The Key To Rest

Hebrews chapter 4 closely combines the great theme of rest with the word of God and the priesthood of Christ. What do these three elements have in common? How are they related?

There is first of all an example taken from the people of Israel. This example has to do with their taking possession of the Promised Land, and their consequent enjoyment of it. We know that the land of Israel is one of Israel's great goals in leaving Egypt, and that all this is a figure of the Christian life, of how we leave the world to enter into the full satisfaction of Christ.

We are told that Israel did not attain rest in the days of Joshua, but that a rest is still pending. David testifies to the same thing many years later. What, then, is the true rest of God's people?

Undoubtedly, it is Christ. Joshua could not give Israel the true rest, because Canaan was only a figure of what was to come. Now (although the text of Hebrews does not say it explicitly) we have the true possibility of knowing God's rest, which is also our rest. Israel through unbelief did not enter the rest; we by faith take Christ as our rest.

Now what has the word of God to do here? We are told that the Word is a two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit. This action of the Word, in practice, is fundamental to attaining rest. The Word separates the soul from the spirit, so that the believer can live by the spirit, leaving aside the ups and downs and oscillations of the soul.

In the soul are the feelings and emotions of the flesh, the great enthusiasms and the great depressions. There everything is eventful and turbulent; there is no peace or rest. Only when the spirit is free from this ballast, and can exercise its rule over the soul; only then can the heart of the believer enjoy the true rest of God.

The word of God accomplishes this wonderful work, for it is the sword of the Spirit. A Christian who has experienced this separation can have peace and rest in the midst of the storms of life.

Finally, there is the priesthood of Christ. Perhaps someone will judge it unnecessary to have this office of the Lord available if we are already in possession of our inheritance. But the struggle still persists. Unbelief is clinging to the flesh, and the Christian must still struggle against it. He is surrounded by weakness, and when temptation rages, he will need the faithful High Priest, who is at the right hand of God.

It is not the office of the advocate - which comes after the fall has taken place, when the sin has already been consummated - but it is that of the High Priest, who intervenes to deliver in due time those who are being tempted. And the promise that opens before us is marvelous! He does not slumber, so he can deliver in due time. What a precious combination: rest, Word and priest! All this is Christ, by the Spirit, for us, now!

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