by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Hebrews 4:1-11
I. Paul, in arguing that the Old Law was not in effect, concluded - Colossians 2:16-17
A. There were reasons why the Israelites were to worship as they did. Their worship foreshadowed both things in the Christian age and in the age to come – heaven
B. This is the reason God wanted Israel to follow His instructions carefully - Hebrews 8:4-6
C. We will focus on just one item in this lesson – the Sabbath Day
II. The Sabbath observance was a part of the Ten Commandments - Exodus 20:8-11
A. The Sabbath was to be a day set apart as something special for God - Exodus 31:13-17
1. It was a sign between Israel and God that it was God who set them apart as a special people
B. It was not to be defiled
1. Like the other Ten Commandments, it carried a death penalty if not observed.
2. It was to be perpetually kept as a part of the covenant, though the covenant itself was not permanent - Hosea 2:11
3. While in effect, it was not skipped - Isaiah 66:23
C. How would this command be violated?
1. By profaning the day; that is, by treating just like any other day of the week. That is why they were forbidden to work.
2. Isaiah 56:2 - By sinning on the day dedicated to God
3. Isaiah 58:13-14 - By honoring the day and not doing your own things on this day, it showed respect to God by forgoing your own desires on His day.
4. This is why God was angry with Israel - Malachi 1:10-13
a. The worship of God was no longer special to God’s people
D. As Christians, our worship is not on the seventh day of the week, but on the first
1. In Acts 20:7, it mentions that the first day of the week was when Christians came together to partake of the Lord’s Supper (to break bread)
a. We know it wasn’t a common meal because this was done weekly
b. And it is not to be skipped - Hebrews 10:23-25
2. This gathering is to be special, so it must not be marred by division - I Corinthians 11:17-18
a. We don’t defile our time together before God with sin
3. This gathering is to emphasize the fellowship of believers - I Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:20-21,33
4. This observance of the Lord’s Supper is not to be treated as a common meal - I Corinthians 11:22
a. Notice the use of “despised,” just like Malachi 1:12
b. This is not a meal like at home - I Corinthians 11:34
III. The Sabbath was a day for reading the Scriptures - Acts 15:21
A. It brought the focus of worship on God and His wondrous teachings
B. Christian worship carries out that same practice - I Timothy 4:11-13
IV. The Sabbath was a day of remembrance
A. It was to remind the Israelites that they were once slaves in Egypt - Deuteronomy 5:15
1. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper in our weekly observance we focus on the fact that through Christ’s death, he rescued us and freed us from the slavery of sin - Romans 6:3-7,17-18; I Corinthians 11:23-25
B. The Sabbath was also to remind the Israelites of the creation - Exodus 20:11
1. When we become Christians, we are made new through baptism - II Corinthians 5:17-19
2. Consider that creation was something God did in one time period and then stopped (or rested)
a. This is why God insisted that the Israelites not work - Exodus 20:9-10
b. This was a novel idea for a people who spent 400 years in slavery.
(1) Slaves don’t get to pick when they get a break
(2) They don’t get vacation days or holidays
(3) A day of worship that required no work was especially meaningful to a society of former slaves
c. The word “Sabbath” in Hebrew means “rest”
3. Consider too that Christ in freeing us from sins offered himself just once - Hebrews 7:26-27
4. In the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim Jesus’ sacrifice to the world - I Corinthians 11:26
a. Our worship sets us apart from the world as we give praise to God for what He has graciously done for us
V. The Sabbath was a symbol of rest - Hebrews 4:1-11
A. Hebrews 3:7-4:11 is a commentary on a passage from Psalms 95:7-11
B. What rest was the Psalmist talking about?
1. It could not have been Israel’s weekly Sabbaths
a. During the journey to the promised land, Israel was keeping the Sabbaths
b. People were punished when the Sabbath was broken during the wilderness wanderings - Numbers 15:32-36
c. Yet in this passage God said they could not enter His rest and sent them wandering in the wilderness
d. Obviously, it was not the weekly Sabbaths that God has in mind
2. There is only one rest under discussion
a. Greek is a very precise language. We can learn a lot by paying close attention to its many forms it uses for words.
b. All through this section “rest” and “Sabbath” are in the singular form.
c. There is one particular rest or Sabbath that the writer of Hebrews has in mind
d. A weekly observance would be multiple rests and when addressed would be in the plural
3. Was it the Promise Land?
a. The passage in Psalms is referring back to the time God denied the Israelites entrance into Canaan - Numbers 14:20-23
b. They died in their unbelief and so could not rest from their wandering
c. The Hebrew writer is using this event as an allegory to teach an idea to Christians
(1) We, like the Israelites, must be careful lest we are unable to enter our promised rest – our land of promise – because of unbelief
(2) Since Israel couldn’t enter the Promised Land, there must be something yet remaining
d. Joshua led Israel into the promise land
(1) God gave Israel rest - Joshua 23:1
(2) But Psalms 95 was written by David - Hebrews 4:7
(a) Long after Israel entered Canaan
(b) Yet David said, “Today”
e. Therefore, Psalms 95 is not about entering Canaan
(1) It used the rebellion and the wilderness wandering as an example
(2) But it has another rest in mind for the application
4. Are we in that rest already?
a. In cannot be something in this world
(1) God rested from his creation on the seventh day - Genesis 2:1-3
(2) He did not take up the work of creating again on the eight day or any day following. The creation was finished on the sixth day
(3) Therefore, in a true sense, we are living in God’s rest right now
b. But since God speaks of not entering His rest at a later time, then this world is not what God had in mind.
C. There is a single Sabbath rest that remains is in each Christian’s future, which he must work diligently in order to enter into it
D. It is a rest promised
1. It is a promise that gives each Christian hope - I Timothy 4:8
2. A promise of eternal life to come
3. A promise of an eternal inheritance - Hebrews 9:15
4. A promise of new heavens and a new earth - II Peter 3:13
E. In other words, the rest we are longing for is our home in heaven - Revelation 14:13
VI. I doubt that the Israelites understood the intricate details of what their weekly worship services represented
A. That is why God emphasized that they were to follow the pattern
B. There are reasons why our worship is conducted in the way it is down.
1. It is the reality of the shadows seen in the Old Testament
2. But our worship also is rich in meaning about our future - Philippians 3:17
C. Are you following the pattern established by God?
1. Are you prepared to enter His rest?
2. Or will you be like the Israelites who rebelled attempting to establish their own worship?