14 January 2011

Hebrews 4:1-11

"Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest" (v. 11)


"Don't follow your ancestors example!" That seemed to be the warning in yesterday's reading. But it might be possible for the author's readers to dismiss the whole argument as a bit of ancient mythology. Not many of us will share the experience of those early Israelites - enslaved in a repressive regime, prevented from worshipping but then released into the wilderness to fight their way through to a land promised to them by their God. They were in a situation very different from us and they had a faith very different from us. There is no chance that we will even be tempted to follow their example.

But the author expands the argument. He reminds us this principle goes back to the beginning of all things in Genesis 2, when at the climax of creation, God rests. This principle then stands at the time of the Passover and the escape from Egypt and leads to God withdrawing the promise from them. But then it's repeated in the words of the psalmist (David, according to the author) with a reminder to the readers that it applies in their own time. And then the author of Hebrews makes it clear it applies just as much in his own time, and so it applies too today.

This principle of putting our trust, our faith, in a living God is an eternal principle. It's the basis of so much of our faith - trusting that God is, trusting in what God has done and believing that God will also bring us too to a place of rest. We are called into a pilgrimage of obedience which ends in us coming to rest with God. That struggle between faith, obedience and rest on the one side and self-sufficiency, disobedience, and no rest on the other, is a struggle which has lasted forever and is as real to today as it has ever been.

To Ponder

How far do we strive to be self-sufficient and to run from the living God?

What's your story? If this principle of resting has lasted for ever, how is it working out in your life?

What do you think it would be like to turn to a living God and find God's own rest?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Pete Phillips

Pete Phillips is secretary to the Faith and Order Committee and research director for CODEC at St John's College, Durham. CODEC is exploring Christian communication in the digital age.