Let us Strive...to Rest / Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, October 21, 2018
Pastor Donald Beaumont

Hebrews 4:9-13

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.

I'm sure there are those of us who are familiar with the term; Dismissed. It holds many memories for me during my time in the military. My most favorite memory was my platoon got off the bus and unload our gear. It had been a long hard couple of months, with very few moments of peace. Our clothes, which were once cleanly pressed, are dirty and ragged. Our bodies, barely moving, are sore and worn down. Our eyes are tired, and almost vacant. We line up, at least trying to appear somewhat like a military unit. But the days have been too long, and the nights contained no rest.

And after a few words, which I barely listened to, about how we should behave, one word made all the difference in the world. Dis-missed!

And with that word, those of us who thought the days would never end, realized it is time, a time we’ve longed for, but recently, never thought would come. So, begins a time known as R & R… rest and recuperation leave. Given to those who have been at it too long. It took a few days for our bodies to realize the truth, and then, energy and enthusiasm for life will return…as we “rest”. Souls that are tired need to know this, it’s time to realize we can rest.

Indeed, the writer of our epistle urges us to strive to enter that rest, to realize we’re there. The Need for “Rest” because without it is the same  as Disobedience/Unbelief

Verse 11 has a pretty strong warning about putting off our “rest”. Hear it again; Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

If we define the word rest, we would come up with, inactivity, decisive laziness and inaction, which, for my illustration, makes no sense. We’ll get to the nature of that rest later in the message, but the effect of not entering into the rest is pretty sad.

The falling referred to in this passage, is referring to what was said before in chapter three. Falling away from God, as the people of Israel did as they did during the journey from Egypt to the promised land. Allow me to quote what it says there: Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not to those who disobeyed? So, we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Hebrews 3:16-19

I think it helps us to understand this word disobedience, and how it relates to unbelief, and thus not entering God’s presence, or His rest. The prefix “dis” in English creates a negative. To disobey means the opposite of obeying. In Greek, there’s a similar prefix, usually just a “a”. Which is in the case of disobedience. And is similar to the word used for sin, not doing what is right in God’s eyes.

In the case of Israel, the question of being disobedient is in reference to God’s salvation, whether He would be faithful to the promise of making them His people and delivering them into the land He had prepared for them. Despite the miracles, despite the power demonstrated over and over in their presence, they couldn’t be convinced that they were God’s people, and therefore they chose not to follow, and of course not to believe. I often wonder what would’ve motivated these people to obey and thus enter into God’s rest.

Maybe it would take another parting of the red sea? Or maybe some more Manna and more quail? I'm thinking that if you can understand this concept of unbelief/disobedience, and then admit this to mean that God’s Word is part of this sermon, would that then make sense for us? For the Word of God promises that rest and testifies to God’s faithfulness. For it is there, in the words we constantly hear, that we’re reminded of God’s faithfulness, of God’s power, of God’s love and care.

The Holy Spirit, through those words, creates the life, yet also convicts the actions and beliefs that destroy faith, these words, calling to mind the actions of God, can build up and strengthen the trust we have in God’s promise of salvation

And yet, if we aren’t persuaded by them, if we don’t grasp the height and depth and width and breadth of God’s love, these very words leave us, as it did the Israelites, without an excuse, and separated from God. We'd continue to stumble, not trusting in God’s love and wisdom, and fall prey to Satan.

The Word of God goes to the very heart of our relationship with God. Do we grasp His love, not just for us as individuals, but for us all?

It would be disturbing, if an army private, while on R & R, carried his rifle around, and was constantly tense, and alert for battle. By no means, would he be at rest, and in reality, there wouldn’t be any safety for anyone around.

Yet how often do we walk through our lives that way? Unable to rest, constantly alert for those who would attack us, and sin against us? Unable to forgive, and know forgiveness, unable to rest, always alert to dangers and threats, the tension grows, until we’re ready to break.

On R & R, very few soldiers expend less energy than they would in combat. But the energy is expended differently. They’re at liberty, free from the concern of attack, free from the oppressive nature. The energy instead is directed towards living, to enjoying the company of their friends, and depending on the situation, one’s loved ones. There’s life.

It’s the difference between work and play. Or the difference between dating someone, trying to impress them and win their affection and the realization that you are loved.

The “work” is over, the job’s complete. But that doesn’t mean that the reward doesn’t take energy and effort. It’s different. It’s enjoyable and filled with all sorts of blessings, you don’t realize it when it’s “work”. The actions might be the same, yet they’re different in how we approach them, and in how they play out.

The idea of buying flowers or presents for the one you’re dating, is different than buying something nice for one’s spouse on Valentine’s day. But in regard to our spiritual lives, how do we enter that rest? How do we go on R & R? IS it just taking a week off from church and heading to the beach and playing? Or is church our R & R? There remains a rest!

If my thoughts are right, church is part of our R & R. It’s not supposed to be the combat zone, but the place where we celebrate together, that the work is done! Even more so, the idea of Church worship is to remind us that we are “resting”, for the work IS DONE.

Remember, God rested when the work was done, and that’s how the writer of Hebrews pictures the spiritual life. Hear it again, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His!

The work in our case, is re-establishing the relationship with God. For if you read all of chapters three and four, entering God’s rest is like entering His presence, we’re not concerned about judgment, in fact we even come to the throne of Grace with boldness. We enter by the blood of Christ, and we know we belong. We don’t have to fear being judged, because that was taken care of. We don’t have to balance the scales of righteousness, that’s been done as well. The burden has been lifted, and our joy is in realizing we all made it through, together.

Joy reigns, tension destroyed. Peace reigns, the war is over. Love reigns, for that which would destroy it, anger, malice, jealousy, is shown to be something less, in the light of Christ.

Striving …

And so, we strive, not to accomplish the task, but to remind each other, God reigns, we are at peace, the incomparable peace of God, which guards our cleansed hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May you grasp the gift of rest that has been purchased and given to by God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bethel Lutheran Church

32410 Willowick Drive
Willowick, OH 44095

P: (440) 943-5000

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