Hebrews 4:9-16 Rev. Kenneth Frey
Pentecost 22 10/21/18
Hebrews 4:9-16 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. 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Make every effort to enter God’s rest
1. Take God’s Word seriously
2. Too many are losing God’s rest through unbelief
3. Have confidence because of Jesus
Worn out and weary, the men get off the bus and unload their gear. It has been a long hard couple of months. Day and nights of constant battle. Their cloths, which were once cleanly pressed, are dirty and ragged. Their bodies are sore and worn down. They line up, at least trying to appear somewhat like the military unit they are. But the days have been too long and the nights contained little sleep. After a few words about honoring the uniform they wear, one word makes all the difference in the world: dismissed.
We all want rest. Just a break from work, the dishes, the kids, the dog. Rest. We look forward to sitting down in the recliner and doing nothing. Watch the Brewers. Maybe read a little. Just rest.
Just as much as we long for rest in this life, our text encourages us to long for, to work for, to make every effort to enter God’s rest. 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.
We work because we have to. Right? If you inherited a million dollars you probably wouldn’t work anymore. We work because we have to. In the same way our need to be free from guilt drives us to do whatever we can to feel better about ourselves. We are driven to find rest for our souls. Separated from God by sin, we are restless spirits, endless seekers, always striving, grasping, never satisfied. Like water tumbling down the mountainside, we have no rest.
Where can we find rest? In Jesus. In his Word. 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.
Words can be powerful. Words move people to buy, sell, hate, and love. They can depress, distort, discourage and deceive. But words can also create new thoughts and arouse courage, faith and love. Words can change lives especially when it is the Word of God. Our text says it is alive. It’s living because it addresses the deepest needs of every human being, in every time and every place. The word of God never becomes a relic of antiquity or an exhibit in a museum. It has something to offer us still today. It is alive with hope.
He also calls it “active.” That is, it will do something. Through Isaiah God said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
The deepest cut a surgeon can make is to cut all the way to the bone and, in some cases, into the bone. The Word cuts deeper. It’s like an x-ray or MRI, able to expose us even the most secret, hidden and remote sins of our lives. It shows us what we are really like. The Bible is not written to make us feel good about ourselves. It’s written to expose us for what we are. It’s also written to show us Jesus Christ for who and what he is. The Word can penetrate with the law to expose our sin, but it also penetrates with the gospel, cutting out our hard hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts that believe.
I don’t think we take seriously how powerful the Word of God is. If we did, we would certainly make use of it more. Why are there not more hearing God’s Word on a Sunday morning? Why are there not more in Bible Class? Why are we not more consistent with home devotions and personal Bible reading? Why are people falling away from church? Why are they in danger of losing God’s rest? They aren’t making use of God’s Word.
When the people of Israel left Egypt and headed for Canaan, many who left Egypt didn’t enter the Promised Land. They missed out because of unbelief. Our text warns us about doing the same thing. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
What good is something if you don’t use it? If you have a car, but don’t drive, what good is it? If you have a talent, but don’t use it, it’s wasted. Jesus offers us rest through faith in him. If we don’t make use of that rest, we miss out on a wonderful blessing that is really too good to ignore.
So he tells us to make every effort to reach our heavenly rest. Like tiring swimmers, let’s head for the safety and rest of the shore. Like the prodigal son, we long for home and let’s not be content until we are gathered in the Father’s arms.
Let’s not become so secure in our faith that we think we can hang out with unbelievers and love the things of this world without any harm to our souls. The world is making a strong appeal to enjoy its pleasures. If we think we won’t fall, look at Peter who denied Christ, David who seduced Bathsheba and Judas who betrayed his Savior.
Let’s make every effort to enter the rest our Savior earned for us by keeping close to him and his Word. Because with Jesus, we can have confidence that rest awaits us.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
His eyes were robbed of sleep. His friends had stolen away. In so many ways he was alone. Judge after judge had heard his case. Injustice had run away with the truth. Pain seized his back and head, his hands, his chest. Yet as enemies surrounded, the one so hated thought first of love. His persecutors heard a prayer for forgiveness. His mother received words of care.
He was tempted in every way just as we are yet was without sin. In contrast, what do we do? To go through a sleepless night and to face challenges in a new day is a recipe for short-tempered frustration and meltdown. When companions profess friendship for many months but then are nowhere to be found when times get tough, we are tempted to accuse and hold grudges. At a hint of unfairness we think vengeance. When pained in illness or injury we embrace complaint.
To consider Jesus as he approached the cross is to witness the opposite of who we are. He was tempted in every way just as we are yet was without sin.
He not only passed through the temptations we feel, he conquered them. He won the victory over them and his resurrection proves it. Now, he intercedes for us before the Father’s throne. He places his robe of righteousness over us so in Jesus you were tired but continued serving with joy. In Jesus you were abandoned yet continued honoring your Father with confidence. In Jesus you were unjustly accused but responded with love. In Jesus you have faced temptation but never have fallen.
What does it mean that we have a great High Priest? It means one who is mighty or powerful. He has the power and authority to get things done. He is the Son of God who has ascended to heaven. And with him we can approach God with confidence.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
When a stranger is near, the toddler runs to mom and clings to her legs. That child is confident that he will find safety with mom.
May we have that same attitude toward God. With our High Priest pleading our case, let’s approach God with confident prayer. Let’s approach the Lord’s Table confident of his mercy. Let’s approach life with confidence that we can face trials and troubles and know they will work for our good. Let’s approach death with confidence that we will find rest – eternal rest in the arms of Jesus.
Let’s make every effort to hold on to Jesus so that with him we can enter eternal rest.