Friday

“So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.” (vv. 9-11)

Hebrews 4:1-11 Friday 16 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 111


  Background

There were few things a 1st-century Jewish teacher enjoyed morethan a complicated discussion about the interpretation of Hebrewscripture. And here we have a good example! Continuing from yesterday's passage, the writer is using Psalm95 to exhort their Jewish Christian readers to hold on to theirnew faith in Jesus as Messiah and divine Son of God, and to remainobedient to him. But it is done in a rather roundabout way, via theGenesis creation story, the Sabbath, and Joshua! There is a linkbetween them, certainly in Jewish interpretation of scripture. Thesabbath day, the day of rest and blessing, was understood toreflect the seventh day of creation, when God rested. It was alsolinked, in Deuteronomy 5, to the Exodus story: just as Godliberated Israel from slavery in Egypt, so should the Jews allow aday of rest for their own servants and slaves, children andanimals. And the idea of "sabbath rest" was extended to theprinciple of allowing the land to lie fallow on a regular basis,and to releasing people from their debts, for example. Here, a linkis made with the rest offered in the Promised Land after 40 yearsin the wilderness, when Joshua led Israel into Canaan.

But what is suggested here is that, in fact, Israel never trulyrested and knew the real blessings of the Sabbath: "A Sabbath reststill remains for the people of God". Israel has not yet arrived inthe place that God has prepared for them. God's promise has notbeen fulfilled. But now those Jews who believe the good news aboutJesus, the fulfilment of God's promise to Israel, can "enter thatrest". God's blessings are for them - for Jews who believe thatJesus is Messiah and divine Son of God. Jesus (the Greek name forJoshua, by the way) succeeded where Joshua failed.


To Ponder

  • When Paul used this kind of complicated biblical argument hedid so to show how Gentiles (non-Jews) are now part of the peopleof God through their faith in Jesus. But for the writer to theHebrews the true people of God are only those Jews who believe thegospel (the good news). Who do you think was right? Why?
  • For the writer to the Hebrews (but not for Paul), Jews who donotaccept Jesus as Messiah and Son of God are excluded from God'spromises. Do you agree? Why?
  • Does the idea of entering God's rest appeal to you? How mightthe broader concept of Sabbath influence your thinking andbehaviour?
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