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All Scripture citations are to the NIV-UK


unless noted otherwise.


Q Heb. 4: 9-11: ‘There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.’


Exactly what is God’s Sabbath-rest that ‘remains’, and how does one ‘enter’ into this?



A In this Epistle to the Hebrews the writer most likely the Apostle Paul exhorts the church to be steadfast and faithful to their Christian calling. As Jews and students of the Hebrew Scriptures they were well acquainted with the Exodus and the travails of Israel in the wilderness. And they would have known of the rebellion referred to in Psalm 95: 7-11:


7 . . . Today, if only you would hear his voice, 8. ‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, 9. where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. 10. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.” 11. So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”’


The place names, Massah (strife) and Meribah (contention), refer to two separate sites en route to the Promised Land during their desert trek, where the people, grumpy, and weary from their wanderings, recoiled from Moses’ leadership, threatening to stone him. In complaining against Moses they complained against Jehovah.


The account appears in Exod. 17: 1-7. Vs. 5-7 read:


5. The Lord answered Moses, ‘Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7. And he called the place Massah and Meribah* because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’


[*Note that a similar incident occurred at least 11 days later, at the encampment in Kadesh (Deut. 1: 2), where the people once again pressed Moses for water. The singular difference in this case is that Jehovah told Moses (and Aaron) to speak to ‘that rock’. With his staff, Moses instead struck the rock twice, for which act of disobedience he was denied entry into Canaan. Kadesh was renamed Meribah, because here the congregation quarrelled with God. See Num. 20: 1-13.]


A Rest In Reserve

Those who rebelled against God and His executor, Moses, were forbidden entry into the Promised Land. The people were therefore turned back into the wilderness and condemned to wander, with long spells of encampment, for 40 years, until the disobedient of that generation had died (Heb. 3: 7-11):


7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, 8. do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9. where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.” 11. So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”’


The Divine Rest

Heb. 4: 3, 4 tells us that


3 . . . we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, . . . 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.’


In what way can it be said that God, the Almighty who never tires, entered a Sabbath rest? In that He has waited patiently, assuredly, unhurried, for His plan of the ages to run its course. Though human sin early on spoiled the perfection of Eden and iniquity and death has stalked the land for thousands of years, the Father had already arranged for the Son to pay the ransom-price for Adam’s sin: Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb slain from the creation of the world (Rev. 13: 8).


Heaven On Earth

The future blessed kingdom on earth under Christ’s Millennial rule is guaranteed, just as the Father ordained, and will be established in the fullness of time. In anticipation of that event, ‘today’  now the faith-justified consecrated believers may enjoy their own Sabbath a tranquility of mind and heart, resting in the salvation work of Christ, knowing their sins are forgiven.



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