Today’s Passage: Hebrews 4
Remember Hebrews 4 from our Sabbath study? We looked at Heaven as the supreme Sabbath, or to put it in the author of Hebrews’ terms, God’s goal of rest for his people. I suggested that this rest has not fully arrived. As I read the passage today, however, I’m prepared to reverse that conclusion, or at least to amend it; there’s a sense in which we can, and should, enter God’s Sabbath rest for all creation in the present. See, there is more to this passage than we originally surmised. On Chocolate Book, we are not content to remain in our former ignorance; we learn as we go.
The author introduces his Sabbath themes to develop the themes of faithfulness and consistency in contrast to falling away. He warns his readers, “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it” (1). He explains that faith is our ticket into God’s rest; our trust in God and his message, specifically as it concerns Jesus Christ, shows itself through our journey into his rest in much the same way that the faith of the Israelites showed itself in their journey of entering into the Promised Land.
The author of Hebrews certainly wouldn’t put it into the same words as James, but his picture of faith agrees with James’ statement that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). It’s not enough to think X, Y, or Z is true. Belief in itself is inadequate. It must manifest itself in an ongoing act of trust. Like the author of Hebrews said before: hold fast.
And in that vein, he encourages his readers to be diligent to enter the rest that God provides. He points out that God rested from his works on the seventh day. Through faith, the believer enters into a similar state of rest: “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (10). Yes, it’s the Sabbath at the End of the Universe, as I maintained in our Sabbath study. But it’s also a rest here and now, and it’s a rest from “works” and works-based salvation. It’s not a rest we earn by following the Law of Moses or any other law. It’s a gift we accept by trusting the giver.
But our acceptance of the gift entails obedience, entails actually performing the act of receiving the gift. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (11). Motivation matters, and there’s no rest for the person who’s merely trying to avoid hell and earn heaven by measuring up to the standard of following all the rules. Trying to keep every single point of a moral code, motivated by fear or a desire to think you’re a good person? Speaking from experience, that sounds a lot like hell to me. In contrast, God’s rest frees us to love and be loved.
The final verses of the chapter are among my favorites in the entire Bible:
Therefore, since 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 cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (14-16)
I honestly feel like anything I could say in response would be inadequate. Jesus Christ is both God and man; he knows what it’s like to be human. He gives us the basis on which to approach God with confidence, the reason to expect forgiveness and kindness from God the Father. He has endured temptation and known the limitations of human existence. As our high priest, he intercedes for us in the courtroom of divine law. And he’s worth holding fast to.
And now, taking a hard left turn: guess what time it is? That’s right, it’s time for another
Today we’re pitting Green & Black’s, our resident King of Darkness from the last dark-vs.-dark showdown, against Equal Exchange’s Panama extra dark bar. You can taste that extra 5% cacao in the Green & Black’s; the Equal Exchange has a lighter taste with a smoother flavor and more vanilla to it. It’s a hard call to make, but for its richness and diversity of flavor, the Equal Exchange Panama edges this one out for the victory. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new King of Darkness.