1Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened … 8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
I have often joked, as you know, that pastors are always busy because there is no rest for the wicked. But we are not alone in our restlessness. It is a pandemic of our modern world that people just cannot seem to find rest. Too many worries, too many obligations, too much to complain about … no rest for the wicked. And while we might be tempted to side-step it all as just so much cliché the writer of Hebrews continues to show us through the real-world example of ancient Israel that this is no laughing matter.
After showing us the need to take care lest we be led by unbelief and ingratitude to wind up wasting away in the desert of Sin, like the people of Moses’ day did. The holy writer today follows the fortunes of those who did not die in the wilderness but followed Joshua into the promised land. Yet even here, where success is snatched from defeat, no real rest was found. The Promised Land was only a shadow of God’s true and lasting promised rest. Joshua conquered the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Hivites, Girgashites and the Perizzites, but could not bring rest or peace to his people.
No matter the changing tides of success or misfortune in this world and life, there can be no true or lasting rest outside of that which only God can give. Rest doesn’t come from reaching retirement, or gaining the right frame of mind. And it certainly doesn’t lie in the hands of any earthly government or leader to promise. True rest comes in the second Joshua (Jesus) who conquered sin, death and the devil, delivering His people from the wilderness of mankind’s sin. Jesus gives rest from the accusation of the Law. True and lasting rest found in the forgiveness of sin and peace with God. This land of perfect rest is fulfilled in Christ who gives us an eternal home. The very place He has already prepared for those who belong to Him in this restless age.
4For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” … 9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
God’s rest has existed from the foundation of the world, so His people throughout time have been free to enter His rest and peace. Creation was fully completed in 6 days evening and morning following one after another. That is until on the seventh day, on the Sabbath, God rested. And here in Genesis the pattern of evening and morning stops for God rested with a rest that extends throughout time. A rest that remains open-ended for His beloved children. A rest can only be fully understood in Christ.
Mark 2:27-28 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Just as the promised land is a shadow of the heavenly rest to come under our conquering Christ, so is the Sabbath Day a shadow of the One in whom the only true and lasting rest can be found. (Rev 14:13) And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors” A perfect rest to come – an eternal rest that cannot be broken or lost. But also a rest for us even here and now, even in the midst of our stresses, and business and fears. (Mtt 11:28-29) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
And that is why the observance of a Sabbath Day is so vital to those who can find so precious little rest in this world. For the Sabbath was made for the Son of Man, that He might give His hard-earned rest to restless souls. Every single Sunday the Church of Christ gathers under Jesus the Great High Priest to receive again that forgiveness, life and salvation which are the only true and lasting peace. Each and every Lord’s day the benefits of Christ’s work completed in His life, death and resurrection, are once again received by faith and handed out in the Gospel proclaimed and in the Sacraments rightly administered.
12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
The Sabbath is for hearing God’s Word especially the Gospel and for drawing near to God in and through Christ! Note the epithets for the Word: living, active, sharp, piercing, judging. For us believers these are comforting words but for the unbelievers, terrifying words that expose and pierce the prideful heart. The Word enters, permeates and transforms hearts and lives for true peace and rest.
We are weak and restless and this make us an easy target for Satan’s temptations. Like the Israelites we are tempted to grumble and complain, to take shortcuts, and listen to those other than God. We simply are not ready to stick things out for as long as God sometimes requires. But the more we seek that rest on our own terms the less we find. But Jesus knows the temptations of the restless heart. He knows, but He is no longer being tempted. He’s been there – literally. He knows what it is like. And He knows what you need to find that rest you are looking for. And He offers it for free. Right here, every Sunday.
11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience … 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When life begins to overtake you again, and you are tempted to consign yourself to no rest for the wicked, remember and return to your Baptism. Renounce again, in the love and protection of your ever-living and loving God all sin and evil – which will not let you rest and trust in God’s mercy through Christ who has prepared our eternal rest.
Our Father does not want us to be afraid of Him. God is a King. But His rulership is not merely might. It is one of grace, unmerited kindness. At His throne of grace we obtain mercy and find grace. Mercy is His attitude toward the restless. Grace is His attitude toward the undeserving. There is no rest for the wicked, unless that rest is in Christ Jesus our Great High Priest and Sabbath Rest. 3For we who have believed enter that rest,