 40 years their clothes didn’t wear out. They didn’t have to go to Wal-Mart. They just had it.
And he gave them miraculous water, water from a rock in the middle of this wilderness. He cared for them. They’re still his people.
But they didn’t get to have the inheritance because the word wasn’t mixed with faith.
Now in Joshua we see that when Joshua had conquered the land, the phrase that’s used is, “And the land had rest.” It had rest from war.
There was a rest of Joshua because Joshua and his generation did take the promise, and it did profit them. But they didn’t completely finish the job. But they finished the part of the job that was theirs to do. So Joshua entered the rest.
But the author here, Paul, says there’s another rest. If that’s all there was, he wouldn’t have talked about another rest.
So let’s look at Hebrews 4:3, and this is the next confusing thing, “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” So that sounds like we’re there and we get it. “As he has said: “So I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter the rest.’” Which sounds like we’re not going to get it. So that’s kind of confusing, right?
“We who have believed do enter that rest, just like he said, you’re not getting it.” That’s kind of what that sounds like.
So here’s what I propose the answer to that little puzzle is: When you look at “as he has said,” don’t just look at the next sentence. What you do is you look at “as he has said,” you’re going to get a whole parenthetical. You have to look at the whole parenthetical. “For we who have believed do enter that rest.” Let’s do cling to that. That’s really important. We do enter that rest. Here’s how it works: “As he said,” and let’s take the whole parenthetical.
Point one: “So I swore in my wrath, ‘they shall not enter my rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” So he has finished his works and rested. But even though God has finished his works and rested, what is remaining to be done? For us to benefit from it.
He granted the land to Abraham, but what was remaining to be done? Him to possess it.
Verse 6. “Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter.”
So some are going to benefit from this and some are not.
Here’s the thing: The entering of the rest, the work, is not up for grabs. Now this is a huge point. It’s not up to us to determine whether all things are going to be restored or not.
Now I don’t know about you, but don’t you feel a little weight come of your shoulders when I say that? It’s not up to us who all is going to be saved and enter into the Kingdom and be new birthed.
God can use a rock if he needs to. He can use a donkey to give the message if he wants to. As a matter of fact, Romans says, “Have they not all heard?” Yes, they have all heard. “The Heavens declare the glory of God.” Nature is enough.
It’s not up to us. God has already finished the work. It’s a done deal. The world is going to be restored, and there’s going to be a new earth, and all things are going to be put right.
The big question is are we going to be his companions in making that happen? Are we going to participate? Are we going to follow his example and get the glory and honor that he wants us to have, along with him because we did it with him? That’s the question. Are we going to benefit from it?
The question wasn’t “Is Israel going to be occupied by the Jews?” The question was “Are you, this generation, going to be the ones that do it?”
The word mixed with faith.
What’s your point? “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest—” To finish. To do what God’s asked us to do. “—lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
What example of disobedience are we talking about? Israel in the desert. “For the word of God is living and powerful, 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.”
You can’t use a substitution here. You can’t use some sort of a game here to fake this. God knows. He knows our heart.
“And there’s no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” He’s looking.
If every transgression and disobedience received a just reward in the Old Testament, how much more do you think now that Jesus is the one speaking?
Well, it’s a little overwhelming. So he then says, “Seeing then we have a great High Priest―” He introduced the High Priest in Hebrews 3:1. So since we have this great High Priest “who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus the Son, let us hold fast our confession.”
Remember Psalm 110 that we looked at. Jesus is the Son. The Messiah is the Son, and he’s also the High Priest. And the High Priest is our passage way to get through all of these problems that we have.
Examples of Disobedience
So let’s look at this example of disobedience that we don’t want to follow.
It actually says in the Old Testament when God says OK I’ve had enough. Your generation doesn’t get to go in. He says, “You know. You’ve tested me ten times.” And I think that’s really telling us two things. You can find places in the Bible where it says, “Ten times you’ve done this.”
“You’ve changed my wages ten times,” Jacob says.
And I think we’d say something a little different. We’d say, “I’ve told you this a million times. It’s a way of saying, “I’ve repeated this over and over again.” So I think that’s part of the meaning.
But it’s interesting that actually God gives us ten specific examples where the children of Israel disobeyed.
So let’s just go through some of these and look at them because we don’t want to follow this example. We do not want to follow the example of disobedience; we want to follow the opposite. We want to follow the High Priest.
Let’s look at Exodus 14:10. This is the first example of disobedience. “And when Pharaoh drew near—the children of Israel lift up their eyes, and behold the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there are no graves in Egypt, have you taken us to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?’”
God had miraculously delivered them from Egypt. Ten plagues. The plagues hit the Egyptians and not them. They get lavished with gold and silver, and they stuff their pockets full of it, and they leave Egypt, and they’re all happy. They get to the edge of the Red Sea. They turn around and there’s an army there, and their response is what?
“Why did you do this to— Whose idea was this? Moses! You’ve got to go, Moses. You’re way off base here. This is not what we signed up for.”
Now do you, in your life, ever find yourself in a position that you didn’t really want to be in? And what’s your reaction? Do you blame anybody? Do you blame God? This is the example of disobedience we don’t want to follow.
Let’s go to the next one. Exodus 15:22. “So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out to the wilderness of Shur.” Now they just saw them delivered from the Red Sea. He parted the Red Sea. They got across. They’re delivered from Pharaoh.
“They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.”
You can put yourself in these people’s shoes. I’ve actually been to the wilderness they wandered in for 40 years, at least that’s what they think. And let me tell you, if there’s a flat spot big enough to put your whole foot without stepping on a rock, I don’t think I found it. It’s just rocks and rocks and more rocks, and there’s just hardly anything living there.
So it’s three days and they go and say, “Water! Oh thank goodness!” And they run up there, and they look at the water, and it’s bitter. So what would you call that? You’d be really disappointed, right? And when you feel disappointed, what do you do? “And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What are we going to drink?’ So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it in the waters, and the waters were made sweet.”
When you’re disappointed, what do you do? Do you complain? This is the example of disobedience we don’t want to follow.
Let’s look at the very next chapter (Exodus 16:1). “They journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai, the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt.” So they’re out 45 days or something.
“Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, ‘Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out in this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’”
What would you generically call this? Whining. And why are they whining? They’re comparing their old life with their new circumstances. “Back in the good ol’ days we had it so wonderful.”
Now what are they forgetting? Slavery. They were slaves. They were working seven days a week making bricks, and their male children were being killed. But all they’re remembering is we used to sit by pots, and they had meat in them.
Let’s go on down further in Exodus 16:17. So God gives them Manna. And they went out and gathered the Manna, “some more, some less. So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he that gathered little had no lack. Every man gathered according to each one’s need. And Moses said, ‘Let no one leave any of it till morning.’ Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank.”
What are they doing here? Hoarding!
Does anybody watch those things on TV, the hoarding deals where people fill their houses full of stuff. What is that? Trying to meet your own needs. It’s actually trying to meet your own needs by being in control of something.
What do you do with your money? What do you do with your possessions? Do you hoard them? Are you trying to make your life better in the future by holding on and clinging to your possessions?
Maybe it’s not just material possessions. Maybe it’s a relationship. A person.
This is an example of disobedience that we don’t want to follow.
Trust God in all circumstances
What do you notice about these examples?
Aren’t they all every-day life type things? You notice none of these things are limited to church-type stuff? There’s nothing in here about volunteering for Sunday School. We can probably fit it in here some place. There’s nothing in here about church attendance, although I think there’s probably a connection with something. This is a holistic—very holistic of life these things.
And the answer to every one of these things is not going to be to get out of the problem. God gave them these problems. The difficulty is the way that they address the problem. How did they address the problem? They tried to control their own circumstances, right? They tried to make it better. They thought they knew best.
And all through this book the answer is going to be the same: The way you get through problems, the way you get through difficulties is to approach the throne of grace to find help in time of need. Why? Because that’s where the High Priest is. And he went through all this stuff. He knows what you’re going through. He has immense empathy with what is transpiring in your life, and he will help you get through it.
But he’s not going to help you get through it by making things comfortable for you necessarily with circumstances. What he’s going to do is help you get through it by cleansing your heart of junk.
The Jews had—we’ll see this in chapters 9 and 10. We can’t repeat it too much. They Jews had a ceremony where they’d go in once a year and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. It was for sins committed in ignorance.
And Paul says Jesus actually did that for us in the real temple in Heaven. He’s there. He opened the way for us to go in ourselves rather than having a person go in for us. We don’t need his blood sprinkled for sins because he did that once for all.
What we need it for is to have our conscience cleared so we can do good works.
And this access to the High Priest, this dependence on Jesus, the author of our salvation, the captain of our salvation. The first and the last. The beginning and the end. The one who has the reward in his hands. The one who wants to lead us to glory as one of the many sons.
Not trying to control our circumstances. Not complaining. But looking unto him. The joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down. He was crowned with glory and honor. That’s who we approach to find grace to help in time of need. This is the answer.
The alternative is to follow this appetite-driven, complaining, all-about-me, childish approach to life. That’s the example of disobedience.
It’s a word of exhortation to friends. Why? Because he’s mad at them. No, he’s not mad at them. Why? Because he is condemning them? No, he’s not condemning them. Why? Because he wants what’s best for them. They’re his friends. He wants them to hear, not to be hard of hearing, so that they can gain the most benefit from life.
What we’re talking about here is fulfillment. We were made to live at a very high level of stewardship. And there’s a path to get there. It’s a heroic, adventurous, amazing life; and he doesn’t want us to miss out on it. And the way we miss out is following our own fleshly ways. And the way we get there is through the high priest.