Tuesday 3rd November 2020
Hebrews 4: 1 – 13
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. For 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. For 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. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’ And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again 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.’
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
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. And 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.
I opted to reflect on this passage in March and resolved to write it, close to the submission deadline, five months later, wondering whether the Lockdown experience would give me any new insight into the idea of ‘The rest God promises.’ My experience was not as I imagined. I didn’t experience lockdown as any type of extended sabbath. My ways of being with and communicating with my pastorate changed but continued, the everyday necessary activities of household life continued, albeit with reduced frequency but often greater time commitment as queueing became part of the supermarket experience, and the caring responsibilities I have for my mother-in-law increased as other care provisions were reduced.
I noticed the importance of rhythm and pattern. I found myself living with new rhythms – Thursday evening became the new Sunday – the time I ‘met’ folk from my churches; Friday morning became recording time rather than being in school; Wednesday afternoon became a time to worship together rather than have ‘Coffee and Chat’. I found stability in new rhythms and patterns when everything around was in a state of flux and uncertainty.
The writer of Hebrews affirms that the rest God promises is an experience promised to believers as part of their faith but is experienced at a point after death. It is participation in God’s own rest, as described in Genesis, when God rested upon completion of the work of Creation. So God’s people having completed their service on earth, enter into God’s rest.
Can Lockdown suggest anything to us about the promise of God’s rest? The author suggests that we must keep working at our discipleship, remain faithful and obedient in order to receive the promise of rest. Perhaps emerging into the new normal we need to be attentive to the new rhythms and patterns we create, that we remain true to our calling to love God and neighbour, that we discern fresh ways to ‘walk the way, living the life of Jesus today?
you promise that we shall enjoy rest in you.
Until that time comes
hold us in your love and tend us with compassion;
keep us faithful to the Word of life;
enable us to discern new rhythms and patterns for the world in which we now find ourselves. Amen.