There are lots of verses in Hebrews 4 that stick out to me.
You know them: the one about the Word being living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword (v. 12). Or maybe verses 15 and 16 stick out to you—”For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Over the past two years, one of my major goals has been improving my self-confidence through finding my identity in Christ alone. Hebrews 4:16 has been a safe haven and a stronghold when the skin-slicing winds of insecurity come raging. What I’ve never done, though, is read the whole chapter to seek out the context of this verse.
Fighting off a season of failure to spend daily time in the Bible, my boyfriend and I recently decided to join one another in reading through Hebrews. It should go without saying that I’ve learned something new about the Lord in each verse of each chapter of the book, but today chapter 4 sat differently with me.
I had a mental outline of my post for The Rope today, a piece sort of wrapping up the loose ends of my upcoming graduation (ahem, it’s tomorrow—pray I don’t fall). But as I scribbled notes in my journal and in the margins of my Bible, the Lord convicted me of a lesson I ought to know already.
Made undeniable by my eyebrows’ involuntary lifting, I was totally unaware of the verses that come before Hebrews 4:12—
9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Speaking on the Israelites’ disobedience after the exodus, the writer of Hebrews offers a warning to their audience: obey God’s call to rest or you’ll only lead yourselves to further disobedience. And just so you know…
12…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. 13 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.
The Lord knows our hearts—He knows their wickedness. The Lord knows our intention—He knows they’re selfish. The Lord knows His will—He knows it is perfect. We know these things as well, but we choose to ignore them.
And because we live in a culture that thrives off of nonstop, gut-busting work, we ignore His command to rest, too. As the Creator of our every intricate detail, God knows our need for rest, our physical demand for stopping and reflecting.
He knows we need reminders; He knows we need to ponder Him and His ways and the things He’s telling us. He knows us.
Yet so often we (or at least I sure do) find ourselves working to the bone and past our breaking points, calling out to the Lord from a deep, dark well that we can’t escape from on our own. He’s fully aware of the satisfaction we find in our labor, in producing good, tangible fruits that make a difference in the world around us. He’s the One that wired us that way.
But God never intended for that to be our true source of identity or sustenance, just as He shows us in Exodus 16.
When the Israelites *dramatically* complained to Moses of hunger, God provides His people with a miracle: bread-dew in the desert (a nifty little party trick, if you ask me). With this gift the Lord included a list of rules—gather what you and your family will eat, nothing more. And on the sixth day, gather two day’s worth so that on the seventh day, you will rest.
But of course we know that the Israelites gathered more than they needed on the first through fifth days, leading their gifts to become rotten and worm-ridden. When they’d seen their disobedience give way to unsatisfactory results, the people distrusted God to provide for the seventh day with the sixth day’s bread, so they took it into their own hands.
The Israelites went out to gather bread on the seventh day, surprised that there was none to be gathered. How frequently do we do something like this? We ignore God’s voice and then are surprised when His plan unravels in front of our faces. We take good gifts and direction from the Lord, working them into something idolatrous and sinful because out of over-zealousness or selfish ambition.
So God called out the Israelites and sent them back home to rest. They’d been called to work and done so through the week, but now was the time to stop.
One way or another, God will receive glory from our rest, whether we offer it in submission or frantically turn to such as a last resort. He longs for us to know Him so fully that we trust Him with the next steps that we can’t even see. To trust Him is to obey Him, and obedience—at one point or another—always includes rest. All the Lord asks of us is that we’re faithful to use well the gifts He gives in His timing.
Stop working so hard to accomplish a task that’s in the Creator’s hands. You’re worn out and weary over a task you were never meant to do alone. Enter the rest of the Lord and trust that He knows you and He knows what He’s doing.