In these verses, the author once again urges the recipients to continue in the faith, this time by discussing the promise of rest, a topic that was first brought up in chapter 3.
The argument goes like this: After creating the world, God rested on the seventh day, and this rest of God is a rest that he invites humans to share in with him. In Old Testament times, the generation in the wilderness, despite having been rescued from Egypt, did not enter into this promised rest because they lacked faith and disobeyed God. Even those who Joshua did lead into the land did not fully enter the rest, as that is still a promised future reality. Just like them, we have heard good news of salvation, and the promised rest is still to come. We must hold fast to the faith in order to enter the rest and not miss out like that generation did.
Of course, an argument like this raises questions, particularly around the security of our salvation. Some passages in the Bible focus on the past tense when talking about salvation (we have been saved), some focus on the present (we are being saved), whilst others, such as this passage, have a future focus that grounds salvation eschatologically in terms of the Judgment Day and the age to come (we will be saved). The benefit of this kind of future focussed passage is that it guards us against complacency, and encourages us to stay the course. The warnings against falling away are just as Biblical as the assurances of our salvation, and neither should be neglected in favour of the other.
In particular, the issue highlighted is a lack of faith when listening to the good news, and this is shown in disobedience to the Lord. The Lord knows who is truly his, and can see every secret of our inner being – there is no deceiving him, and his word pierces to the core. For those who have truly responded in faith, this word and the other warnings of Hebrews are nothing to worry about. For those without faith, it is a wake-up call that would urge the hearer to listen again to the good news and not to harden the heart as they hear God’s voice.
Some Key Points:
- God has a promise of rest for his people.
- In the Old Testament, many failed to enter the rest through disobedience and lack of faith. Even those that did enter the land did not truly enter the rest.
- The rest is still there as a promise for us if we continue in the faith.
- Future Hope – Paint a picture of the glorious promise that has been made and help people set their hope in this. Much in this world is wearying but there is a rest to come.
- Warning Against Complacency – Entering into this rest is not something that we should presume upon. We must hold fast to Christ in faith. It is only in him that we enter the promised rest.
- A Call to Spiritual Sensitivity – The passage quotes Psalm 95, urging us not to harden our hearts when he hear God’s voice. What has God been saying to us recently and how quick are we to receive and obey it?