Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Israel Today.
A long, long time ago, our forefathers were presented with the greatest opportunity the human race had ever been given. A chance to enter the Sabbath rest of God.
But by a decisive vote of 10 to 2 they turned it down and said, “We want to go back to Egypt.”
Their failure came as no surprise given they’d already flunked the first nine tests of faith they’d faced. But this one was their final exam. This time their unbelief would sentence them to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness until they dropped dead. Worse, they condemned countless generations of descendants to continue wandering in the harsh wilderness of Satan’s world system.
And so the golden opportunity was lost. That was untilan unnamed saint observed new hope hidden in the Scriptures. In his epistle titled, “Hebrews,” he revealed his exciting discovery that the Sabbath rest promised to Israel had not been forfeited. That it had only been postponed. God was going to give us another chance.
The revelation came when he read in the Psalms, “Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me in the day of trial in the wilderness…and I swore in my wrath they shall not enter My rest” (Heb. 3:7-11; Ps. 95:7-11). In that moment he heard two important things.
First, that one day God would speak again concerning another opportunity to enter His rest. And second, that it was a misconception to think that Israel had already entered that rest under Joshua. They hadn’t. Because David, the one who had written those words of hope, lived long after Joshua’s day! Therefore, as rewarding as entering the land was, it was not the glorious reward God had prepared for them. His day of rest and universal peace would have to wait until some tomorrow.
That prompted the Writer to echo David’s grave warning to us: when “Today” does come don’t make the same mistake our forefathers did. Implying, if we fail to enter this time we’ll find ourselves in an even worse place than our forefathers. No doubt in the “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12) wailing like Esau, when we see what we could have had, but lost through unbelief. Because “we set our minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19).
So what exactly is this “Sabbath rest of God” that awaits us? As the Writer reveals, it’s the seventh day of creation. It’s the fulfillment of all the Sabbath rests Moses had instructed Israel to keep. It seems God, after creating the natural world in six days, created a supernatural spiritual environment of rest and peace for us on the seventh day. After finishing His work He then entered that seventh day Himself and rested. He has been waiting there ever since for His chosen ones in Messiah to join Him – and “recline at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Matt. 8:11).
This long-awaited seventh day is most commonly known as the Kingdom of God. Or the thousand-year reign of Messiah. Or “the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:21). It will be a time when “the wolf will dwell with the lamb” (Isa.11:6). When “nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again learn war” (Isa. 2:4). It is characterized by the spiritual rest Yeshua invited all who believe in him to experience right now! “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
To enter God’s rest in Messiah we must cease from works of the flesh, either to secure ourselves in God’s kingdom. Or to secure ourselves in this world system. “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (Heb. 3:10). We must begin to put our complete trust in God to reckon us righteous, fulfill His purposes in our life and provide for all our needs. “For I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread” (Ps. 37:25).
In short, it’s a walk of faith from start to finish. It’s a way of life that can only be learned through trial and error, because it’s completely unnatural for our flesh to just take God at His word. We want to walk by sight. But we’d better keep at it, relying on God’s Spirit to teach us. For one day His voice will sound again, inviting us to enter His rest. And I believe we are very close.
The question is, will we have the faith to go forward? Or will we follow in the tragic footsteps of our forefathers? “Therefore let us be diligent [now]to enter that rest so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11).
Brian Hennessy is author of Valley of the Steeples