Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hebrews 4

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A Rest for the People of God [cont.] (v. 1-13)

Usually I like to give my summary first, then read the commentaries, but I must admit I've having trouble making heads or tails of this passage. I really can't figure out what 'rest' is supposed to be. Sometimes it sounds like he is talking about resting on the sabbath, v4 talks about God resting on the 7th day and v9-10 people resting as God did. But then v3 and v5, as well as v11 from yesterday prohibit some people from that rest. Am I really to believe that God forbids nonbelievers from resting on the Sabbath? I guess the most logical thing then is that rest is talking about a peaceful rest when you die. In verse 7 it talks about 'a certain day "Today"' I don't know what that means. I'm hoping a commentary will help me figure out what the hell is going on here.

According to Matthew Henry, this passage is about how great our privilege under Jesus is and how the Jews are inferior under Moses. Verse 2 in particular seems to be talking about the Jews. He seems to think rest is spiritual rest in heaven. I tend to agree that it is spiritual rest, although I wonder if "in heaven" is a modern perspective. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not completely sure of the history, but my understanding is that the idea of people actually going to heaven came later. 

Also, I thought i'd mention the last few verses (11-13), it basically says that we should all strive to enter that rest, and we should not be disobedient. God is like a sword, he can see us no matter where we are and we can't hide from him. He can read our minds, we are naked and exposed to him and we must give account. I must say, this God sounds pretty horrible, all of the imagery brought up here I find somewhat disturbing.

Jesus the Great High Priest (v. 14-16)

Jesus is our high priest, he is the son of God, he passed through heaven. He has been tempted as we have but he is without sin. He can sympathize with us and give us mercy and grace in our time of need.

This is a great sounding story, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have any grounding in reality. Furthermore, it fosters the 'heads I win, tails you lose' kind of mentality. If you go through a hardship and come out the other side okay, you can say you made it through with God's grace, often I see people do this instead of thanking the people who helped them or their own initiative. If things go sideways for them it is rare that they will blame God, they are just being tested, or they think they failed a test or something. It's sounds like a good story as long as you don't think about it too hard, but it is rotten underneath as far as I'm concerned. (I honestly have no idea how I'm going to incorporate this into my overview post, am I really going to put 'help from God in your time of need' in the bad column? Maybe I should just leave it out)


  1. About the "rest" concept...

    The author of Hebrews is trying to draw a parallel between the Jews entering the Promised Land (rest) and what is now (or will be) available with the Kingdom of God (eternal rest). This follows the same sentiment found in Colossians 2:17:
    "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." NIV

    That's actually a pretty hilarious allusion, considering how quickly the kingdom of the Promised Land went downhill. :-)

    1. I'm still not really sure I get it. Am I correct in thinking the previous concept was you rest until the messiah comes? If that's correct, is the message here just that you will rest forever? Am I supposed to be thinking of hanging out relaxing, or is it more like eternal sleep? How is it distinguishable from plain death?

  2. I'm sorry Hausdorff. I didn't mean to be cryptic.

    I think it's best not to think of this "rest" as in an actual rest; slumber, relaxing, waiting, etc. Instead, think of it as "the easy life." According to the Bible, the Jews had just been shepherds, subject to all of the ills of the environment; weather and raider alike. Then an extreme (God caused) famine came, and they ended up moving to Egypt, where eventually they had to sell themselves into slavery just to have food. ~400 years later, God promised relief from their hard labor. He promised to take them to a land overflowing with milk and honey, where they would take possession of cities which had already been built by others. He promised that, with His help, they would easily drive out the existing inhabitants, and so claim these cities, their existing vineyards, fields, wells, etc. He promised them everlasting peace and great prosperity, where everything they tried they would be successful at; if only they keep up their end of the bargain by obeying His Law.

    So this is what the author is alluding to with this concept of "rest." There would be no toiling just to build up, no enemies to defend from, no ill weather to battle, no unsuccessful ventures, etc., in the Promised Land. Of course, that didn't last, but that is allegedly the "shadow" of what was to come in the Kingdom of God.

    Does that make sense?

    1. Yeah, that does make sense actually. I guess given that my job has me sitting at a computer all day and I can always get food from the supermarket, it is easy to forget how hard it was just to get by back then.


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