The author of Hebrews goes on with his comparison of the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea and the Christians of his day (and our day). All the Israelites in the wilderness were called out of Egypt. They heard Moses’ call from God, packed their goods, gathered their children, and followed Moses through the Red Sea and into the Sinai Peninsula. Yet they did not enter into God’s rest. When quoting Psalm 95, the writer states that it’s unbelief that prevented them from “entering My Rest.” It is God’s rest that is being discussed. His rest, God’s rest, is the subject of this passage and what follows. The handbook for translators says, “The key word in this new stage in the interpretation of Psalm 95:7–11 is rest, found in the last line of the quotation. This line is quoted in 3:11, repeated for emphasis in 4:3, 5, and linked in 4:4 with Genesis 2:2, which also speaks of God’s rest.”[1]

The Hebrews author wants his readers to know that this promise of God’s rest is still real. He writes, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” The reference in Genesis 2 is speaking of God’s Sabbath rest after creation. The 10 commandments makes the seventh day a “holy” day because God finished all His work and rested. We too can enjoy that rest when we cease from our own striving and just trust God’s promises. Jesus calls us into His rest in Matthew 11:28 saying, “Come to me all of you who are over-burdened and burned out on religion and I will give you my rest.” God does all the necessary work. He promised Israel He would do the work at Kadesh Barnea but they didn’t believe Him. He promises us now that just as it was all finished by the seventh day, so too was the work necessary for us to enter into God’s rest accomplished thousands of years later when Jesus said on the Cross “it is finished.”

Many Christians, true believers in Jesus, are not enjoying God’s rest offered through Jesus Christ because they are still afraid of not living up to God’s standards of the Law. Preachers don’t often help that situation by continually hanging heavy loads and religious obligations over the heads of the congregation instead of feeding them with the Good News of Christ’s complete sufficiency. God calls each of us today to not only believe in Christ but to rest confidently in His finished work on the cross on our behalf.

[1] Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 71.