“For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith.” – Hebrews 4:1-3 MSG
I see people wearing guilt like a weighted suit or an iron scarf. You wear it like it’s the only thing connecting you to your faith. You know you’re not as good as you should be, so at least you can feel bad about it. You are wrong, but not in the way you think. Think of all the ways you know, for a fact, that you’re not living up to your moral standards and understand me when I say that all of those things are not what is keeping you from a relationship with God.
I understand the fear associated with being a Christian. It’s the fear of “being disqualified”, and it is such a thing. People are capable of being disqualified. It has happened before, to the Israelites, and it still happens. This passage in Hebrews is talking about being disqualified from “rest”. It’s the kind of rest that pulls you toward God’s goal for you. God talks about people who fail to “receive the promises with faith” when He says this:
Exasperated, I vowed, “They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.” -Hebrews 4:3 MSG
God was exasperated because He had already done His part. It’s Jesus. Our part is to believe it and then to rest in it. But some fundamental breakdown in the faith department causes people to miss the “rest”. The promise is still out there, though. And it has no expiration date…
God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today… -Hebrews 4:7 MSG
The question I asked myself at this point was, “What does ‘rest’ mean?” As translated, it is talking about putting something to rest or causing it to cease. The ESV translation uses the phrase “Sabbath rest” when talking about this “rest”.
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. -Hebrews 7:9-10 ESV
Stephen uses the same word and meaning when quoting God in Acts 7. This is the message that got Stephen stoned.
“Heaven is my throne room; I rest my feet on earth. So what kind of house will you build me?” says God. “Where I can get away and relax? It’s already built, and I built it.” -Acts 7:49 MSG
God rests, but where?
We’ve always set aside a “House of God”, even to God’s specifications. Moses made a tent, Solomon made a temple, and we build them on any available street corner. They get bigger and bigger. They become a tax free business, get declared “holy”, and become filled with bodies on a specific week day. Many of them are even done to God’s specifications. But God does not live in a “house” made by hands. He never has.
Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands. – Acts 7:48 MSG
God does not live in a building. So where is He on Sundays? Or Saturdays… (whichever your “Sabbath” happens to be)? This is where I ask what “Sabbath” actually means. According to Vine’s, the Old Testament’s regulations were such a burden that the “Sabbath” was a time to rest. It was a time for people to “rejoice”. But, like everything else, religion got it’s hands on it and shrouded it in regulations. It was, and still is, so off that when Jesus didn’t recognize the rules layered over the gift of “rest”, He got called out as a sinner who “broke the Sabbath”. There is no specific day. That’s a construct created by people.
This “promise of rest” is a “perpetual Sabbath” (Vine’s). It is a perpetual time away from the burden of Law and the freedom to rejoice. Believers enter a perpetual Sabbath through faith. People who do not believe, do not rest. It’s the only way to get disqualified. They wear suits of guilt instead of the bare skin of freedom.
God doesn’t live in a certain house on a certain day. This doesn’t mean that going to a place of worship on specific day every week isn’t beneficial or even your act of obedience. Romans 14:5 and Galatians 4:9-10 both recognize that this is how some people express their faith. But putting rules around it and policing people with fear, disclusion, or guilt is completely wrong. It’s evidence of unbelief.
God lives in us and the Sabbath is every day. (Tweet This)