4 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
I have to admit that this is not the easiest passage to unpick, and I spent some time last evening reading a number of commentaries to try to get an understanding of what is going on here. The consensus seems to be along these lines:
There is a rest for the people of God hereafter, but it starts here and now; and just like a whole generation of Israelites in the past, we too could fail to enter into it because of unbelief and disobedience. Everything hangs on our on-going response to God’s living, active, heart-probing Word. Faith and obedience are spiritual twins! Note the irony that entering into this rest of faith demands diligence (11); the effort involved concerns the Word of God.
Matthew Henry’s wise words remain relevant centuries after he first wrote them:
‘The word is preached to us that we may profit by it…There have been in all ages a great many unprofitable hearers. Those who are not gainers by hearing are great losers. That which is at the bottom of our unprofitableness is our unbelief. If the hearers have not faith in their souls to mix with the word, they will be never the better for it. This faith must mingle with every word, and be in act and exercise while we are hearing.’
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