It has nothing to do with today’s Scripture text, but congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the World Series. The Giants moved from New York to SF before I learned to walk, and they hadn’t won the Big League Championship since my Mom graduated high school. They had an earthquake in 1989, and a meltdown in 2002, but finally San Francisco has its first World Series winner!
“And now for something completely different...”
The fourth chapter of Hebrews has a number of big ideas, beautiful gems that could easily be explored and appreciated separately -- The idea that God’s Word must be combined with faith for us to arrive at His promised rest; the idea that God’s Word is a living, active, “blade” that cuts to our core and reveals our inner self; and the idea that Jesus was tempted in His humanity in every way as we are, yet sinless and ready to help us in our time of temptation. These are pearls of truth, and I’d like to attempt to string them together. Perhaps I can connect these brilliant stars and produce a spiritual constellation.
Stars were and can still be used as a means of navigation. We can use them to arrive at our desired destination. Today’s text talks about God’s special destination for us. He calls it His ‘Sabbath Rest.’ It is fore- shadowed in the seventh day of creation, where everything is good and God’s work is complete. It is foreshadowed in the Israelites entering
the Promised Land under Joshua (whose name is the Hebrew form of ‘Jesus.’) God’s special destination for us is Heaven. That is the ultimate rest. But the text tells us that just knowing this does not guarantee arrival.
Because I know who Jesus is and that there is a heaven doesn’t guarantee that I will abide there. “The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.” The message is that God in Christ loved us and saved us from our sins by His death and resurrection. But to realize the promise of heaven that comes with that good news (that gospel), we must add faith to it. We must believe it. Trust it. Hold fast to it as truth. Not put some of our ‘money’ down on it as a safe bet; but, go ‘all in’ without reservation. “Those who formerly had the gospel preached to them
did not go in, because of their disobedience.”
That last quote is interesting because it reveals that the opposite of faith is not unbelief, it is disobedience. The Word of God lays open the truth about Jesus, and also lays open the hearts of men. The keen, double-edged sword of God’s Word divides soul and spirit and accurately assesses the thoughts and intentions at our center. This Word also divides the path before us. It forks the road. It calls for a decision –
faith or disobedience.
For the one choice to be called ‘disobedience,’ it must be that this Word of God is coming to us in the form of a command and not a question. Not, “Would you like to put your faith in Jesus Christ?” but, “Put your faith in Jesus Christ.” God has the authority to command us. He is our Father with the right to be imperative with His children. Meanwhile, temptation would have us say, “No” to our Father. Temptation is what tells us to buck against God’s authority. It wants to draw us down the other path. It says, "Take the other fork in the road."
Jesus Himself dealt with temptation. As the Father’s will was revealed to Him, even He had to decide to go against it or go the way of obedience; the way of faith. He chose faith. And now He reigns from Heaven.
So the pearls are strung; the stars align in constellation -- The Word reveals the gospel. The gospel promises heaven. But the gospel calls for faith. Temptation calls for disobedience. The road is forked, and a choice must be made. The Word reveals our hearts. Is our heart’s intention to trust God or to entertain temptation? Jesus encountered these forks in the road. He prayed and overcame. In our time of temptation we can pray to Him, and receive grace to choose faith. And if we will, consistently, choose faith, we will arrive at His promised destination.
Use these stars to navigate by. And enter His rest.
Pray: Jesus, I approach your throne of grace with confidence, knowing you will help me in my time of need. I need faith. Show me your heart and mine, that I might make every effort to obey all the way to glory.