God’s rest stop
Resting in God's peace1 God promised to welcome his people, our ancestors, into a place of rest. God stands by that promise yet today. So, don’t miss out on it. 2 We heard the good news from God. So did they, but it didn’t do them any good. They didn’t put any faith in what they heard. 3 Those of us who believe get to go into God’s place of rest. Unbelievers won’t. As he once said,
“I became angry.
So, I made a promise.
‘They’ll not rest in peace at my house.’”
“By dawn of Day Seven, God finished his work. He rested. No work that day.”5 But he also said,
“They’ll not rest in peace at my house.”6 4:6. There are people who need the rest God offers. Some who heard God’s messages in the past decided not to do what he wanted. They didn’t make it into God’s resting place. 7 So God selected another time. That time is now. Through the ancient words of David, he says to us what he said to our ancestors long ago.
“If today you hear his voice,
don’t stubbornly ignore it.”
11 People, let’s do everything we can to make it into that rest. If we’re not careful, someone might miss out for the same reason our ancestors did: they disobeyed God. 12 God’s word isn’t lazy or dead. It’s on the job, very much alive. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it can split the unsplittable: spirit and soul, joints and bone marrow. It cuts all the way into the heart, revealing everything we feel and think. 13 In all God’s creation, there’s nothing that can hide from him. He sees everything exactly as it is. He’s the one we’ll face when it comes time to explain the choices we made in life.
Jesus gets us, as one of us14 We have a great high priest representing us in heaven now: Jesus, the Son of God. So, let’s keep holding onto the faith we profess. 15 Our high priest gets us. He understands why we feel the way we do and how we struggle with our weaknesses. He was tempted like we are, in every way. He made it through, without sinning. 16 So let’s go confidently to God, remembering he reigns on the Throne of Kindness. When we go there for the help we need, we’ll find kindness and mercy.
Joshua and his invading Jews didn’t conquer all the Promised Land. After the initial drive into Jericho and the surrounding region, Joshua divided the land among the tribes and assigned each tribe the task of conquering their own plug of ground. The tiny tribe of Dan got coastal land where the warrior people known as Philistines settled. Dan couldn’t handle the Philistines. So, they packed up and moved north, into the foothills of Mount Herman. Jews weren’t able to tame the Philistines until King David came along. In time, the Philistines became assimilated among the various groups of people living in the region—Jews and non-Jews.
It’s unclear what the writer meant by what is more literally translated “divide soul from spirit.” Some scholars use this passage to argue for a distinction between soul and spirit, though others say there’s no such distinction like that showing up in the Jewish Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. Some scholars argue for the approach chosen here: that God’s word can reach into the deepest part of a human being and do what no one thought could be done. That would suggest there’s no difference between spirit and soul.
More literally, “confidently approach the throne of grace.” One explanation of God’s grace: It’s God accepting us where we are in our life, but being unwilling to leave us there.
“By dawn of Day Seven, God finished his work. He rested. No work that day” (4:4). Practicing Jews don’t work on the seventh day of the week. For them, that day starts Friday at sunset and ends Saturday at sunset. Women prepare cold meals because they don’t cook on the Sabbath, as the day is called. Many Christians take Sunday off, since Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday morning. How do you approach this teaching? Rest? Work? Play?
Some Bible versions say the Hebrews writer is talking about a “Sabbath rest for the people of God” (4:9 New American Standard Bible). The idea shows up in the story of Joshua’s invasion force of refugee Jews coming home: “There’s a place of Sabbath-like rest still to come.” The Hebrews writer urges his readers, “let’s do everything we can to make it into that rest. If we’re not careful, someone might miss out on it for the same reason our ancestors did: they disobeyed God” (4:11). What do you think he’s talking about? Go ahead and guess; scholars debate this one.
What do you think the writer means when he says: “God’s word isn’t dead…It’s alive” (4:12)?
Did Jesus really live his entire life without committing a sin? The Hebrews writer says he did: “he made it through [life here], without sinning” (4:15). But what about that 12-year-old Jesus who skipped the caravan headed home from Jerusalem. “Young man,” his mother told him, when she went back to Jerusalem and found him at the Temple, “why did you treat us like this? Look at me. Your father and I have been worried sick trying to find you” (Luke 2:48). Sounds like a sin to some—moms and dads, especially. Jesus never said he was sinless. Nor do any of the Gospel stories about him. The only writers who say he was sinless don’t seem to have ever walked and talked with him. Would it make a difference if teenage Jesus had stolen a bag of marbles?
LIFE APPLICATION. High priests aren’t something most of us can relate to. Though the writer might have captured the attention of Jewish Christian readers of his day, he’s not doing us any favors. What do you think the writer is trying to say that can help us?
LIFE APPLICATION. If God’s word “cuts all the way into the heart,” what’s a Bible passage or a message from God’s Spirit to your spirit that got to your heart and changed something about you?