To Enter Into the Heavenly Rest (Tues. December 27)

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 hearing 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.

The Exposure of What Was Hidden

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.  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.

For Reflection

Instead of becoming complacent in this time between the Nativity of the Lord and His Theophany, we should listen to the admonition 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 prophet Jeremiah wrote, “For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns” (OSB Jeremiah 4:3).  The Lord used this prophecy as a metaphor for the “cares, riches, and pleasures of life” that prevent the seeds of the Word of God to produce fruit (OSB Luke 8:13). Using the same figure of speech, 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), the salvation that the Lord Jesus came to bring.

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

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