Summary: The inspired writer uses three historical events that illustrate for us the rest God has in store for His children.
REST IN GOD
Two artists attempted to paint a picture of peace. The first drew a beautiful scene. He painted an ocean still as a pond, showing a graceful sailboat passing by. Overhead the sky was blue, flecked with light, fluffy clouds. And on the shore children played in the shallows and made castles in the sand. It was a picture of peace.
The second artist’s picture was nearer to the truth. He depicted a wild and rocky shore against which angry billows burst in towering clouds of spray. The sky was black with the storm, and the surging waves towered and heaved, But far up on a rocky crag, hidden in a cleft of the rock and sheltered from the wind, sat a bird, safe and secure in her nest, looking out with a serene and untroubled eye at all the turmoil beneath. It was a picture of peace indeed.
It is a fact that we live in a warring, restless, troubled world. The peace and rest offered by the world is a far cry from that which is offered to us in Jesus Christ. He provides for us a peace and a rest that the world can never give to us (John 14:27). As we think of God’s peace and rest we must remember the warning contained in chapter three. "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." They did not enter into the promised rest for two reasons. They did not enter because they hardened their hearts and because of their unbelief.
Many people harden their hearts to God’s voice, and as a result miss our on God’s best for their lives. Through rebellion, drifting, unbelief, and sin their hearts become hardened to the truths of God that are available to us in Christ Jesus. The inspired writer uses three historical events that illustrate for us the rest God has in store for His children.
I. CREATION REST (4:4-5)
These verses refer to Genesis 2:1-3. To say that God rested on the seventh day does not mean that He stopped all activity, but that His creative work was fully completed. It is as if God sat back and enjoyed what He had created.
My wife cannot rest until the project she is working on is fully accomplished and she can step back, look at it, and say, "there, now." On the seventh day God stepped back and said "There now." The seventh day was given to Israel not to be a burden, but to just stop and enjoy God. A day of rest is needed for each of us, just to rest in the Lord. Yet man’s sin made the seventh day to be a burden.
This rest of creation is a type of redemption rest. It reminds the Christian of the work completed by Christ, who has entered into this rest, and that one day he will share in God’s rest when his own work is finished on the earth.
II. CANAAN REST (4:6-8)
Through Moses God led the children of Israel out of Egypt in order that He might lead them into the land of promise-Canaan. Yet that first generation out of Egypt forfeited their right to enter into God’s rest because of rebellion. They forfeited that rest at Kadesh Barnea. They spent the next 40 years wandering and dying in the wilderness. Only Caleb and Joshua of those over 20 had the faith to enter into the promised rest land.
Andrew Murray points out two stages in the life of Israel after their deliverance from Egypt.
First, there was the wilderness stage. “with its wanderings, its wants, its unbelief, its murmurings, its provocations of God, and its exclusion from the land of promise and rest.
Second, there was the land of promise, with rest instead of the desert wanderings, with abundance instead of want, with victory instead of defeat.
These two stages symbolize the stages of the Christian life. In the first stage, we only know Jesus as our Savior from Egypt in His work on the Cross for atonement and pardon. In the second stage we know Jesus as our glorified Priest-King in Heaven, who, in the power of the endless life, sanctifies and saves completely, writes God’s laws in the heart, and leads us to find our home in the holiest of God’s presence.
That rest was offered again after the death of Moses. Through Moses, God led Israel out of Egypt, but it was Joshua who chosen to lead the people into God’s rest land. Joshua is the O.T. parallel to the name "Jesus."
This is not to say Israel had no conflicts in Canaan for there were many battles to fight. The land had to be conquered. However, the book of Joshua generally is one of victory in the midst of conflicts. Battles were fought and won because basically they rested in the arms of God. Then there came a time when the people were given “rest” all around. (See Joshua 22:4 and 23:1-6.)