For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 7, 2007This chapter continues the discussion of Psalm 95. Most of this chapter discusses a third aspect of the passage: "rest." In chapter 3 we had "today" and "rebellion."
"Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, 'As I swore in my wrath,"They shall not enter my rest,"' although his works were finished from the foundation of the world." (4:1-3)
First of all, the writer has a lot to say about evaluating your salvation. We should never take it for granted that since we prayed some magic words we are saved. That being said, we must also keep in mind the audience here. No doubt there were people who thought they were going to play both sides of the Christianity-Judaism fence, trying to hedge their bets, if you will.
Secondly, the message of God has always been the same: repent and believe. Verse two says the gospel was preached to the Jews in the desert as well as to people in our time. There are different aspects of following the Lord in different times, but God always listens to the heart's cry of a repentant sinner, no matter what the age.
Thirdly, notice the end of the passage. Christ's work of redemption was finished from the foundation of the world. Those who try to say that Jesus' redemptive work did not apply to people before He died are mistaken, and they fail to see the continuity of Scripture.
"For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, 'They shall not enter my rest.' Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, 'Today,' saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.' For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." (4:4-10)
It is clear that the rest the writer talks about is a spiritual rest. Joshua did not give the Jews rest when they entered the Promised Land. The promise of rest was offered in David's day and it is still offered in our time. Whether this rest is talking about rest in salvation or eternal rest in God's presence, both require faith in Christ, which is the writer's overarching point.
"Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (4:11-13, ESV)
The phrase "strive to enter that rest" makes me think it is talking about eternal rest. This is doubled with the reference to the judgment at the end of verse 13. Whatever it is, one thing is for certain from this passage: we will all be judged by the Word of God, and that Word will lay every one of us open one day. As believers, ultimately God will not find anything to condemn us, but we will face loss of reward, hence the need to strive. For those who are not born again, God's Word will find ample cause for condemnation. That's certainly something to "strive" to avoid.
The last part of this chapter introduces a new topic, and I will discuss it along with chapter 5 tomorrow, Lord willing.