Focal Verses: Hebrews 3:19-4:14
Andy Taylor, of the Andy Griffin sitcom, once classified his son as a “squeezer.” He said there were givers and takers in the world, but Opie was a “squeezer.” Opie hadn’t given enough to a local charity drive. Andy was embarrassed. Only later did he discover his son—whom he was proud of—was a greater giver than he had ever imagined.
Regardless of how great our gifts of money or service are, they will never match how much Jesus gives to us.
Jesus Gives Rest
“So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest” (Hebrews 3:19 NLT).
“When do you sleep?”
I was once asked the question by a fellow church member. At the time, I was a full-time school teacher, part-time Associate Pastor, writer, proof editor, husband, and granddad. We teachers always looked forward to the Thanksgiving holidays because we desperately needed rest.
At the school where I taught, teachers received no break from Labor Day until Thanksgiving. A long stretch unless we interrupted it with a day off. My nerves were shot, the kids were anxious, and I needed some down time.
Rest is enjoyable and required for good spiritual, emotional, and physical health. Like many others, I don’t get enough of it, in part because I’m bad about loading too many duties on my plate. Good things, mind you, just too many of them.
The Bible speaks of several types of rest, the above included. The rest these rebellious former slaves would not enter was a different variety. Heaven was its name. They had followed Moses out of Egyptian slavery but had repeatedly rebelled against God in the wilderness. With the exception of a few, the entire generation who left Egypt perished in the wilderness because of their unbelief and never experienced the rest of the Promised Land. They rested in the ground, but not in God’s eternal rest.
God’s ultimate rest is heaven, but if I stubbornly refuse to admit and confess my sins, I won’t ever experience that rest. Heaven is only for those who repent of their sins and turn in God’s direction. I look forward to that rest. While living on earth is enjoyable, it’s also tiring. The challenges, brokenness, sin, and struggles can sometimes be overwhelming.
We can, however, experience God’s rest even on earth as we await heaven. Jesus said he gives abundant (restful) life now and in eternity. As we seek for, depend upon, and believe in God’s daily guidance and care, we enter his rest—the peace of knowing all is well with our soul because we’re God’s children and he’s our Savior.
Jesus Gives Us His Word
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT).
As a young boy, collecting knives was one of my hobbies. I had large ones I carried in a sheath and small ones that fit into my pocket. Some I had to manually open; others opened at the push of a button. I kept my collection in a jewelry box and added to it frequently. Making sure my knives were sharp was also essential. Dull knives served no purpose. I wanted them keen enough to trim the hair on my arms.
Though I no longer collect, I still carry a small knife with me wherever I go. With a knife, I can cut a string, tighten screws, loosen a knot, skin a squirrel, process a deer, and do any other number of things.
The writer compared God’s Word to a knife, and I’ve experienced the similarities. Like my knife, I’ve found God’s Word to be incredibly practical. If I need to loosen or tighten a screw and don’t have a screwdriver handy, my knife will do just fine. Preparing game killed for consumption also requires a knife. How many pioneers and Native Americans survived in part because of a knife?
In like manner, God’s Word gives me advice about friendships, finances, child rearing, marital relationships, employee-employer associations, and, most importantly, God-and-me affairs.
There’s also a deadly element to a knife. It can and is often used to kill. When it is, it penetrates deep into the essential parts of living things, severely damaging vital organs and leading to deadly blood loss.
God’s Word won’t kill me, but it does slice deeply into the joints and marrow of my soul. The part of me that relates to God. The chunk from which my emotions and thoughts are molded and the segment that will prompt me toward harmful and sinful actions if not quickly squelched. The instructions of God’s Word warn against such actions while at the same time propel us toward a better way.
Jesus Gives His All-seeing Nature
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:13 NLT).
One, two, three…twenty. Ready or not, here I come. Hide-n-Seek is one of those children’s games that remains popular in spite of technological advances. I played it when I was a child in the 1960’s, and fifty plus years later children still enjoy it.
What makes the game so tantalizing is puzzling. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush that comes from hiding in some concealed place while at the same time not being able to see the person searching for you. Or the surprise and fright that comes with being suddenly discovered when you didn’t know you were about to be.
The above verse hadn’t been written when Adam and Eve were created and fell into sin. Had it been, they could have saved themselves some trouble by trying to hide physically from God and by trying to cover their awareness of sin. Elijah tried hiding in a cave (1 Kings 19:1-9), Gideon in a winepress (Judges 6:1-6, 11-12), and Jonah in the belly of a great fish (Jonah).
Anytime I willfully sin and don’t confess it, I’m attempting to hide from God…in the darkness…where I think he doesn’t see. My actions are illogical and foolish since God sees all—actions that occur in the darkness and the light. The irrational nature of sin leads me to such stupidity. How foolish to think that the creature can hide from the Creator. Others are the only ones I can hide my sin from, and even this is touchy since my sins normally involve others.
Satan rules the kingdom of darkness. By sinning, I’m hiding in his territory which is all about underhanded, ungodly, and selfish acts. Darkness doesn’t like light just as the one found doesn’t enjoy having the flashlight shone on them. It means they’ve been discovered.
The good news is that God still loves us even when we occasionally try to hide in the darkness. In spite of our many attempts to conceal our sin from him, he still invites us to confess and be found.
Jesus Gives a Sympathetic Priest
“That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him” (Hebrews 4:14 NLT).
I could tell colder temperatures had arrived even before I walked outside. The news flash came when I donned my dress pants for work. Instead of hanging loosely around my legs, they clung tightly. If I didn’t fix the problem, it would appear I had glued them to my legs. Frantically, I looked for my winter friend: Static Guard. A quick dousing of my pants with this and the cling unclung. Now I could walk without my pants clutching my legs.
For the Jewish people, the high priest was the highest religious authority. They clung to him because he interceded on their behalf to God by annually entering the Holy of Holies, confessing their sins, and receiving God’s assurance of forgiveness. Jesus’ death on the cross, however, eliminated the need for the priestly position. A superior High Priest had taken the throne.
I love clinging to someone who understands my weaknesses…who doesn’t think they’re better than I am or above committing the same mistakes and sins I do. Christ is that kind of priest. Though he didn’t sin, he did struggle with the temptation to sin as well as the temptations to shortcut God’s plan or timing.
I also enjoy clinging to someone who won’t toss me aside when I mess up—because I frequently do. Christ’s forgiveness is perpetual. He gets between me and God, reminding God that I’m a part of the family…not an outsider. Through him, I have unending access to God.
And I need an example of someone who did a superior job of obeying the heavenly Father. Christ did. His life as recorded in the Gospels gives me hope that I too can live a successful life and remain godly at the same time. Pressures to conform are surmountable. Misunderstandings by others aren’t the end of the world. Death for a good cause is honorable.
If you aren’t doing so, enjoy what the greatest Giver offers you.