Hebrews, chapter 4, deals with the Sabbath rest and our respect for it. This commandment is given to us by the One who himself took rest from his labors on the 7th day. We are called on to imitate him, to rest from our labors. But it is more than a rest from our daily labors too, isn’t it. We are to rest, to quiet ourselves, to go apart from the world, in order to spend time with the Lord, the One who created all things, visible and invisible, before whom we stand before naked and exposed, and to whom we must give our account.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews is pulling out all the stops here for his fellow Jewish readers. He is reminding them of what they have known from their own scriptures for countless generations. He is revealing to them, through the prism of their faith traditions. The commandment for a sabbath rest was well known to them, but they, like ourselves, would have found that its observance was not always kept as it should be.
But it is a larger promise that is involved here in this commandment too. “The promise of entering into the eternal rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” (verse 1). The Pauline author reminds them that the good news had come to us (Christians) as it had to their ancestors, but they had not benefited from it, because they were not “united by faith with those who listened, for we who have believed enter into that rest” (verse 3)
Here we encounter a very stark message too. Some will not enter his rest, because of disobedience. The author reminds them of David’s words in the Psalms, “If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:8). We are all challenged to hear the voice of the Lord, to hear his commands and to keep them. The world has a way of hardening our hearts, though, just as it did the hearts of the Hebrews in their wanderings in the desert, and on other occasions. It is not easy to remain strong in the faith. This is why honoring the sabbath rest is so important for us. Verse 11 of chapter 4 really challenges us. We are reminded that, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Rest, then. Honor the sabbath. Know that even the Lord rested and calls us to rest with him.
Lord, help us to keep holy the sabbath so that we might come to rest with you forever in your eternal kingdom. Strengthen us in faith, hope, and love, so that we may always remain faithful to you. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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