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Christians in Wilderness Wandering

Hebrew 4

Hebrews 4 primarily focuses on one word, “rest”. Rest is promised to us and it is a common understanding that we all long to rest. Genesis 3 tells us that tiredness is a curse of sin. Due to the fall of mankind, work has become toilsome. Rest is not given to us only after the fall, however after the fall, rest is especially important for a new reason, that is, to rest for our tiredness.

When we say we are tired, we can mean different things. We can mean that we are physically tired or mentally fatigued. However, there is a greater kind of fatigue in our life, spiritual fatigue. Some of us fear death, some of us feel a sense of purposelessness in this life, some of us feel helpless, some of us desire love that is unfulfilled. No amount of wealth, no ideology and philosophy on this earth can take away this restlessness of the soul. And with that thought, we shall enter into our passage today by paying attention to one single sentence. God said, “They shall not enter my rest.”

This sentence was first spoken by God to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites have just left the land of Egypt and God promised them the land of Canaan. As Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, their rest was to enter the promised land, but they did not believe in God’s promise. 10 out of the 12 spies that were sent into the land of Canaan came back agreeing that the land is indeed exceptionally good but was occupied by giants and concluded that there was no way God could give them this land. Who is stronger here? The giants or God? And God said to them in His anger, “They shall not enter my rest.”

But is entering God’s rest just about entering the land of Canaan? Here the author of Hebrews is telling us that God’s rest means something greater. How do we know this? Because later king David wrote Psalm 95 (Psalm 95:6-11). In the time of David, even after Israel had conquered the promised land, God still commanded his people through Psalm 95 to hold on to the promise that one day they will enter into God’s rest. God’s rest, which is the rest that their ancestors failed to enter, God calls the people of Israel to enter it now. But they were already in the promised land.

Well, where else could they go? What else was there to hope for? Even at the heights of the Israel kingdom, there were still enemies outside and inside of the nation. Moreover, there are enemies inside our own hearts. That is the problem of sin and we see this very clearly in the sin of King David’s. With enemies outside the nation, inside the nation, and inside our heart, there was never truly rest in Israel. Because Israel was never truly at rest, there is a greater rest promised in the old testament itself that they would receive in the future.

The land of Canaan is only a shadow of God’s rest that is waiting for the Israelites in the future. This is why Canaan is good, but not good enough. It is good because it is rest. It is not good enough because it is not God’s rest. God purposely designed Canaan to be a land that satisfies and dissatisfies at the same time. Our lives are very much like the land of Canaan. Do not be comfortable with this life, there is another greater rest that you actually have to enter.

God’s rest is still available to you, even today. Today is not too late. But tomorrow maybe. Because today has come, but tomorrow may not come. If you wait till tomorrow, it’s as good as you are not making any decision at all. True rest is to believe that God will fulfill his promises and to believe today. And truly, God has fulfilled his promises in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you feel spiritually fatigued, God himself has put this dissatisfaction in your heart. Other than Jesus Christ, nothing can fill that hole. You don’t earn the right to enter into God’s rest, Jesus Christ earned it for you. And all who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ shall enter into God’s rest by faith. That’s why we rest on Sunday, the Sabbath day. We can rest because it is God who works primarily, not us. All we need to do is to trust and obey and see how God brings us into his rest.

However, for those who have entered God’s rest, the book of Hebrews still calls us to strive to enter that rest. This is because there is true faith and false faith. If you look back to the previous chapter verse 19, it is said that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. And then we move to chapter 4 verse 6, it is said that those who formally received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience. So, let’s talk about what is not true faith. Hearing about Jesus does not mean true faith. Jesus said, they hear but do not actually hear, they see but do not actually see. It is not enough to know Jesus as the saviour. You must know him as your saviour. When you truly know Jesus Christ as your saviour, it will change your life forever. You will repent of your sin, you will strive to live a righteous and holy life. You will see the beauties of this world as filth in comparison to Christ.

Verse 3 tells us that those who believe in Christ have already entered God’s rest. But at the same time in verse 11, we are called to strive to enter the final perfect rest in the new age to come. Those who enter God’s rest are called to strive to enter God’s rest. This is because the one who believes that he will win the race, will run with all his strength. Isn’t it true? Believing in Jesus will turn your life upside down. It will make you fearless before poverty, persecution, even death.

One of the most common illnesses of the human soul is to think of himself as immortal and untouchable. We find peace by comparing ourselves to others. Some of us find peace in our youth, some of us find peace in our wealth. Maybe some of you even think that you have plenty of time to repent in the future, so you don’t need to repent now. Remember, you are a sinful human soul with a curse of death wrapped around your neck and you are up against the almighty God. In the wilderness, God took everyone except two spies. All Israelites including the great Moses himself did not set foot in the land of Canaan.

We never know when it becomes too late for you to repent of your sins and to believe in the gospel. Christ is asking you to believe in him all the way without comparing with others. You are living your worst possible life if you don’t believe all the way. And to believe all the way is to obey all the way. Like it or not, you are living in the wilderness. Now there are two options, in front of you is Canaan the promised land flowing with milk and honey and behind you is Egypt, the land of slavery and free fish. You either give up everything and turn back or you give up everything and move forward. Move forward by faith and obedience, because in front of you is God’s rest prepared for you.




©2020 by International Reformed Evangelical Church Melbourne.

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