The Promise of a Rest

Hebrews 4
IT is a blessed, cheering thought to the Christian, amidst the turmoil and bustle and confusion of life, that there is a "rest"-an eternal rest before him; that there remaineth a rest, or the keeping of a Sabbath, (which is a similar thought) to the people of God! It cheered the heart, and lightened the step of Caleb, while he was suffering for the unfaithfulness of his brethren, and was obliged to turn back from the borders of his rest of an earthly Canaan (Num. 14); and to wander for forty years in the wilderness; it cheered his heart to know, that come what would, of vicissitude and trial by the way, his rest was sure; that Canaan, whose bunches of first-ripe grapes he had tasted, and whose land of hills and valleys he had traversed for forty days (Num. lay before him, and when the toil and labor of the wilderness were over, he would enter in to his rest, and enjoy what his soul longed for, during his forty years' pilgrimage! (Josh. 14)
It cheered the heart of Paul, whose soul had been feasted for a moment on the delights of his heavenly Canaan, when he was caught up to the third heaven, and heard " unspeakable words" (2 Cor. 12), it cheered his heart to know that beyond the service, and toils, and trials, and self-denials of his wilderness journey, lay that "rest which remaineth to the people of God"-a rest which was God's! And it is a cheering prospect to the believer now to have this "promise of entering into God's rest" before him, when the labor and trial, and toil, and wilderness circumstances, shall have been a by-gone thing. When God himself shall have ceased to be "a worker," which our sin has made Him!
You see, my reader, that it is the "promise of rest" which is "left us" in this chapter; not a rest which has already come, and of which we are in possession now. And the believer; (that is, one who already possesses rest of conscience, because of the finished work of Christ); is spoken of as laboring onward to this rest of God. "We which have believed, do enter into rest;" the believer has not yet entered into it; it still remains a future thing Paul had just been speaking (chap. 3) of Jesus as the Apostle and High Priest of our profession; and the thought arises in his mind of the analogous position of Israel under the leadership of Moses and Aaron-the one, God's messenger or apostle, and the other His high priest in the journey through the wilderness, onward to their Canaan of rest. All of which formed such a marked and impressive figure of those under the "Heavenly calling" who had professed the name of Christ, and were going onward, as it were through their wilderness course, under Him, as a "Son over his own house;" from the cross, to the rest which remains to the people of God. And we are warranted in seeking instruction from these things, used as warnings and motives, and grounds for exhortation to ourselves; " All these things happened to them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Cor. 10:1111Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:11).)
What care and love it reveals on the Lord's part, to give these solemn warnings and pleadings against the " unbelief and sin" of nature and flesh; to those who have professed the name of Christ, lest the "unbelief and sin" which caused many a child of Israel to fall in the wilderness way, and never attain to his earthly Canaan, should also prevent them from entering into the heavenly! Mark this, he never raises the shadow of a doubt of the true believer finally attaining to it. He says, " We which have believed, do enter into rest." It is as sure to the believer as if he was there even now. But he presses it upon all our hearts who have professed His name, " Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His (God's) rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Chapter 4:1.)
Now what is “seeming to come short?" It is forgetting that we are not redeemed for that rest of God, and sinking down to the ways of the world around us. It is making a settlement as it were, in a world in which we should be but “strangers and pilgrims" and having " no certain dwelling place." It is practically looking back, and longing after the “flesh-pots of Egypt;" and forgetting our “heavenly calling." It is opening the door of our heart to the inroads of "unbelief," and thus practically "departing from the living God:"-and putting ourselves in the way of being " hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." I speak to you who have professed the name of Christ; to your true state before God I don't address myself. And I ask you, is there anything in your ways, which you practically deny your heavenly calling, which professes that you are hastening onward through a defiled world which is not your rest? Are you clinging to the money-loving, self-advancing, self-seeking plans and projects of this present evil world? Or have you heard a voice in your inmost soul, saying, "Arise, ye, and depart; for this is not your rest, because it is polluted?" Are the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, and the vanities of the world filling your heart, so that in your practical ways, you are " seeming to come short" of your profession? You have heard the glad tidings of a Heavenly rest, as Israel heard of the glad tidings of an Earthly rest, from the lips of the spies, whom they sent to spy out the land. (Num. 13) Has the word in your ears been like that which sounded in theirs-a profitless word, because it was not "mixed with faith in them which heard it?" (Chapter 4:2.) Or are you treasuring in your heart the thought of this rest of God and counting “all things but dross and dung" which would hinder you by the way? Oh! the world, the world, how it clings to the ways, and thoughts, and desires, and associations of those who made the fairest profession; giving nothing tangible to show to the beholder, that their citizenship is indeed in heaven! And thus they "seem to come short of it." And oh, I may again say, self, self, self, how it deforms and defiles those who wear the name of Christian-of Christ! Of one in whom self was surrendered, and set aside, and denied, and unseen; while the only perfect self, which ever walked through a world of sin!
Verses 3, 4.-"But surely," some might say, " God rested in creation when He had finished His work (Gen. 2:2,32And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:2‑3)); and how is it that "God's rest" seems to be spoken of here as yet to come?" Surely, I reply, God rested from all His works which he had created and made; but his creature, man, did not enter into his rest with Him Nor did He Himself enjoy it long. Sin came into His rest and broke it up (Gen. and so instead of resting where sin was, God became again a "Worker" to put it away! And man became a toiler and a worker in a world which was defiled by sin. His sentence was, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." And of the Lord God we read, "The Lord God did make coats of skins and clothed the man and his wife." (Gen. 3:19-2119In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. 20And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:19‑21).) Or as the Lord Jesus expresses it in John 5:1717But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. (John 5:17), “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." The Father (God's name in grace) had become a worker when sin had came in; and the Son was a worker, and the Holy Ghost is a worker; because God cannot rest where there is sin.
Verses 7, 8.-But surely again, some might say, the Jew rested when he went into the land of Canaan and possessed it under Joshua (margin). Surely this was the "rest" which then had been attained. How every difficulty has been anticipated in this beautiful scripture. No, says the Spirit, this was not the " rest," for if it were, "David would not (centuries) afterward have spoken of another day," saying, " To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, providence, and saw my work forty years So I swear in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest."
“THERE REMAINETH THEREFORE A REST TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD!" For, says the Apostle, if a man had entered into it, he would not be laboring-he would have ceased from his works, as God had done in creation for the moment, from His own. "Let us labor, or use all diligence, therefore, to enter into that rest, (God's) lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." The believer labors onward through the wilderness in the full consciousness of the grace in which he stands. His very position as a believer has constituted him a "worker," as his position as a sinner had excluded such a thought; for salvation is “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly." (Rom. 4:55But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5).) The Christian's work, is a "work of faith," and his labor a "labor of love." (1 Thess. 1:33Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; (1 Thessalonians 1:3).)
And now we have the wonderful provision God has made to prevent such an issue as that which happened to unbelieving Israel-that of falling by the way.
The first is "His WORD?" Quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is their any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (Chapter 4:12, 13.)
And have you not found it so, my reader, betimes? His word, as His eye, looking down into your heart, discerning its secret motives, and designs, and plans, and hopes, and fears? Has it not often detected a thought which had not emanated from Him; or an intent which had not its aim to His glory? Have you not often shrunk from His eye, as His word is termed, knowing well that the thoughts of your heart, and the purposes lurking there, could not meet His Holy scrutiny But have you ever thought, too, that it was His mercy that has provided such a searcher of your heart -His provision to prevent an issue to you, as that to unbelieving Israel of old! And have you not often slighted His warning, and despised His guidance, because it did not fall in with your present purposes and plans, and arrangements, and perhaps your religious thoughts too?
But you might say too, I have felt the power of His word; I have gazed down into it, and been perfectly miserable at the contemplation of "self," laid bare under its searching gaze. Well, my reader, if you have, you have only been experiencing the gracious care of God for your soul, that you might be able to detect every working of unbelief, and every movement of flesh, and self, which would tend to make you fall by the way. And if so, you have now only to learn God's Second gracious provision to meet what His word exposes in your soul.
THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST! When the word lays bare the conscience before its piercing gaze, as the eye of God; we might well be miserable without this second provision for our need. We might be inclined to let go our profession altogether, so disheartened with the fresh and daily discovery of ourselves. No, says the Spirit, " let us hold it fast;" (v. 14)-"seeing we have a Great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God."
But I am a poor weak thing here below, you would say; and how can the glorious Son of God feel for me! Well, remember that He too was here below in the wilderness way -He can be " touched with the feeling of our infirmities" -for He was in all points tempted like as we are, apart from sin-of this He knew it not; so that we can come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Thus is our access to God always sure; thus is the heart kept right; and everything that would make us fall by the way detected-and so the issues of the conflict and warfare in the wilderness are sure, and the rest which remains a glorious certainty: and with lightsome heart, and gladdened step, the believer labors onward in his course, with the rest of God in view -his heart cheered when he finds the word detecting everything that would hinder, or make him stumble by the way, and his confidence sustained by the Great High Priest; who had traversed the way Himself; and thus he finally enters into the rest that remains for the people of God!