The word of the is day is “rest.” In our reading of Hebrews 4:1-13, we hear that the doors of God’s offer of “heavenly rest” remain open to us. Therefore, we should not pass by the opportunity. But we should mix the hearing of the Gospel of hope with faith in its promise lest we lose that heavenly calling.
Think what our Heavenly Father offers us in the proclamation of the apostle. It is the rest of divine help in trial and temptation now and the greater rest of glory and relief from our labors in the age to come. It is the precious “heavenly calling” (vs. 3:1) that as the Creator rested from his works on the first Sabbath, so we may have repose in the completion of our lives of struggle and service to the Lord. In the rest of the saints, every day will be a Sabbath after a time of labor, every hour a period of peace after war, every minute a time of calm after a storm.
Should We Fail to Attain It
What regret would we feel if we failed to attain that repose in the Lord! Adam and Eve wept when the doors of the Garden closed behind them. How much more sorrow would we have if the doors of the eternal rest that God has prepared for us were shut upon us!
How would we suffer this loss? The apostle says that the rebellious children of Israel could not come into that rest because of their unbelief” (vs. 3:19). But note that disobedience expressed this unbelief. Therefore, the apostle says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (vs. 4:11). In the Greek text, the word “disobedience” (Strong’s #543, 33) is based on the idea of “a refusal to be persuaded.” Thus, “unbelief,” “obstinance,” and “rebellion” go together. Because of these attitudes, the Israelites in the desert stubbornly refused to accept what God provided. Rather, they desired the things that they had in Egypt. In short, their “hearts were hardened.” They were willing to trade their freedom for the sweetness of leeks and melons.
This incident of overt rebellion only exposed what was hidden in their hearts. The apostle quotes the psalmist who said of the Israelites in the desert, “They always go astray in their heart and they have not known my ways (vs. 3:11). Yes, they may have followed Moses, they may have worshipped in the Tabernacle, they may have eaten the manna and quail that God provided. But the heart was far from agreeing with their actions (Number 14:1-45). In their hearts, they did not follow. They did not worship. They did not thank God for the food that He provided for them (Numbers 11:6). They despised the Lord (Numbers 14:22). They disobeyed him. Ten times they tested Him (Numbers 14:22). Therefore, the Lord judged them unworthy of seeing the Promised Land. The Almighty decreed that the whole generation would pass away in the wilderness.
God Looks into the Heart
We may think that we can hide the disposition of our hearts for a time. But we cannot conceal anything from the Lord. The Lord said to the prophet Samuel, “Man looks at their outward appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart (1 Samuel 16:17). Similarly, the apostle writes, “There is no creature hidden from His [the Word’s] sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (vs. 4:13). The Orthodox Study Bible comments that the phrase “His sight” shows that the apostle is not thinking of the written Word, but the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Living Word (OSB fn. on 4:12,13).
We cannot hide anything from the Word of God who is both Savior and Judge. His sight pierces into the most hidden recesses of our souls. The Orthodox Study Bible expresses the same thought: “Nothing is able to escape the discernment of Christ” (OSB fn. on 4:12,13). Therefore, since we cannot hide our most secret thoughts from the Lord, we must ask Him for the forgiveness and cleansing of all unbelief, disobedience, and rebelliousness in our souls.
As we end of our Nativity Fast, we might return to the encouragement of the beginning of Hebrews: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). “To pay heed” in Greek means to “hold in mind” (Strong’s #4337, 213). We should not let this counsel escape from us or its application elude us. The words of a Christmas carol apply: “ No more let sin and sorrow reign, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found…”
With the help of the Spirit, let us pluck up every thorn of unbelief, disobedience, and indifference to God’s grace that may be hiding deep in our souls. Let us heed the warning, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (vs. 2:2). And let us put into action what we sing, “Let every heart prepare Him room…”.