Daily Devotion Saturday 6th July 2024

Hebrews 4 (with OT quotes in italics)
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

      ‘As in my anger I swore,
      “They shall not enter my rest”’,

though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’ And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—‘today’—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,

      ‘Today, if you hear his voice,
      do not harden your hearts.’

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; 10 for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Most of this chapter continues the thread of chapter three. The main theme is ‘rest’. God rested on the seventh day of creation – job done, world made, works complete. And God’s sabbath rest is the template and target for faithful people across the ages.
The Exodus generation had been offered ‘rest’, the fulfilment of their journey in the promised land. But most of them failed to reach it – through unbelief, according to Hebrews (3:19; 4:2). Psalm 95 makes the point. It was quoted at length in 3:7-11, and snippets of that quote appear again in this chapter (4:3, 7). The psalm warns its hearers not to make the mistake the Exodus people made: ‘Today … do not harden your hearts.’ And, says Hebrews, the window of opportunity called ‘today’ remains open. God’s sabbath rest is still on offer, waiting ahead in heaven. Keep going, is the message. Take care, make an effort to get there (vv.1, 11).
Towards the end of the chapter, the line of thought gently changes. After this lengthy biblical argument, the author reflects on the power of God’s word, to penetrate our defences and expose us to truth (vv.12-13). Before God we are vulnerable and needy. We need help from beyond ourselves. And, thank God, this help is offered by Jesus, our leader and ‘great high priest’. Jesus is human – ‘tested … yet without sin’ (vv.14-15) – and heavenly. When we ‘approach the throne of grace’ (v.16), we shall find both power and empathy.
The next part of the letter will explore Jesus’ role as ‘high priest’, right through to chapter ten. Then the letter will take up again the themes we met today – journey, struggle, persistence and promise. The church is a people called – called to go forward, with the strength and support of Jesus.

God, generous and demanding,
    help me to live with the cost and gift of the Christian life:
the cost of commitment,
    keeping going, not quitting,
    trusting, and trying to stay faithful;
and the gift of mercy,
    of the power of Jesus in testing times,
    of his goodness amid my temptations,
    of his help, every step of the road. Amen.

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