“... exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” ~Hebrews 3:13 (NRSV).
There is a convolution of important spiritual concepts intertwined through Hebrews 3–4, and the recollection of the Mosaic rebellion provides a poignant illustration regarding obedience and rest.
As Moses is contrasted with Jesus, the former a faithful servant and the latter a faithful Son, so also is there a contrast perceivable in this passage regarding obedience and rest; and not just any rest... it’s the anointed procession to God’s royal rest.
Hardening of Hearts
Pharaoh may have hardened his heart against the Hebrews (Exodus 8:19, 32), and we might associate non-Christians hardening their hearts against the free grace of God, but we ought not to imagine any believer—most of all ourselves—being immune from the hardening of our hearts.
Hebrews was written to believers known for temptation to backsliding. Indeed, many of that day, as well as many in our own, had or have recoiled to the practices of old.
These are matters of the hardening of hearts against the gospel of grace, and the forgiveness of God for our sins, and the propagation of a false gospel whereby wanton rebellion is engaged in.
The key indicator that such a rebellion has taken place, personally or communally, is the absence of rest in the believers’ heart(s), for the Lord’s Spirit cannot arrive and remain there.
The citing of Psalm 95:7-11 in this section of Hebrews is an important landmark. Never again are the readers of these Scriptures (Psalms and Hebrews) to forget the cost of disobedience on the Sabbath-rest of the people of God.
The concept of Sabbath-rest is beyond a ‘seventh-day’ rest. Combined with the grace of God that has lifted us out of the condemnation for our sin is the notion that rest is ours, eternally.
This Sabbath-rest is, however, contingent upon ongoing good works of faithful obedience in the Lord.
It is no coincidence that this section of Hebrews commenced with a polarising illustration of Moses’ and Jesus’ respective faithfulness. Whilst the writer to the Hebrews is bent on making a dramatic contrast between Moses and Jesus—i.e. Jesus is superior to Moses—he uses them both to call all disciples reading the letter to a higher level of obedience.
The prize for such levels of faithfulness is situational Sabbath-rest.
This is the Spirit-sense of anointing that comes from consciously feeling the Spirit of the Lord upon us. This comes from knowing we’re doing, or have done, God’s will.
Achieving Sabbath-rest is the objective of the Christian life. It’s operating in the joy of the Lord; a supernatural blessing of spiritual contentment for the obedience of faith to virulently follow and achieve the will of God as far as humanly possible.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.