that the King of Glory may come in."
4.8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterwards have spoken of another day.
From the context, it is clear that the KJV is incorrect in translating “Joshua” as “Jesus” in this passage. The writer has been talking about the refusal of the people of Israel to enter the promised land under the leadership of Moses. However, the people did eventually enter the land under Joshua’s leadership. The writer wants to make it clear, however, that even in entering into the natural promise, the land of Canaan, they still had not entered into the spiritual promise of rest and provision in the Lord. Joshua led them into the promised land, but he was not able to lead them into the promise of God’s rest. It was impossible for him to do so, because they were still determined to hold to their unbelief – their deep conviction that such a rest was not available, not even possible, and that they had to achieve everything by their own efforts.
… He would not afterwards have spoken of another day.
If the context had not been enough to make it clear that it is Joshua, not Jesus, to whom the writer is referring, this part of the verse would settle it. As we have already seen, the place where God speaks of another day (“Today, if you hear His voice …”) is Psalm 95:7, which was written after the time of Joshua, but long before Jesus walked on the earth. Joshua failed to bring the people into the true rest that God had promised, but there is another day, a day that was heralded by the birth of Jesus and secured by His death.
(v9) There remains, therefore, a rest for the people of God. (v10) For he that has entered into His rest has also ceased from his own works, as God did from His.
This is the crux of what this chapter – and, to a large extent, the book of Hebrews – is about. The rest that was offered to the people of Israel is still available. That rest does not consist of a place, but of a Person. For the people of Israel, it was the Person of YHWH, Who, if they had been prepared to fully trust Him, was ready to provide for their every need, surround them with security, and lift them up as a light to the Gentiles. Their mistake was in thinking that everything rested on them, when instead they should have allowed it all to rest on Him. For Christians living under the New Covenant, it is the Person of Jesus Christ, in Whom we have available not only every natural provision, but more importantly the spiritual provision of salvation, forgiveness and right standing with God.
It is tragic, therefore, that so many Christians still think, as the Israelites did, that everything depends on them. They are so busy trying to work for God – in some cases, even trying to work for their salvation – that they have no time to be still, and allow the Holy Spirit, Who lives within them, to work in them and through them to transform them into the image of Christ and manifest His glory through them.
(v11) Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
This verse sounds like a contradiction in terms. Labor to enter rest? Yet if we think about it, most of us will agree that sometimes being still – really still – is harder than any work we do. We are so accustomed to filling our time, whether it be with productive work or just with the mindless entertainment of television, that being still is threatening. For some people, life is like a thin sheet of ice on top of a leaky bucket. Originally, the ice was supported by a bucket full of water, but now the water has drained away and there is nothing but that fragile layer of ice, with nothing underneath. They live at the surface level, going through the motions of Christianity, but that surface has nothing beneath it. Because they believe everything depends on them, they just don’t have the time or energy to look deeper.
We need to stop, however difficult that may be, to take time to drink from the well of life in Christ. We need to find rest in Him: not just the rest of a day or a place, but that still place deep within ourselves that fills our bucket and allows us to live and minister out of the overflow.
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