Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For 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, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.” Hebrews 4:1-5, ESV
In Hebrews 4:1-5, we are encouraged to examine our faith in light of the good news that we have received. In doing so, the author uses a word that makes many readers extremely uncomfortable. To understand this command, “let us fear,” we will consider several points of context.
This is not a fear that God may have in some way failed in His work of salvation. Christ’s saving work, decreed from eternity past, is accomplished perfectly in His sacrifice and resurrection. He has now rested from that completed work and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
This is instead a fear that the Israelites would have been wise to entertain. Had they adequately feared the loss of their promised rest more than the giants in the land and trusted in the God who made the promise, they would have had their rest. Instead, they did not believe, and the wrath of God stood against them.
The Israelites presumed upon God. They were certain that, as Israelites, the promises were theirs, faith or no faith. We should fear falling into that same presumption. We are not to wake up each day presuming that a prayer we prayed long ago, our baptism, our family connection to the church, or our participation in church life means that God owes us the blessings of eternal rest. We are called instead to awaken each day and examine our faith.
This does not mean that you start each day in doubt. It means that we begin our day with Jesus in such a way that we are reminded of our need and Christ’s successful work of grace and love and we are drawn to Him again in faith. Is it not the perfect beginning to each day to come to the Lord, knowing that the perfect love of Christ as shown to you on the cross stands ready to deal with today’s fear? Is it not encouraging to let the Spirit of God cast away any fear of failure each day as you are drawn to adore the enthroned Savior? Would it not also bring you more literal rest if you also ended each day in the same way?
Fear. Bring that fear to Jesus in faith. Know the joy and assurance of God’s promised rest.
I am praying for you.