In a masterful display of power, God created all things by the work of His word. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Each day of His work, God spoke and His Spirit created. He made the time, space, matter, and introduced the laws of continuum. He made light, water, and land. He formed vegetation, plants, seed, and fruit. He brought about seasons and stars. He fashioned animals and sea creatures. He molded man and gave him life. God did all these things in six days, then He rested.
Interestingly enough, God is a being of unending energy. He is completely self-sustaining and never requires outside help. He doesn’t run out of vigor. And yet, He rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2). It wasn’t because He was tired. It was because He was satisfied. “The heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” (Gen. 2:1). God was finished, and He was satisfied.
Adam and Eve were also satisfied in God’s finished work. It was complete. It had all that they needed done. They could easily work during the day and enjoy the bounty of their labor. They could enjoy the peace between each other, the animals, and, most importantly, God. They walked and talked with Him. They were satisfied in Him and enjoyed the peace of His work. It was ultimate rest.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. (Hebrews 4:1)
The concept of rest in the Hebrew mind was historically loaded. It was first modeled in the creation account where God is said to have “rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Gen. 2:2). It was later developed into a weekly and annual pattern bound by divine law (Ex. 31:15; Lev. 25:4). This observance was a practical reminder that God gives rest.
The concept was further developed in the promise of Canaan, a place of rest, which was never fully experienced by the Israelites, for they provoked God “in their heart” (Heb. 3:10). They were “unable to enter” God’s promised rest “because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19). Since the “promise of entering his rest still stands,” continues the writer of Hebrews, “let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” In other words, let their example stir up solemn concern in your heart so that you do not make the same mistake.
By chapter 4 of Hebrews, the concept of rest is wrapped in the idea of inheriting salvation through Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:14). Rest takes on a clearer, more theological meaning that “we must pay much closer attention to” (Heb. 2:1) and not “neglect such a great salvation” (Heb. 2:3). Moses led the Israelites to a place of rest, an earthly foreshadower of the heavenly promise that one day Jesus will lead the people to a place of rest. The time has come, says the writer of Hebrews. Don’t miss it again.
This article was adapted from the study guide, Jesus: The Superior One, written by Jacob Abshire, Laura Jackson, Curtis Riddle, and Katie Van Dyke, and based on sermons by Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church.