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Listen and Rest: Hebrews 4

In Summary:

Like any good sermon, Hebrews 4 touches on many topics as the author presses forward to the end. We see reminiscences of the Old Testament, again, as the reader is reminded of the rejection of God’s salvation in the Exodus. This theme recurs throughout the opening chapters of Hebrews: God has brought the people out of bondage. Will they stay out in obedience or willfully go back? The choice parallels the choice of the Israelites of the Exodus. There’s no going all the way back, but there is missing the point overall.

The people, then, must make a decision between following in obedience and retreating. The apparent temptation is that going back is restful, easier. But it’s not. Going back is always just that: going backward. God created us to walk forward in obedience, not to step back in fear. Please note that I am not saying that we should not back out of decisions that are not obedient—redeem your errors! I am saying that when God speaks, we either obey or sin.

In Focus:

What, then, should we obey? That’s so often the question I hear. How do I know what to do? How do I know what God has said? It’s a question that is plainly answered in Hebrews 4:12, if we will just heed what is said here. What does that say?

God has given us His word. Not just a static force, carved into walls or tablets, but living and active. If we have the word of God, then there is no debating what God has said to us. There can be discussion of what we do about it, but it is partly for this reason we have the Holy Spirit. It is also for this reason we should remember Hebrews 4:14-16, noting that we can draw near to God for what we need. I would take Hebrews 4:16 as a reminder of Esther to the Hebrew audience, how she had to approach an earthly king with fear for her life, while as believers they could approach the King of All Kings boldly, assured they would receive help.

In Practice:

What does this look like in practice?

First, it looks like being committed to knowing the Word of God. To the best of your abilities, you should know the Word of God. If you are in a line of work, like ministry employment (for lack of a better term,) that enables extended study, you should do that. And you should do that in the original languages, learning how to make plain the truth.

Second, it looks like enabling others to know the Word of God. Focusing on the positive of this, support Bible translation and Bible teaching ministries. Provide for people to study for themselves, and do not block them from learning and digging deeper. Model a thirst for the Word and take others with you.

Third, it looks like separating the wheat from the chaff. That is, recognizing that none of the words of people are equal to the Word of God. Take your pastor, for example, and realize that he may be right and he may not be—but the Word is always right. There are ways of interpreting Scripture and coming up with different conclusions, and we cannot elevate those conclusions to the highest level. A few things that pop to mind are things like whether or not to home school or whether your church should support a large missions force together with others, or just a few that you know personally. These are open for interpretation, don’t allow someone to tell you it’s his way or the highway on chaff issues.

In Nerdiness: 

The first nerd-salvo is in v. 16. Look back at the story of Esther and see how she boldly went before Ahasuerus, but without any assurance that she could even draw near to voice her request. We need not summon even her courage: we are assured that God will allows us to draw near to the throne of grace, and we will receive grace.

From here, do keep in mind that we are still approaching the King, not our Cousin Eddie.


The second nerd-salvo would note the similarity between the names “Joshua” and “Jesus” in Greek. How similar? It’s the same word. Likewise with the assumed Aramaic name for Jesus of “Yeshua.” The choice is made that much more plain: what “Yeshua” did not do in the Old Covenant, “Yeshua” did do with the New Covenant.

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