Hebrews 4:1-11 “Finding Rest in God”
For those of you who wear glasses, how many of you have ever lost them? That is kind of scary, isn’t it? For most of us who wear glasses, we need our glasses to even find our glasses!
Last week, the book club met at our house. My wife Helen wanted to have the club meet on the back lanai at the parsonage. She noted, however, that with all the rain we had this last winter, the brush and koa had come up to very much block the view over the valley and to the ocean. So, it was time to bring down the koa.
It was the evening when it was cooler when I found myself with the electric chainsaw off the side of the cliff, working to clear the view. Just when I was in the thick of it, one of the branches seemed to just come up to my face and grab my glasses right off. I tried to grab them back before they were lost, but the chain on the saw was still moving, so I had to let them go.
These new glasses are only about two months old. So, fortunately I still had my old scratched up glasses. Helen got them for me, and we proceeded to search the area looking for the new pair. The sun had already dipped below the horizon. I got the idea to run a 400watt work light around in the dark hoping it would find the reflection from the lenses. That did not work. After about an hour and a half, I just gave up. It was my hope that by the morning light I would be able to see them easier.
I rested the night. At first light, I got up from bed and came to the cliff side again. I had already thought about the fact that I would have to order another pair before the trip this summer. Would they come in on time? Just as the sun crested over the hillside, I could see a rainbow light coming from the center of the trunk of a clump of koa. The glasses were found!
I might have stayed up all night looking for the glasses. Instead, I rested. I waited for the morning light. There they were, plain to see.
The scripture for today from Hebrews 4 is specifically about taking a rest from what we are doing in order to find ourselves once more in the light of God’s love. The first verse tells us that our not finding rest with God is the only thing we should fear in our lives.
“Wait a minute, pastor, where does it say that?” Well, it says it in the Greek text; it just does not make it into our NRSV translations for some reason. And, I really do not know why it is missing. The very first word in the original text is “Let us fear this” from the same word in the Greek that we get the English word “phobia” from. If you are reading a KJV you will see the words “let us fear.” Good for King James! That version seems to take the original text and translate it literally for the most part.
The Bible tells us not to fear 365 times. It is in fact the number one mentioned commandment from God—that we should not fear. Life is simply awful when you live in fear. Life is not even life when you are in fear. There can be no joy or happiness. So, despite all of this, here in Hebrews 4:1 we are told to fear this one thing: not finding rest.
Can you imagine what life would be like without rest? There was actually a Star Trek episode, the one with Captain Picard, that had the crew of the Enterprise unable to enter REM sleep. The entire crew went going crazy. We must rest. WE do not function unless we find rest. One of the most effective forms of torture is sleep deprivation. If you cannot sleep, you will suffer greatly and may even die.
“No, pastor, that is an exaggeration!” Maybe a little bit. You see, one time I was driving several hundred miles on I–90 in Washington all alone. I knew I was tired, but I did not think more than to drink a bunch of coffee and keep driving. There was a rest stop, but I drove on. I could have stopped and closed my eyes, but I thought I could keep going. I was probably already too tired to make the right decision. But, I tell you, they put those rest stops on the highway for a reason!
The next thing I knew, I was waking up while the car was rumbling over the right hand fog line. I had fallen asleep at the wheel. I could not believe it. I was lucky to be alive, and the other cars on the road were lucky too. I pulled over at the next rest stop and actually took a nap then. So, you might not die if you do not rest, but you might die if you do not rest. Why risk it!
Did you know that there is a popular song that has been on the radio for years: “Life is a highway, I’m gonna drive it, all night long. . . .” It was the theme song to the movie Cars. Well, I want you to take that to heart. Life is a highway. Pull over and rest before you kill yourself and maybe others.
By the way, rest is a command. It is the fourth of the Ten Commandments. Your rest stop is once a week on Sunday here in this church. Whatever you do, stop it. Just like God, God’s glorious self, rested after the sixth day of Creation. Pull off the highway of life for a moment on Sunday so you can get back on safely. Church is the rest stop that God made for you. Use it! Like any good rest stop, we have free coffee too.
By the way, and this is kind of an aside, the word “to rest” in this text “katapausien” in the Greek literally means to set down and pause. Sandi at the Tuesday morning Bible Study said, “it is as if you set your coffee mug down rather than continually drink from it, because your cup will not ‘runneth over’ if you are constantly draining it.” I thought that was a brilliant insight from her. It was too good not to share.
Let us see how this idea is applied elsewhere in the Bible: Our text mentions Joshua. You remember him? He was the guy that led the Hebrew slaves across the Jordan into the Promised Land. He has a book named after him in the Old Testament.
In Joshua, the first chapter, the former slaves that have just spent 40 years in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses, who had freed them from the Egyptians, are now ready to cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan. What does God tell them to do? Prepare to go! But, not until you rest three days first! God seems to be saying that if you rest first, you will be successful.
Lo and behold, the Israelites were successful. They took the land of Canaan. So, they were able to free themselves with God’s help. They were able to flee the Egyptian army. They were able to survive in the wilderness for forty years. They were able to conquer the Promised Land. Which all leads us to Joshua 22:4, “And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brethren, as he promised them. . . .” So, in this grand adventure we call “life” God commands us to rest along the way, and at the end!
What does Jesus say about this? Turn with me to Matthew 11:28-36, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . . .and you will find rest for your souls.. . .”
How many times does Jesus take a break from his ministry? Do you remember after the feeding of the Five Thousand? What did Jesus do? He went off by himself up a mountain to pray and to rest. Then, he is sleeping in the boat when the disciples are crossing the sea in the storm. They have to wake him up. He goes to Mary and Martha’s house in Bethany and rests. He goes to Peter’s mother-in-law’s house in Capernaum to rest. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus could not rest, but His disciples did again and again!
The Bible tells us all the way through that in the end we will “rest in peace” with God. However, our text this morning is more about resting in faith in this life that we are living here and now. Please note that the word “today” keeps popping up again here. This text is not just about our being buried in the ground one day. It is about how we live our lives today.
If life is a highway, and we have rest stops along the way, the final stop is your destination. It is being home safely again with God. Honestly, I enjoyed those long drives on the mainland back in the day. I enjoyed them because they always led me back home. What an incredible feeling it always was when after driving hundreds of miles to turn into the driveway and see the familiar faces at the door again. The end of the journey is of course our final rest with God in this life.
I just want you to think about one last final thought: When God rested after the Creation on the Seventh Day, what happened on 8th day? When we come to our last day here on this journey, will not the journey continue? We will rest for a bit, but I believe God always has more for us.