By Henry Rouse
Life is hard. We can take a break sometimes—dinner with friends, vacation with family, or just an afternoon sleep on the weekend—but most of life is filled with struggles and the constant longing for an easier life. In our desire to find rest from the struggle, sometimes we are tempted to look for shortcuts. It’s not easy to obey God when life is hard. Sometimes these shortcuts lead us to sin. Wouldn’t life be easier if I didn’t always have to be truthful, remain faithful, forgive others, or endure persecution?
The instruction in Hebrews is to be careful not to harden our hearts when we’ve heard God’s voice (Hebrews 3:7–8). When hard choices must be made, it’s easy to think obeying God isn’t worth it. Thinking we know an easier way, we can doubt God and do our own thing.
The writer points us back to the example of the Israelites who refused to trust God and enter the promised land and died in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:7–19, Numbers 14:20–38). The warning is clear—don’t be like them. They hardened their hearts, refused to believe, rebelled against God, and missed out on all God had promised. They didn’t just miss out on a new place to live but on a new way of living. A life of rest. Rest from the work of slavery, rest from the attacks of enemies, rest from being foreigners in a place that was not their own. God had promised them rest, but they refused to believe (Hebrews 3:19).
The warning and instruction for the original audience of Hebrews and for us today are the same. “Watch out” (v.12) and “make every effort” (Hebrews 4:11) in order to enter the rest that God has promised.
That promise of rest was not just for those Israelites of old. The writer speaks of a promise of rest that remains for those who are in Christ, who have believed in faith (vv.2–3). A promise to enter God’s rest—the same rest He enjoyed after finishing His work of creation (v.4). A rest guaranteed by the finished work of Jesus that has given us new birth, a living hope, an eternal inheritance and a certain salvation (1Peter 1:3–5). A rest from trying to achieve salvation through our own works now and the ultimate rest of eternity in God’s presence.
How do we make every effort to enter that rest? When life is hard and the temptations are real, we hear and obey the voice of God without hardening our hearts. We allow the Word of God, that Word that is alive and effective (Hebrews 4:12), to penetrate our hearts and do its work, fully confident that God is able to bring us through into that rest that He has promised.