Hebrews 4

Yesterday I closed by chiding you not to reduce ‘enter into rest’ to pearly gates or gates of hell when you die. In our conversations, it’s more about finding an assurance that we belong, are beloved, or ‘own’ our agency in this crucial part of our individual and collective identities. The alternative is alienation, fragmentation, powerless victimhood – you keep going.

How do we try to justify ourselves? How are we ultimately measured and named, by whom or by what? There is an unconditional offer extended – and a real choice to be made ‘today’. Yet, to be continuously on probation is awful. Where is there ever rest, except through trust and mercy? The sabbatarian traditions are focused on celebrating this gift of grace.

The psychology near end of the chapter is familiar to North American piety: Jesus has empathy for us. There’s no hiding from ourselves or from God. The word cuts through the heart of each situation and person. But our divinity is merciful and graceful, so we don’t get what we deserve.

Holding fast to our confession is, for me these days, to resist the overwhelming cultural pressure toward binary thinking, ‘two kinds of people’ rhetoric, and demonizing ‘the other’. We’re practicing Christians, not accomplished ones, and the gap between our aspiration and our practice is our hypocrisy. How we construe our finite situation and choices is the topic of this reflection.

Hebrews 4

Text: NRSV

1 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.

2For 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.

3For 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.

4For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’

5And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’

6Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,

7again 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.’

8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day.

9So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;

10for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his.

11Let 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.

13And 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.

15For 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.

16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.