Summary: Are we wandering aimlessly in the wilderness rather than entering into the Promised Land of service and fulfillment?
Reading: Psalm 139
Text: 4:9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. … 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
Last time we looked at Hebrews 3 and 4 and the story of the Jews at Kadesh Barnea and applied them to non-Christians in whose hearts God is working. Today I want us to look at the same passages again and see the lessons that apply to those of us who are Christians.
Think of the children of Israel as they stood victorious on the shores of the Red Sea. The power of the tyrant had been broken by a series of marvellous miracles. The Promised Land and a settled home, all lay within two or three months’ easy march. But only two of all those men were destined to see the land flowing with milk and honey; and these not for forty weary years. The others all died in the wilderness.
Their wilderness wanderings are a frightening picture of a restless, aimless, and unsatisfied life.
• Restless – because the tents were constantly being struck and re-erected in much the same spot.
• Aimless – because they wandered around in the wilderness achieving nothing – just killing time until the 40 years were done and all but Joshua and Caleb were dead and gone.
• Unsatisfied – because they were always moving, but never getting anywhere, never achieving anything.
Is this not typical of the lives of many Christians? Are we really satisfied – spiritually speaking? Or are we too stuck somewhere between Egypt and the Promised Land. We can’t go back to the World for we have been saved and are no longer fully at home there. But neither have we entered into the fullness of joy and rest that God has prepared for us.
Are we, like the Jews in the wilderness the victims of murmuring and discontent; or bitten by the serpents of jealousy and passion, sometimes even of hatred and ill-will? Is our experience a matter of broken promises and blighted hopes, of purposeless wanderings, of a continued failure?
In his book on Hebrews FB Meyer said: "Perhaps the majority of Christians live and die in the third chapter, to their infinite loss. Comparatively few pass over into the fourth. Yet why should you not pass the boundary line today, and leave behind forever the bitter, unsatisfactory experiences which have become the normal rule of your existence? Come up out of the wilderness, in which you have wandered so long. Your sojourn there has been due, not to any desire on the part of God … The exact opposite to your hitherto dreary experiences is Christ, the unsearchable riches of Christ; to be made a partaker of Christ: for Christ is the Promised Land that flows with milk and honey, in which we eat bread without scarceness, and gather the grapes and pomegranates and olives of rare spiritual blessedness."
Brothers and sisters this should not be so for we have become partakers of Christ Heb 3:14. This means that we are His partners and that we share our lives and our destiny with Him and in Him. He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15). His life-force should be flowing through us causing us to grow and bear fruit. We can take comfort in the assurance that there remains therefore a rest for the people of God 4:9. This means that we don’t have to live weary, aimless lives.
In Jesus, and in Him alone, we found salvation. So too the cure for our failure and aimless wanderings is to be found only in Him. He is comfort for our sorrow; rest for our weariness; strength for our weakness; purity for our sinful failure; an ever-present help that is more than sufficient for our every need. Oh, that we might learn to enjoy Him fully, for ever!
Verses 10 and 11 give us the two sides of this amazing coin. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. We need to recognize that we cannot make ourselves spiritual successes, any more than we could save ourselves. To enter this rest we must cease from our works. As Paul puts it in Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? The apparent contradiction is that we must both let go and let God, and, at the same time, be diligent to enter that rest. I am still struggling with this, but I am certainly not content as I am.