Series on Hebrews, I Superior Prophet, C Superior by Peace, Text:4:3-13, Title: War and Peace


In illustrating the superiority of Christ to Moses, the author of Hebrews is focused on Jesus as a greater prophet. He is greater in his person. He is greater in the perseverance he commands, and today we see that he is greater in the peace that he gives. You will remember from the preceding verses that the focus is on the failure of Israel to enter the promised land because of their lack of faith. Chapter 4 begins with the words, 'the promise of entering his rest still stands.' In other words, real peace evaded them but it need not pass us by, so in verse 3 we read, 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 work has been finished since the creation of the world. Jesus is the prophet of peace who says to his disciples in John 14, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give  you, I do  not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  Why not??? Because Jesus has just told them he is going to prepare a place for them, He will come again and take them there, and He is the way to the place. This place is what the author of Hebrews refers to here as the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God. In Jesus Christ it is accomplished and fulfilled. To turn away from following Jesus is to lose the prospect and the promise of peace, and thus to cast over all of our lives a pall of misery and hopelessness. We’re going to take a refreshing look at the Sabbath today. If you leave here legalistically focused on what you may or may not do on the Sabbath, I guarantee that you’ve missed the point. What we should do is leave here and say this is the greatest day of my life. We see here the Sabbath Rest Promised, The Sabbath Rest  Postponed, and the Sabbath Rest Possessed.

I The Sabbath Rest Promised

To help us understand the promise of peace, the author of Hebrews takes us back to the institution of the Sabbath. It is here that we shall come to understand its real meaning in verses 4-9, For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words:And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: The quotation is from Genesis 2:2.  Hear the context in 1:31-2:3 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.  Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.  We all know that God is not inert. The Bible says that the Son of God is upholding all things by the word of His power,. Westminster Confession says that “God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions and things from the greatest even to the least.” Sounds like an administrative nightmare to me. How can we understand what the Bible means when it says God rested?  Basically it is referring to the fact that the creation of the world before the fall, before sin and its consequent misery, was perfect and complete, marvelous, glorious, and calculated to inspire nothing but awe in the mind of man. Now I’m aware that our work is never done. That’s why I have a woodworking hobby, I plan, purchase materials build a bookcase and then sit back and just enjoy the completed project. It’s not perfect like God’s work, but its finished. When God gave us the Sabbath he wanted us to participate in the joy of his perfect work. The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Things have changed since the entrance of sin and death into God’s world, but that’s dealt with here in this passage as we shall see. The first thing we need to do it get straight on what the Sabbath is about. Its about joy and rejoicing in a finished work. Verse 10 of our text states it, For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

II The Sabbath Rest Postponed

The entrance of sin and death means a postponement of the true Sabbath rest. God’s Old Testament people had the Sabbath institution, but not the fulfillment and reality that it prophesied. This is illustrated by two references to Old Testament history. First of all in the days of Moses God said he would bring the people into their rest. They needed only to go up and possess what God was giving them and to obey his command to cleanse the land of idolatry. Although their failure was foreordained, it was still a failure to believe. Their failure to believe that God would give them the promised land is no different than when we become overwhelmed by the circumstances of this life and take our eyes off Jesus’ promise of peace in the future. We both receive the word of God, the good news, and fail to believe it. This happened again in Israel’s history centuries later according to Psalm 95. Here the Psalmist reminds his generation that they are just like their forefathers. Their hearts are hardened, Today he says don’t harden your hearts as they did in the wilderness. They still had no peace. Actually the only way that Sabbath rest with its contentment and peace could be achieved was through Jesus the Son of God. We can experience this peace but only if we believe that Jesus has won it for us which is why the author says in verse 11, Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

III The Sabbath Rest Possessed

We possess the true Sabbath in Christ who has over come the world, but we are still in the world. Consequently, our appreciation for the Sabbath is in direct proportion to our believing that we already have the victory in Christ. You can’t have Sabbath rest without a finished work. So if you believe that Jesus finished the work of your salvation, and has already provided for your peace in glory forever, then you understand what the Sabbath is about. The problem here is that these people, to whom Hebrews was written, were going to turn their backs on Jesus because of persecution. That made them no different than the Israelites in the wilderness who did not believe that God had already given them the land. This is why the author focuses on the power of the word of God, in 4:12,13, For the word of God is living 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. 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. The scripture penetrates to the depths of our being. It discloses the thoughts and intents of our hearts. It exposes who we really are. It reveals any refusal to heed its warnings or believe its promises in the depths of our soul. Others may not see it, but we do. No one who is gripped by its ultimacy can turn back. Those who are tempted to turn back need to examine themselves whether they are in the faith. The final  test is whether we are able to experience true peace in the midst of turmoil, trouble, and trials. The existential moment for the follower of Jesus Christ is when he clings to the naked Word of God and its promise.


If in the midst of your most severe trial you can hold death and despair in derision. If you can say in the face of death he is risen, and in the face of despair there’s a new day coming, then you understand what the Sabbath is really about. It is a celebration of the restoration of that pristine glory which attended the original perfection of God’s magnificent creation. Don’t deny the wonder of it, rejoice in the victory.