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Hebrews Chapter 4


There's a variety of sabbaths in Scripture. The most important one is the seventh day sabbath instituted in Exodus. It is specifically related to the seventh day of creation and holds very special significance for God and for the people of Israel.

Ex 20:8-11 ...Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it. (1985 JPS Tanakh)

Ex 31:12-17 ...And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you. You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you. He who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time: it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and was refreshed. (1985 JPS Tanakh)

Here in the fourth chapter of Hebrews, a new kind of sabbath comes into view that, although similar in some respects, is quite a bit different than the regular sabbath.


Heb 4:1-2 …Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (NIV)

That's a little misleading. In the phrase "the gospel preached" the article *the* isn't in the Greek text but was inserted by editors because they thought it might improve readability. It actually reads nearer to this: "For we also have had gospel preached to us, just as they did."

We can enhance it even more by rendering the literal meaning of the Greek in that whole phrase so that it reads this way: "For we are having good news preached [to us], even as those also."

The *good news* the people of Israel all heard concerned the original promised-land; the quality of which in that day was beyond belief. It wasn't the semi-desert arid climate so common in that region today. In Joshua's day, somewhere around 1400 BC, Eretz Israel had abundant timber growing on the hills, and the valleys were luscious and productive and there was plenty of water everywhere. Today, annual rainfall in Israel is relatively skimpy and occurs just three months out of the year; and most of it runs off because the water shed is inadequate. In Joshua's day, there were two rainy seasons; and it was more than enough to supply everything, and everybody's, water needs.

Anyway, when Yhvh's people were instructed to invade the land and conquer it; they balked because it was reported by their scouts that the inhabitants were too powerful for them to overcome;  thus totally discounting all the amazing miracles that God had recently employed to rescue them from the brickyards in Egypt. In other words: they didn't believe that God would assist them to overcome the people in the land that He was encouraging them to invade. Hence the evaluation that the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith; viz: they doubted. Thus; they lost out on the benefits that God was all set and ready to provide for them at that time; and were in danger of losing out again in like manner by refusing to trust the message that God's son himself had preached to them straight from the horse's mouth. (Heb 1:1-2)

Next.

Heb 4:3-6 …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. 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." It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had [good news] preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. (NIV)

The plan of salvation is sort of like the six day creation. When God was all done with that, he set aside the seventh day to memorialize his work and on that day he finalized its completion. If the adult Jews who were saved out of Egyptian slavery had only moved on up into Canaan when Moses told them to... but they stopped just short of apprehending the benefits of their salvation.

Next.

Heb 4:7-9 …Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "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; (NIV)

The Jewish experience wasn't actually the true plan of salvation; just an allegory of the real thing to help modern Jews understand what God is doing in the world today. As he said; Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

Gen 2:1-2 …The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array. On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. (1985 JPS Tanakh)

The word for ceased is from shabath (shaw-bath') and means: to repose, i.e. desist from exertion.

The seventh day, although included among the days of creation week, was a peculiar day characterized by no creative activity whatsoever; but was instead a day of repose. The previous six were days filled with the business of construction. But at the end of the sixth, God stopped creating stuff for the cosmos and the seventh was utilized to mark an end to His creation labors as regards this one specific universe; viz: the Almighty was done, the cosmos was complete; He had nothing more to add to it, and hasn't created anything new for it since.

The concept of *completion* is an important concept not only in the plan of creation, but also in the plan of salvation. God has prepared a complete package to redeem the Jews, and there is nothing for them to add to it as if they could enhance the package in some way and make it better any more than Man could improve upon God's creation.

But alas, Jews still prefer to merit their redemption by working for it instead of accepting it as a gratuity. That is a clear violation of true shabath principles. The seventh day  is a gift (Mark 2:27): a day of rest, a day characterized by a cessation of work; and memorializes the finished work of creation, and God's repose.

Just as the Sabbath marked an end to the work of Man's creation, so Jesus' passion marked an end to the work of Man's redemption.

John 19:29-30 …A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, "It is finished!" Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (NLT)

Here's the lay of it. God has already done all He is ever going to do to secure the Jews' redemption. The crucifixion marked off the sixth day (so to speak) of that work. And on that day, Jesus said those famous words: "It is done." But the seventh day, the key day that consummates the completion, does not occur for Jewish individuals until they trust the cross' effectiveness to ransom sinners from the wrath of God. When that happens, then the individual is instantly transferred into the future promised land: Messiah's kingdom.

Col 1:12-14 …giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (NIV)

Next.

Heb 4:10-11 …for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (NIV)

Since God's plan of salvation is reckoned a completed plan, then there is no need for Jews to work one out on their own. They are in fact urged to make every effort to accept the mercy of God and stop trying to earn it by developing a degree of personal righteousness in an effort to impress God and thereby earn His favor.

Rom 10:1-3 ...Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. (NIV)

Titus 3:3-7 ...At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (NIV)

Next.

Heb 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. (NIV)

The *joints and morrow* refer to the body; and along with the soul and spirit, make up the three parts of a complete human being. Thus, even if the body and soul were to be destroyed in Hell (Matt 10:28), Man keeps on because he isn't just body and soul, but body, soul, and spirit. Man's body was created from the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7). His body may dissolve back into dust; but his being cannot dissolve because it came from God, not from dust.

God's word is a very, very mysterious thing. It not only created the entire cosmos, but it also made itself into a human being. I have no idea how it is possible for God's word to be so alive like that.

Not only is God going to judge Man's evil deeds, but also every immoral passion, and even every thoughtless word we ever spoke; plus, every naughty thing we ever did in secret when we thought no one was looking.

Next.

Heb 4:14 …Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (NIV)

The faith that *we* (Jews) profess is not the same as the faith Christians profess. Orthodox Jews profess faith in Abraham's promises; and fully expect to be resurrected to live in Eretz Israel under the auspices of David's descendant Messiah. The problem is; the people of Israel have a history of getting themselves evicted from Eretz Israel from time to time because of impious behavior; and often get themselves conquered by foreign powers for the same reason. That situation would continue unless some changes were made to the priesthood; and another covenant were brought online to remedy their impious behavior.

In the Hebrews letter, we'll learn how God will stop their evictions by curing their impious behavior— and the whole plan hinges upon a different covenant and a different priesthood: in point of fact, the new covenant couldn't work without a different priesthood.

Next.

Heb 4:15-16 …For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with frankness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (WHV)

Webster's defines frankness as marked by free, forthright, and sincere expression. Frankness stresses lack of shyness or secretiveness or of evasiveness from considerations of tact or expedience; ergo: frankness implies unbridled freedom of speech and the liberty to speak your mind without fear of ridicule, shame, disgrace, retribution, or retaliation.

Jewish friend, if you are reading this and suspect that you may not be safely resting within salvation's sabbath, then you really should speak with Jesus about it as soon as possible. David's son is up beside God right now, inside His very chambers, and it is his son's job to speak up for David's countrymen, to mediate for them, and to defend them from wrath; thus locking in their share of Abraham's promises. Every Jew who wants to settle accounts with God can get their case closed and never have to worry about their future ever again. It is a sure thing. But you have got to act soon while it is still called Today. Don't risk missing out on the promised land all over again like your ancestors did the first time around.

 


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