6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” – Psalms 95:6-11 (ESV)
Shabbat Shalom – Peaceful Sabbath. A day set aside by God for His children that we may rest from our work and reflect on what God has done for us. Right?
But the idea of Sabbath goes far deeper than that.
In chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Hebrews, the writer quotes from the above passage five times, emphasizing verses 7, 8 and 11. As he expounds on the meaning of this psalm, God reveals – not surprisingly – that our problem is not one of failure to observe the law. (Which is good news for me, because I am breaking one of the Talmud’s 39 prohibited tasks on Sabbath by writing this. However, since this is the Christian Sabbath – a very early Sunday morning – and the Jewish Sabbath is Friday evening to Saturday evening, I think I get beat the rap on a technicality.)
Our problem stems from the heart. It is our sin, our disobedience, that keeps us from God. For the Israelites, it was forty years of disobedience in the desert – hardening their hearts toward God, making idols (remember the whole golden calf episode?), complaining even when God provided manna from heaven to eat… Don’t misunderstand me. I have no doubts that those forty years were hard. A nomadic lifestyle cannot be easy.
The problem is this: in all their negativity, their complaining, their discomfort, they forgot the simple fact that God had saved them from their captivity in Egypt. He had sent plagues upon the Egyptians and parted the Red Sea for them to pass safely. They were now free and on their way to their Promised Land.
But they took it all for granted. The Israelites were not exactly thankful. In fact, they were ready to trade in their freedom in the Lord for slavery and some onions. And cucumbers.
Sin has an almost chameleon-like character. It appears beautiful, delicious, fun, harmless… But when we bite into the fruit we discover the sweetness is fleeting. The regret is far worse than the happiness of the moment. The cost is more than we realized. The reason: sin appeals to our foolish, self-centered nature. “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11, ESV).
My dog would do that.
She’s not that bright.
Evidently, neither am I.
But… our heart condition need not be fatal.
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. – Hebrews 4:6-10 (ESV)
God is patient. Very very patient. “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9, ESV).
However, Peter also points out that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10, ESV).
So don’t drag your feet. Listen for the voice of the Lord and say “yes.” The writer of Hebrews says we need to fear God – to respect Him in awe-filled reverence and understand Who He is and who we are – “while the promise of entering his rest still stands” (Hebrews 4:1, ESV).
Today – right now – on this Sabbath – seek the Lord. Cast upon Him your cares and your doubts. Drop the worries. Walk away from the sin that ensnares, or the shame of past instances that freezes you. Remember why Jesus came here and died on the cross:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoeverdoes what is truecomes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:16-21 (ESV)
Rest in the Lord and His goodness. Remember that He created it all and rested. Remember that He is in control and has given us salvation, doing for us what we could not do ourselves. Set aside all that holds you back from God and bask in His holiness with faith and gratitude. Not just on one day, but every day.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)