Sabbath Rest

I’ve been wrestling with chapters 3 & 4 of Hebrews now for several weeks, reading various commentaries and listening to sermons. Most outlines of this book would sum up these chapters under the heading “Jesus is greater than Moses” and chapter 3 clearly begins with a comparison between the two. In verses 1-6, we are exhorted to consider Jesus as worthy of far greater glory than Moses – as much glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. And while Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, Jesus is faithful over God’s house as a son.

Next, the author presents an illustration from the time of Moses to introduce principles which apply to his and our current day. These principles seem to build upon his reference to “holding fast our confidence in our hope” in chapter 3 verse 6, as this confidence is repeated in 3:14 and again in 4:16 to wrap up this section. From his interpretation of Psalm 95, he presents a very strong case for several truths applicable for us today.

1The first truth is that there still remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Because the Holy Spirit speaking through David in Psalm 95, offers an opportunity in his day NOT to fail to enter the promised rest like the generation in Moses’ day, this same opportunity remains for us today. The rest spoken about in Psalm 95 through David cannot be the rest Joshua led God’s people into or He would not have presented another opportunity in David’s day to fail to enter it. The author of Hebrews encourages us with a promise of rest that still remains available today for us to enter. I want to enter this rest!

2The second truth is regarding the nature of this promised rest. It is God’s rest, as Psalm 95 states “As I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.” To describe what kind of rest God’s rest is, he refers back to Genesis 2:2 to show that God’s rest is a resting from His works. This, God did on the Sabbath day which is why he calls this rest “Sabbath rest.” He concludes that those who enter this rest, also rest from their works as God did from His. Therefore, there remains today for the people of God, an opportunity to enter into rest from our works. This is surely the best kind of rest!

3The third truth is that those with a hardened, disobedient, and unbelieving heart will be unable to enter this rest. This is repeated several times throughout this section beginning with Psalm 95 itself which exhorts us not to be hard of heart. A hard heart is a heart hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. An unbelieving, disobedient heart is a heart that leads us to fall away from the living God. This is the condition of a heart that can never enter into God’s rest, and God knows our hearts because His Word is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions the heart.

If the theme of these passages is the author’s exhortation to “hold fast our confidence,” I’m not feeling particularly confident at this point. Shouldn’t I be very concerned, anxious, and even worried about the condition of my heart? So far, the author seems to have only introduced us to a fear of failure, failure to enter into God’s promised rest. He even says as much in 4:1, “let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” How am I to hold fast to confidence in the face of this fear?

Thanks be to God, the author gives us the answer! We have a great high priest! Our high priest is Jesus, the Son of God Himself. Our high priest has passed through the heavens. Our high priest was tempted like we are but did not sin. Our high priest has sympathy for our weaknesses. His work in His role as our high priest is the basis for our confidence. By His sacrifice, He has anchored us through the veil into the Holy of Holies and onto the very mercy seat of God. It is because of Him we can draw near to God with confidence and find the grace we so desperately need. We should now see clearly why Christ is worthy of so much more glory than Moses!


“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 4:14-16

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