September 7

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible

Introduction
Reading schedule

Luke 20:27-40; Hebrews 4:1-11; Proverbs 20:1-15; Isaiah 33

Hebrews 4 starts by warning against failing to attain God’s rest and ends with a call to make entering that rest a high priority. Because the Israelites did not enter their rest, they fell into disobedience and missed out on their promised blessings. For us to avoid a similar fate, we need to understand what this rest is and what is involved in obtaining it.

The writer of Hebrews uses three Old Testament passages to explain more about this rest. He has already been discussing the ancient Israelites who failed to enter the promised land. The original audience similarly had heard the good news (v. 2). But hearing the word of God is not enough; it must be responded to in obedience with faith. Joshua and Caleb did this, and they entered the promised land; the other Israelites did not combine their hearing with faith. They hardened their hearts, responded with disobedience and never received the blessings.

The discussion moves on to our response. While rest involves physical and emotional components, the beginning point is spiritual rest. This is available to us also, and we have a similar decision to make. The writer declares that those who have believed (past tense) are entering (present tense) God’s rest. God’s rest is not just a place we reach, but an on-going journey of experiencing God’s rest. The writer quotes Psalm 95 as it also examines Israel’s failure to enter God’s rest. God’s rest involves believing and trusting that God is the good shepherd who cares for and nurtures his flock. Resting in God means depending on him.

The psalmist sees the mountains and the sea and reflects on God’s greatness as Creator. This leads the writer of Hebrews (4:3-4) to think about God resting from his work on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). The spiritual rest available to us is similar to God’s Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:10). This involves completion, but not inactivity. God continues to act in this world and so should we. But often our activity turns to frantic fretting where we fail to find rest. We labour and strive, anxiously searching for contentment. When we rely on ourselves and our own ideas, we sometimes cut corners or walk on others. We may even cheat and deceive, thinking we have to do this to get what will make us happy. Yet more and more we find ourselves stressed out or burned out. The peace and contentment we seek is something God intended us to have, but it often eludes us unless we turn to him (Matthew 11:28-30).

The writer returns to Psalm 95 and its urgency. God calls each person to decide whether to enter his rest. For us, this offer comes through the biblical writers. God spoke through David when he wrote Psalm 95, thus affirming divine inspiration of the Bible (Hebrews 10:7). Through his Word, God offers us rest. We must respond, because some day it will be too late. The day after the Israelites turned away from the Promised Land it was too late for them to enter. If we harden our hearts against God, we miss our opportunity to enter his rest. And one day, when we die, this will have eternal consequences.

From this passage we can see that God’s rest is entered by obedience and faith: by believing God’s promises. His past activity (in Creation, in Israel, and in Christ) demonstrates his greatness, his goodness and his grace. Having entered his rest by faith, we live in his rest by relying on him, not ourselves, our activities, or our counsel. This is a life-long journey of coming to depend on him day-by-day. The end involves heavenly completion, but meanwhile we engage in a process of resting more in God which grants us true contentment and joy.

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