“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”
The Believers Rest
Chapter 3 of Hebrews ends this way, “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.”
The nation of Israel witnessed signs and wonders from God that none of us have ever experienced. They saw plagues come through the land of Egypt that were unequal to anything that had been experienced before. They witnessed the first Passover in which the people of Israel put the blood of a lamb on their door post to prevent the death of their firstborn son while the Egyptians suffered the loss of their firstborns. Israel then witnessed the parting of the Red Sea. God rained food on them every morning and He provided Israel quail for meat.
The signs and wonders they witnessed where extravagant and nothing a large group of people had witnessed before. What was also on display was the hardness of their hearts. Three days after the parting of the Red Sea Israel was complaining that they did not have water. The Lord then provided them a place with water. Israel then started grumbling against the Lord that they did not have anything to eat and began saying things like, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger – Exodus 16:3.”
That was the history of the nation of Israel in a nutshell. God would do awesome things, show them compassion, mercy, and provide for their very needs. God chose them to love, to be His people, and it still wasn’t good enough for them. This pattern followed them throughout their history. They would routinely be provided for by God; they would then return the favor with complaining and worshipping false God’s.
Why? It is because they didn’t believe. Hebrews 4:7 also gives us a clue as to what their disbelief looked like, “He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” It is a hardened heart problem.
A hardened heart is one that does not allow the truth of God to enter in and live with them. A hardened heart does not see and embrace the tender care of God. The Israelites saw awesome signs and wonders. They saw God in action up close and personal but they didn’t believe. God cared for them. One may say, “How could they not believe when God was with them?” They failed to see and adore the beauty of God. In essence they were saying they would have rather watched football. This is the nature of fallen man.
The author says they had the gospel preached to them just as we do. Exodus 34:6-7 explains what the Lord proclaimed when He passed by Moses; “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years with the Lord with them because they did not see this side of the Lord in all His actions. Most of Israel did not enter into that rest of the Promised Land because of unbelief.
How does unbelief and a hardened heart relate? Think about the attributes of loving-kindness, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and slow to anger. Unbelief and a hardened heart fail to see and embrace these truths of God in all He does. They see His works, they see His cross, they see His law, they see His provision, they see His Word, and they fail to experience the love, compassion, forgiveness and His slowness to anger. A hardened heart fails to understand that the Lord just wants to live with them, be with them, provide for them, and make them His people. A hardened unbelieving heart fails to see God who is love. A hardened unbelieving heart fails to experience the fullness of God. A hardened unbelieving heart is not born of His Spirit – John 3.
The fact is we are naturally no different. We get up every morning because of God. Everyday Jesus allows us to enjoy the blessings of family, breakfast, breath, a place to live, clothes, coffee, transportation, flowing blood, oxygen, friends, children, laughter and every other life enjoying blessings. He also shows us His judgment and wrath the death and destruction we see. These are all gifts from the Lord to proclaim Himself to us and we naturally fail in seeing Him and savoring Him in all things.
We are commanded to fear! That is what the writer is saying. It is ok to fear but as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ it is a never a fear of death and condemnation. It shouldn’t be. It is a fear of not believing. It is a fear of a hardened heart. It is a fear of not trusting, seeing, and savoring God in everything. When we see Him and savor Him we begin to rest. When we see and embrace His kindness towards us we begin to rest. We begin to rest as we trust in, “The Way, The Truth, The Life and all that He is for us – John 14:6.” We begin to say with the apostle Paul in Romans 8:28, “All things come together for the good for those who love God and are called to His purpose.” When we say truly that the Lord is so good to us undeserving souls we begin to rest.
Fear unbelief! You may believe that Jesus is God incarnate, the exact representation of His nature and the radiance of His glory but do you enjoy Him! Do you embrace Him as your God and the lover of your soul! Do you savor His presence! Do you desire to see more of Him! Do you dwell on His greatness and beauty! Are you satisfied with Him? If you are and are pursuing Him, you will begin to enter into that rest. The result of knowing and savoring and trusting Jesus is rest. If not, your life will be characterized by grumbling and complaining like the Israelites. Be diligent to enter that rest!
This is a tall order and only one that can come through the ability to repent and believe by the power of His Spirit. If you are one who desires this rest pray diligently that God would open your eyes to see His beauty and greatness in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our greatest endeavor is to enter this rest. Our number one pursuit is to enter this rest by loving and adoring God through Jesus Christ.