Hebrews 4 (MSG)
1-3 For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith. Remember that God said,
Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.”
3-7 God made that vow, even though he’d finished his part before the foundation of the world. Somewhere it’s written, “God rested the seventh day, having completed his work,” but in this other text he says, “They’ll never be able to sit down and rest.” So this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation:
Today, please listen,
don’t turn a deaf ear . . .
8-11 And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.
12-13 God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.
14-16 Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
I’ve been in a period of strenuous change lately. And while I’ve reveled in my time with God and the challenges and the stretching, I must confess: I’m tired, a bit worn thin. A bit exhausted. I honestly have just been burned out and feeling so ambivalent about reading my Bible or devotions or writing or even going to church. And so, I’ve been taking a break. And I was feeling so badly about that, so guilty, and one passage keeps speaking to me:
Deep calls to deep
at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life
I have braved the waves for months now: paddling with all of my strength, swimming against Him and giving way to His waves and billows again and again. I have listened and drunk deeply the sea waters of change and I have finally, finally washed up upon the shores.
And I balk at myself for trying to catch breath.
He whispers soft to me,
I am the God of the billows and the shore. I am the maker of the tide you swim in, as well as the rhythms of your own body and the seasons of this earth. Just because you change position does not mean you are not still beholden.
Just because I sit, long enough to catch breath and dry soakedness in the sun does not mean I am not where I’m supposed to be. He did not mean for every night to be a wrestling match. Nor does every walk upon the beach require a near-drowning exercise in change.
Sometimes the beach wants to just be strolled.
He wants us to rest as much as he wants us to strive.
So rest. When it’s time to wrestle the waves again, you’ll know.
Believe in the God who made everything within and outside of you to be seasonal. Day and night, tides and seasons: we are made to turn over with this world, working and stretching and birthing fruit. Then, we are made perfectly to rest.
Obey His command to rest. Sink into it, like the wet sand on the edge of the water’s lap. Sink into an idea of God that grows bigger than your understanding, bigger than any one thing you could ever do for Him. Trust Him that He is working it all out for your good.