Hebrews 4:11-16, The Paradox of Rest.

[11]Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.  [12]For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  [13]And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
[14]Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  [15]For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  [16]Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (NKJV)

In this portion, the writer continues his exhortation to his readers not to turn away from Christ.  At the same time, he introduces a new aspect of our relationship with the Lord:  He is our High Priest.  Since a good part of the rest of the book deals with this subject, we’ll not look at it here, but finish up with what the writer says about our responsibility to “enter His rest.”

As we’ve seen in earlier post, ch. 3:1-3 cautions us against the possibility of missing this rest.  Vs. 4-10 define this rest, not as a matter of apathy or indifference, but of “ceasing from our own works.”  Vs. 11-13 challenge us to enter that rest.

The verses before us reinforce the  idea that our “rest” isn’t  the same as inactivity, thus, the “paradox” of requiring “diligence” and “labor” to enter that rest.

Many OT references to “rest” teach the same thing.

For example, Leviticus 16:29-31 gives Israel some instruction about the Day of Atonement, one of the most important days in the Jewish calendar.  This is the day when “atonement” was made for the children of Israel.  This day was called a sabbath of solemn rest, v. 31.  However, the important phrase in those instructions is found in v. 29, where the people were to do not work at all.  These verses aren’t just about “keeping” a certain day of the week.  To so teach is to miss the point of the verses.  Besides, the Day of Atonement could happen on any day of the week, not just on Saturday.

What was being taught by type was the “atonement” (“reconciliation”) is not accomplished by our works.  Further, the OT “sabbath” was only temporary, not “permanent” (six days you shall labor…).  This is because the OT knows nothing of a “permanent” forgiveness of sins.  The numerous sacrifices for sin, and there were thousands of sacrifices offered every year, could only “cover” sins; they could never take them away.  They could never “purge” them, or get rid of them.

If all this seems contradictory, then remember that the forgiveness of sins isn’t something brought about by what we can do to “pay” for them.  It’s brought about by the fact that the Lord Jesus paid for them.

The book of Ruth has something to say about “rest,” as well.  The book isn’t just a charming story of an OT romance, but forms an important link in the lineage of king David.  In addition, though there were provisions for the poor in Israel, there was no “government” program of taking from the “wealthy” to give to the poor; they were required to do what they could in order to provide for themselves.  Such is the case of Ruth.  Instead of applying at the local welfare office, she went out during wheat harvest to glean, that is, to pick up what she could, from what was left over.  Cf. Leviticus 19:9, 10, where landowners were instructed not to completely harvest everything, but were to leave something for the poor and the stranger.

In the providence of God, she came to the field of Boaz, a well-to-do farmer.  He instructed his laborers to leave some extra for her, and not to bother her.  When Naomi, her mother-in-law, heard of this, she said to Ruth, “My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee?” 3:1 (KJV).  It turns out the Boaz held a particular relationship to Naomi and Ruth.  He could be Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer.

According to the Old Testament, a “kinsman-redeemer” was a member of the family of someone who was in debt, who could pay that debt and “redeem” the debtor.  Cf. Leviticus 25.

We’ve already seen in Hebrews 2:14 the truth that Jesus came into this world to be our “kinsman,” in order that He could also become our Redeemer.

Further, Ruth wasn’t to find “rest” in Naomi or in herself, but in Boaz.  In the same way, the only place we can find true rest is in the Lord Jesus.  There is no real rest in “religion,” or in some preacher, because there is no salvation in those things.  Only in the Lord Jesus, who He was and what He did, can there be “rest”.

At the same time, as we’ve noted, we have a responsibility before God toward this rest.  In the fourth chapter of Hebrews, the phrase, “let us – something” occurs four times.  It’s also in 6:1.

4:1, let us fear.
4:ll, let us labor.
4:14, let us hold fast.
4:16, let us come.
6:1, let us go on.

These references show us the practical nature of God’s Word:  it wasn’t given merely to inform us, that is, to make us “scholars,” but to transform us, that is, to make us “saints.”  The Bible isn’t just the “yellow pages,” the “search engine,” of the universe, that is, merely to give us information.  It is, if you will, the owner’s manual, telling us how this life works and how we’re to live in it.  The owner, by the way, is God, not us.  Cf. the last part of Daniel 5:23.

At least three of these occurrences counteract the warnings earlier in the book.

1. “Let us labor,” 4:11.  This in view of the requirements of God’s Word.  This is to counteract our tendency to “drift”, 2:1, or to minimize the importance of the things of God.  For example, my wife and I used to belong to a small church.  Normally, there would be about 25 people in attendance.  On those occasions when we would have, say, a spaghetti dinner, there would be 75 in attendance.  Now, I do not have anything against church suppers.  I just think we ought to be at least as concerned about feeding our souls as we are about feeding our bodies.

2. “Let us come,” 4:16.  This in view of the reality of our own helplessness and sinfulness.  This is to counteract our tendency to “depart,” 3:12.

3. “Let us go on,” 6:1.  This in view of the revelation of God’s promises, 6:12-18.  We’ll have more to say about this later, Lord willing.  This is to counteract our tendency to “go back,” 5:12; 10:38.

In vs. 11-13, we see our responsibility.  In vs. 14, 15, we find our resource.

1. the origin of this resource, “the throne of grace.”  We can never come to this throne on the basis of our merit.  It’s not something we can earn or deserve.  It is and must be a throne of grace because we do drift, we do depart, we do go back, we do all of these things and more.  As we recognize this, repenting not only of our sins, but of ourselves, and coming to the throne only on the basis of the shed blood and imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus, it is a throne of grace, and we are received because it is a throne of grace.

2. the objective of this resource, “help in time of need,” literally, “in the nick of time.”  “The time of need.”  We’ve become tremendously “need”-oriented, even in the church.  We look to various people and relationships to fulfill our “needs,” and judge everything on how well those needs are fulfilled.  But only in Christ is there true fulfillment.

“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”


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