Reading Hebrews (Part 2)

Reading the BibleOK. So here we go with the next 3 chapters: Chapters 4 to 6.

It immediately raises a couple of issues to think through.

What’s meant by the Sabbath rest and why does the writer use this metaphor? And how do you understand the warning passage in Chapter 6.

Enough to keep you thinking for some time.

So please pray it over, chew it over and then offer your thoughts and reflections below.

Don’t forget that this is written to enable us to live. So how does this epistle help us to keep walking as a disciple?

  • neilhudson

    Chapter 4 can be quite confusing – all the talk of sabbath rest and the link with God resting after creation and Israel not entering the ‘rest’ even if they did manage to get into the promised land – and then the call for us to enter the rest.  It’s easier to skip over all this and simply go to the ‘good’ bits about the God’s word being sharp (4:12-13) and Jesus being able to get alongside us (4:14-16). 

    But taking it bit by bit it does begin to make sense:  the problem these Christians had was that they were tempted to leave the ‘simple’ faith in Jesus behind and go into ‘Jesus-and…’ mode: Jesus and angels, Jesus and law, Jesus and ceremony.  The author wants them to know that what God has done through Jesus is enough and is trustworthy.

    But it’s easy to lose heart and to lose faith.  To wonder – is this actually true?  Will things ever change?  To disbelieve that the ‘new world’ that God has made possible through Jesus is at best a faint hope, at worst a mirage.  To doubt that God can possible have ‘rested’ – the moment on the 7th day when he decided that the work had been done – because when you look around nothing seems to be certain.

    And in the same way, although the people in the Old Testament had been rescued by the Exodus event, they found themselves in the wilderness doubting that the ‘promised land’ could actually be true at all (3:16-19) – they doubted the promise that came from God. (4:2)  they decided that God was not trustworthy and so they lost the chance to find out that he was trustworthy (4:6).  They failed to believe the ‘gospel’ – the good news that was preached to them.

    But even for those who eventually went into the land of milk and honey, there was more ahead of them. Psalm 95 sits behind this chapter – the call to worshippers in David’s day (or even later) not to miss out on the rest that was promised to them – to trust in God’s work.

    So the writer of this chapter urges his readers not to miss out on all that God wanted to do – by disobedience – failing to trust the promise of the good news of all that Jesus had done, and so failing to ‘enter the rest’ – the settled place that sees the renewed world that God has made possible through Jesus.

    The resting from our works – v 10 – sounds very much like something Paul would say.  It’s about our faith, our trusting in what God has done, is doing  and will do.  We start to think it’s about our work when we fear that God is not doing anything, or at best needs our help.

    So it feels to me that he is wanting his readers to look past their present situations, to know that God is absolutely trsutworthy, that he has worked and is working for us, that his word is powerful and that Jesus is able to come alongside us in our weaknesses.  So we can come with confidence (v16) to get help and mercy in our time of need. 

    It doesn’t say we are wrong to have needs, it urges us to trust God in the midst of them – whatever those needs are.

    This a long (too long?) post – but it’s helped me think through something that I’ve often found it tempting to skim over. 

  • Whillans

    I was very slow at learning to read which had a huge effect (should that be affect?) in my school life (should that be lack of school life?)   Yet now I love reading and I even read stuff I can’t really understand because every now and again I come across an absolute gem I would not like to have lived without. One of my favourite authors is John Owen who is known for his long sentences. I can point you to one that has 327 words, 9 semi-colons, 8 colons and 28 comas! In his commentary on Hebrews he says this about God’s rest in Hebrews chapter 4, “God resteth ultimately and absolutely, as to all the ends of his glory, in Christ, as exhibited in the gospel…” Having been convinced by John Piper (and the Bible) that God’s glory is what God cares about most, to see that God rests in Christ as he is revealed in the gospel made me think that perhaps I should rest all my hope in Christ as revealed in the gospel as well. Despite loving to read I decided after this that I could not read anymore, there was no point! That feeling past but not the wonder at the idea of God’s total commitment to the work of his Son. The idea of Jesus praying “with loud cries and tears” is also almost too much. The scary bits in chapter 6 I have always seen as a warning to make sure you have the real thing not a threat that you may lose it once you do have it. What kind of grace is it that does not just make a promise but confirms it with an oath so that we can be “greatly encouraged”?                                                                                     

  • RichardStanton

    As I’ve read these few chapters this week
    I’ve been reminded of something really important: there is a ‘rest’ to be had
    but it’s not now, not yet, at least not in its fullness. Trying to create some
    sort of blissful existence here and now is unlikely to succeed and likely to be
    a really frustrating pursuit. However, the ‘thin places’ I experience though
    spiritual disciplines such as solitude and silence, worship and service, connect me
    with Jesus in ways that foresee the eternal rest and give me glimpses of it now.

    Having been saved into quite a classical Pentecostal
    church, I took up the mantra of “This world is not my home and I’m only
    passing through”. The result was that I became almost impotent towards
    being part of God’s Kingdom advancing now and a fruitful discipleship journey
    which engages with culture and with people who aren’t “just passing
    though”, people who in fact can’t see the eternal rest because of the
    issues that face them presently. I swung the other way and began to live for
    the moment, in a Kingdom sense. Perhaps with an over realised eschatology. But I’ve just been reminded that the “not yet” element of the Kingdom
    of God is equally important as the “now” element. If this is all there
    is then there’s no hope, is there? Does that make sense? 

  • ‘A Sabbath rest’:
    Sunday is one of the busiest days of the week for Christians! How often do we take a full day (or even an evening!) off from some kind of work; whether that be planning, marking, emailing, scheduling, texting, the list goes on..? 

    If God rested, then so should we! It’s interesting that this section links ‘resting’ with ‘hearing God’s voice’ (v7). If we do not rest, it becomes even more difficult to hear God’s whispers; life gets stressful and our hearts can become ‘hard’ to the voice of our Father. Almost immediately, it refers to ‘God’s word’, being ‘living and active’ (v12). It reminds me that reading God’s word is the primary way He can speak to us. 

    Skipping on to chapter 6, on a related note, the verse which I have been meditating on is verse 7: 

    ‘For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, produces a crop….’ I’m reminded that I need to ‘drink’ to stay alive, both physically and spiritually. Jesus’ discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well ‘springs’ to mind: 

    “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

    If we want to be fruitful Christians with soft hearts who hear God’s voice, we must regularly rest, drink and feed on the word of God. Note to self!

  • Matt_Treg

    I have a couple of questions (which may be frivolous) 
    Did Gods rest exist before creation?
    Why is Jesus referred to as the High Priest when this is a human honour?
    any answers gratefully received

    • neilhudson

      Not sure about the first – obviosuly we are trying to stretch back into eternity – but if we see God as inherently creative, I doubt that he spent millions of years with his feet up and then stretched, yawned and said ‘well this isn’t getting the world created’ and set out to work (hope I don’t get struck down here!)  So to that end I guess the rest only makes sense as a response to creative work – a  sense that it is good and complete.

      About the High Priest – I think this is because for these Christians, their imagination was captured by the splendour of the Temple system and the priesthood and so they would find it difficult to see anything beyond that – and the writer wants to help them recognise that Jesus is above all of this – and so includes the metaphor of Jesus being a High Priest – the final one, the one who was os much better than any human one to try and relativise their veiws of the human High Priest.  Does that make sense?

      It’s about where you place your attention, about what you think is ultimately significant and impressive, and who can actually deal with your situation.  The writer wants you to be in no doubt….