Return to Study Guide for Hebrews – by Debbie Parnakian
Fearing God; Hebrews 4:1-13
Overview of Hebrews
Study by Debbie Parnakian
A few years ago a mother sent the following note to the attendance secretary of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, N.Y.:
Please excuse the absence of my daughter. She has been suffering from a severe head cold. Since she has been home, she has consumed 18 doughnuts, three quart containers of orange juice, a half-gallon of cranberry juice, four two-liter bottles of Diet Coke, about 30 Pop-Tarts and all of the family’s Christmas candy canes. MTV has been blasting incessantly. I had to extend my credit with Nynex due to the volume of her telephone calls. The house is knee-deep in used Kleenex. Today, FedEx delivered seven Chia Pets and four boxes containing the Clapper she ordered from the Home Shopping Channel. With the thermostat set at 78 degrees, I need extra fuel delivery, and the wallpaper has peeled off the bathroom wall as a result of her hourly “therapeutic” sauna baths. Our cat is in a state of shock from being repeatedly bombarded with Hall’s mentholated cough drops. Although she is not exactly 100 percent yet, she will attend school today. Please do not send her home unless she lapses into a coma. I need a break.
Now that is one mom that definitely could use some rest!
Do you ever feel like that mom? There seems to be an endless to do list. There are soccer practices, baseball, basketball, Scouts, classrooms to volunteer in. There is breakfast to make, showers to be taken, backpacks and shoes to find, groceries to buy, laundry to do, Walmart to go to for what seems like the 50th time this week because there was one more thing you forgot that your child’s teacher needs today! Well, that is my week anyway. There are decisions to make, finances to take care of, serving God, at church, at bible study, or a prayer group. Busy, Busy, Busy. We all have our do to lists. We have our priorities, our own responsibilities to take care of. How can I possibly rest? Well, how can we not.
We have learned a lot about the Israelites, their time in the desert, their wanderings, their complaining, their questioning. Chapter 4 brings forth a reminder of a promise and instructions on how to obtain the different kinds of rest available to us. Let’s jump into today’s scriptures. Please open you bibles to Hebrews Chapter 4, verse 1.
Verse 1 says; Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful or let us fear that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. The therefore points us back to 3:19 by drawing the conclusion that since the Israelites failed to enter God’s rest because of unbelief, we need to make sure that we alter our course so as not to follow theirs.
How do we do that? We do that by fearing God. We may think of fear in a different sense, being afraid of flying, afraid of spiders or snakes, fear of dying, fear of losing a child, fear of getting cancer or someone close to us getting it. These fears may grip us so tightly, that we panic or lose sense of reason. Some of us may live in shear terror of these events. These are fears of this world, of the times we live in. This is exactly where Satan wants us to be.
Worldly fears actually keep us from God. They take our focus off fear that is spiritually healthy for us and turns it towards our pride. We begin to look at our own power to correct things, eat extra healthy, exercise, keep our children under a microscope. None of these things are bad, but when we forget about trusting and believing in God, it becomes a problem.
Oswald Chambers said “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” We go from trusting in the promises of God to actually questioning God’s sovereignty.
The Israelites sure did. They started worrying about their desires instead of their needs which God had been continually meeting. They forgot to fear the Lord.
So, what is fearing the Lord and how do we do that? The word for fear in Hebrew deals with relationships. If there is not some type of fear of losing the closeness of a relationship, boundaries can get very blurry. When used in a situation where there is disobedience it means fear as we use it in English and if we are being disobedient to God’s direction, we should be in fear.
God’s plan goes on whether we are on the bandwagon or not. We do not stop His plan, we just make our path more difficult than it needs to be. But if there is not guilt of disobedience, fear refers to a holy reverence and awe. God’s majesty produces reverence and awe. God is a sovereign, exalted, holy and mysterious monarch. We shouldn’t replace a reverence for God with respect.
We should love God so much that the only thing we fear is unbelief and faithlessness. Never become so “familiar” with God that you lose your reverence for Him.
I was talking with my oldest son, Alexander who is 8. We were talking about current events and biblical prophecy. I read him a passage out of Revelation. Chapter 1 verses 13 through 16 talk about Jesus as John sees him when John was taken up in the Spirit. The description of Jesus is that his head and hair are white as snow, his eyes are like blazing fire. His feet are like bronze glowing in a furnace and his voice was like rushing water. In his right hand he held seven stars and out his mouth came a sharp double edged sword. His face was like that of the sun shining in all its brilliance.
Alexander’s eyes got big and looked a little upset. As we talked, he realized that Jesus is not just a peaceful looking man, in fields of green surrounded by children and sheep frolicking about. He is also God; full of power, righteous and holy and definitely worthy of receiving our praise, reverence, obedience and love. He went away with a little different picture than before.
Fear of God is a good thing, it can awaken our hearts, set us on the right path again, back towards faith and trust. The fear of the Lord changes our thinking, our habits and our actions. Psalm 91:1-2 says Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare of the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him.
For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; BUT the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Verse 2 starts with forwhich links the reader with the Israelites, the subject of Chapter 3 verse 19. The Word of God is itself entirely unaffected by the kind of reception is gets. It holds the same truths, the same promises, the same exhortations, the same warnings, and the same blessings for everyone. It does not change from person to person or with the times. It is eternal. We are the ones who change the value of the message based on how we receive it. It is our choice to accept it or reject it. You are either for it or against it; you can’t be on the fence.
The Word doesn’t change. It applies to every single individual on this planet. Philippians 2:9-11 says: Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We can not NOT choose. So, they heard the gospel but basically did nothing with it. The writer says they did not combine it with faith and that is why it had no value to them. So, in order for it to have value to us, we MUST combine it with faith. That implies doing something. Hearing isn’t enough.
Have you ever had an experience where you gave specific instructions to one of your children or your husband, the words were acknowledged, you left feeling secure that things would be done as asked only to arrive home and find out that nothing had been done. The instructions not followed at all. You are puzzled, perplexed maybe even angry. When you ask well didn’t you hear me, and their response is yeah, but I didn’t know that you really meant now or anything. Can’t it wait until later?
Hearing and even acknowledging isn’t the same as doing. God does NOT want us to say yeah, we heard you, we understand the message and then do nothing about it. Are we springing into action with our faith?
Now we get into rest. Oh, beautiful rest. Does this mean we get a relaxing, kid free, phone free, duty free, luxurious day at the Spa, massages, facials, drinks and food brought on command? Absolutely not. Matthew 11:28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”
In this scripture there is action. We have to COME to Jesus, we have to OPEN our hearts to hear his teachings and even though the burden He gives is light, he did say the burden I give you so we will also CARRY burdens for Christ. Resting in the Lord does not remove a circumstance or even keep struggles, hardships or trials from happening. Resting in the Lord takes us smack through the middle. He allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, His beautiful light.
There are many types of rest referred to in these Hebrew passages. We have God’s Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, the Believer’s rest, rest of victory and our future eternal rest. God’s Sabbath rest is like our Salvation rest which follows the finished work of Christ on the cross. We no longer have to fulfill the law, give sacrifices and burnt offerings for atonement for our sins, when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we receive rest from works.
The Canaan rest is likened unto our life of victory as we walk by faith. So, we have rest from our past sins and works, rest in Jesus’ victory over death and future rest in the eternity of heaven. Verse 3 talks about salvation rest. We get to rest from trying to earn our salvation, doing good deeds to outweigh our bad. When we do works for works sake, we are focusing on how it benefits us. When we are released from doing “works” we can turn to selfless acts of love.
Thankfully, we have God, a God that took care of our redemption, paid for sin so we can be reconciled to him. When we accept the gift of the cross, the blood of Jesus, we get to rest from working our way towards redemption through the law.
But again, that doesn’t mean we are to do nothing. Remember combining the gospel with faith? James 2:17 says Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Just as we are to be in action, thankfully, God is as well. He may be resting from creating but he certainly isn’t idle. He is active, teaching, protecting and guiding. He is busy.
Just as Jesus was about his father’s business, we should be also. Salvation rest is a state of action, not inaction. We also have the promise of victory rest. We need not fear the happenings of this world. I know that sounds scary, maybe even impossible. But we do not need to fear. Christ has already overcome; he has victory over death.
In Luke 12:4-5, the Message translation says “Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul – in His hands.” We have the benefit of history. We can learn, but we need to be teachable. The commentary goes into more detail on the types and meaning of rest in the scriptures.
We are going to move on to Verse 11. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. Now, first of all, the writer is not talking about works. This verse is not talking about salvation, but the Victorious Christian life!
Make every effort is also translated to be diligent meaning to labor; to be in a hurry; to make haste. We should be, again, in action. We need to be in a hurry to rest, looking to rest. This is the opposite of drifting. WE aren’t just sailing along where ever the wind is blowing us. We need to be focused on rest; firmly anchored in God. No one ever matured in the Christian life by being careless or lazy. Through diligence, we strive to finish the race.
We don’t want to take others with us either. Maybe if there had been more like Caleb and Joshua, more people would have had faith. Do we want to be the Joshuas and Calebs of our families, neighborhoods, churches?
So, how do we become so firmly and deeply anchored that even the horrendous winds of this world do not move us? Verses 12 and 13 answer that question. Isn’t God just awesome?! He provides all we need to stay on the path. He gives us warnings, then a promise, an exhortation and then step by step instructions. Verse 12 and 13 say For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Whew! These 2 verses are incredible.
Number one, we need to be in the word of God. Why? It is the answer to every spiritual condition. There is no situation, no circumstance that is outside the direction and guidance of God’s Word. The Word is eternal, never changing. It is black and white, no gray. And we really don’t change either. Sin may take on a new face or new identity but the root of sin is the same as the root of sin was thousands of years ago. Thank God that His Word is living. It is not dead, it wasn’t just for the people in days long gone, it is not just a good read. It lives because it endures forever – Psalm 119:89 says “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. It lives because it has life in itself – It is God breathed. And it is active. It doesn’t just sit around, the Word does something. It produces results. Isaiah 55:11 says “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me void. But it shall accomplish what I please. And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Amazing.
Accomplish what God pleases and it will prosper. So it is living and active; and it is sharp, sharper than any double edged sword. Some of the gladiators used swords like this. The sword cut going in and cut coming out. It was a brutal and feared weapon. The word of God cuts us first so that we may die to sin and then cuts us again that we might live in Jesus. The word actually cuts us deep to the heart, exposing us for what we really are, laying us open to listen and obey. Only when we are ready to listen and obey can God begin to heal us.
There was a man named Thorpe who was a member of the Hell-Fire Club which was a group of men in the 1700s who tried to detract the work of George Whitfield. One day Thorpe jumped upon a table and started mimicking Whitfield, delivering his sermon with brilliant accuracy, perfectly imitating his tone and facial expressions, when he himself was so pierced by the word of God that he sat down and was converted on the spot!
The Word truly has immense power. The Word speaks directly to our hearts. We should take the Word very personal. God meant it to be personal. It is for each one of us. Verse 13 goes on to let us know that nothing is hidden. We are naked and open before God. We can’t hide behind any fig leaves or trees. We can’t try to play hide and seek with Him. Just as He knew exactly where Adam was, what he had done and what he was now trying to do, He knows exactly where we are, what we have done and what we are trying to do.
I mean did Adam really think for one minute that God really didn’t know where he was or what he had done? I know in my house, I usually know what my one or all of my boys have done. I am asking them the question to allow them the opportunity to take responsibility for own their sin, confess and repent. I usually already know the answer. They just don’t realize that they longer they take to own their sin or mistake, the longer it is before healing and forgiveness can take place.
And as it is with us; God already knows the answer. He is just waiting for us to tell the truth so He can begin the healing process. We can’t heal ourselves. And He gives us free choice. He won’t force our healing. He may allow trials and suffering and hardships to try and get our attention, but He won’t make you confess. He isn’t going to heal you against your will. But boy, He desires to heal us. He wants you, he wants me; He wants everyone. The Word will never let you down. If the Word cuts you, good. It is meant too. It has the stain of blood all over it. It is the slayer of sin.
These few verses are almost a book themselves. It never ceases to amaze me how much God packs into a few short paragraphs. He has given us warnings, a promise, and blazing billboard signs to follow. Let us not be like the foolish Galations or the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years only to never enter into God’s rest. Let us be like Joshua and Caleb, putting our faith into action, ready to fight in order to enter the finalPromised Land, Heaven and enter into our eternal rest in God.
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