Lesson 11

Longing for More

(Hebrews 4)
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Introduction: Hebrews 4 takes our Sabbath rest to a new dimension. It brings to our attention that our Sabbath rest is more than a weekly rest. It seems to be more like a state of mind. In recent years, I have read some who argue that the Hebrews 4 “Sabbath Rest” means that we no longer need to follow the Fourth Commandment’s weekly rest on Sabbath. Oddly, they believe in a weekly rest, but because of Hebrews 4, rest on Sunday. The logic of this escapes me. Let’s look for ourselves at Hebrews 4 and see what we can learn about its full meaning!

  1.         Reaching for Rest

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:1. Is this speaking about the weekly Sabbath? (If it is, it makes no sense. How can we “fail to reach” the Sabbath. It reaches us every week.)

  1.         Is the concern stated in Hebrews 4:1 important? (The verse says we should “fear” to miss the mark.)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:2. Who are those people who seem to hear the message but do not accept it? (The text does not say. Hebrews 4:1-2 merely speaks of those promised to enter into rest, but who did not.)

  1.         Read Psalms 95:7-9 and Psalms 95:11. This ties a failure to enter into rest to a specific historical event. Do you know what it is? (This refers to an event recorded in Exodus 17. Let’s explore it in some detail.)

  1.         Meribah

  1.         Read Exodus 17:3-6. What is the problem raised by the people and what is God’s solution to the problem?

  1.         Read Exodus 17:7. This is not simply getting thirsty and God supplying water. How does God view this? (They doubted the presence and power of God. They complained about God’s lack of power.)

  1.         Meribah Applied                        

  1.         Let’s go back and continue with Hebrews 4. Read Hebrews 4:3. This links the language of Psalms 95:7-8 (“If you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as in Meribah”) to the failure to enter into God’s rest. What does this connection suggest is the cause of this failure to enter? (Failing to trust and believe in God.)

  1.         Notice that Hebrews 4:3 talks about God’s works being finished from the foundation of the world. What does that have to do with our discussion? (This must be a reference to the Sabbath rest. God rested after He created the world.)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:4-5. What state of mind does this suggest beyond the hours of the weekly Sabbath? (Entering into the weekly Sabbath rest is like entering into the state of mind of trusting God when we face challenges.)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:6. Now we seem to have shifted to the topic of obeying God. What, given the context, is the nature of the disobedience? (This is not referring to things like stealing, killing, coveting, or adultery. Rather, this refers to whether a Christian trusts God. Whether a Christian doubts the presence and power of God. Whether a Christian complains about God’s lack of power.)

  1.         The Sabbath and the Greater Rest

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:7-8 and Psalms 96:11-13. Notice that Psalms 96 follows Psalms 95 which points to Meribah and people hardening their hearts. What new day do we find referred to here by David? (The Second Coming!).

  1.         Look again at Hebrews 4:8. What does Joshua have to do with anything we have been discussing? (The promised land for the Hebrews leaving Egypt was Canaan.)

  1.         Is the writer of Hebrews drawing a comparison between the Hebrews heading to Canaan and us heading to heaven? (Yes!)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:9-10. When verse 10 speaks of “rested from his works,” who is it speaking about? (It is speaking about us. We are “whoever.”)

  1.         What is this “Sabbath rest” from our works? (It is belief and trust in the presence, power, and works of God.)

  1.         If this is something other than the weekly Sabbath, what is it? (It is a rest connected with our journey to Heaven.)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:11. What kind of disobedience is referred to here? Is it a failure to obey the Ten Commandments? (No. It is the “same sort of disobedience” as displayed at Meribah. It is a failure to trust in the works of God. This is a discussion of righteousness by faith alone!)

  1.         Is righteousness by faith alone like a rest? (We rest from beating ourselves up trying to earn salvation. We rest in the completed work of Jesus. If we do not understand and accept Jesus’ work we fail to enter into the ultimate Sabbath rest.)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:12. Why are two-edged swords relevant to this discussion? Why is a reference to serious bodily injury relevant? (Have you noticed that there is a strong debate over this issue? The thoughts and intentions of the heart are divided over whether we will trust ourselves, or whether we will trust God.)

  1.         Does this make any sense to you? Why would anyone not want to rest? (This is where I raise my hand. It is difficult for me to sit and rest. I will see or think of something that needs to be done and jump up and do it. Resting for more than a few minutes is hard for me. Many people naturally believe they must earn the things that they have.)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:13. What kind of account must we give to God? (It is not an account of our hard work. It is an account of our trust in His presence, His power, and His completed work for us at the cross.)

  1.         Pause for a minute and consider the argument of those who claim that the greater Sabbath rest should be celebrated on Sunday. What answer would you give to this? (God said to rest on the seventh day, the Sabbath. If you need an example of a colossal failure to trust and accept God’s word, this is it. This is a great example of a failure to connect the meaning of the weekly Sabbath to the greater Sabbath !)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:14. If you doubted my suggestion of how we should understand the greater Sabbath rest, what do you say now? (The writer of Hebrews explicitly refers to Jesus, our High Priest in Heaven.)

  1.         Read Hebrews 4:15-16. We are told to draw close to our sinless God “with confidence.”  Why should we have confidence?

  1.         When verse 15 tells us that Jesus is sympathetic to our weakness against sin, does it mean that God understands how we do a terrible job of trying to earn our salvation?

  1.         Look again at Hebrews 4:14. What is “our confession” to which we must “hold fast?” (That we accept the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf. Jesus is not patting us on our head and saying “try harder” and you, too, will be “without sin.” No, Jesus asks of us what He asked of the Hebrews at Meribah, “Will you trust that I am with you and that I will do what you cannot do?”)

  1.         Friend, Jesus asks us to be “confident” in Him. He asks us to “draw near” to His throne, which is a “throne of grace.”  It is not a throne of works. Not a throne of sacrifice. It is, like the weekly Sabbath, all about mercy. Will you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, accept this and trust in what Jesus has done on your behalf?  Why not commit to that right now?

  1.         The Restless Prophet.

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