Our Thoughts on Our Future
There is a nagging feeling that the key to
our lives and future lies somewhere in our past. We look for fossil remains;
we trace our roots; we study anthropology of past civilizations; we explore
space, etc. There is no doubt that we think there is a lost key in our
past that will unlock our future. Everyone is sure the key to discovering
a meaningful life lies in our past. The search is never ending. This longing
is something implanted by God. The Bible supports this belief.
Biblical narratives reach across untold
ancient civilizations to help us find our roots in the Eternal One. Those
who are interested in discovering their roots cannot afford to ignore the
biblical narrative. The key to a meaningful life is found in our origin.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)
It couldn't be made any clearer. Our searches usually stop short of the
beginning. Without this information humankind drifts along from generation
to generation with nothing more to guide us than the winds of change.
Changing statistics and medical opinions are
indicative of how the wind of change blow. In the medical field news isn't
news anymore, it is a round-the-clock warning: Don't breathe—the air is
toxic! And it is worse indoors than out. Don't eat—food is contaminated!
Don't drink water with chemicals in it—and, for goodness sake, don't drink
water without chemicals in it!
The headline writers keep blowing hot and
• Oat Bran Reduces Cholesterol!
• Oat Bran Does Not Reduce Cholesterol!
• Coffee Can Cause Pancreatic Cancer!
• Coffee Does Not Cause Pancreatic Cancer!
Harvard Medical School Has Just Reversed Itself,
says another news report. About what? You name it. Notes I have kept for
my own medical file provide an education in vacillation:
1950—salt causes hypertension;
1960—salt does not cause hypertension;
1970—salt causes hypertension;
1980—salt relieves hypertension;
1998—the AMA Journal evaluates
114 separate studies and concludes that salt does not affect
hypertension either way. —Paul Harvey
This is not true only for the medical sciences
it is true but it is also true for just about every field you can think
of. However, faith in God is much different for God doesn't change with
the winds of change.
Henry Ford expressed a popular view, "History
is bunk. The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from
history." We may not learn our lessons from history because we don't understand
that our lives are dependent upon learning from our past. Much of our search
for our roots ends in nothing more than a satisfaction of our curiosity.
The historical biblical record involves more than a curious search for
our roots. It is a journey to the past to learn lessons for our future.
everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that
through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have
hope." (Romans 15:4 NIV)
Much of our encouragement for living for Christ
is found in the Old Testament, but our salvation lies in Christ. The design
of the Old Testament is to point us to Christ. As we look to the past to
discover principles and precepts for living we must not lose sight of Christ.
The Hebrew Christians were looking back to Moses for salvation, but they
are reminded of the preeminence of Christ's salvation. To look back to
Moses for salvation is to refuse the grace of God extended through Christ.
It is for freedom that Christ
has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened
again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you
let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is
obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by
law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (NIV)
Learning from Israel's experiences is much
different than trusting in Moses to save us. The Hebrew writer encourages
us to learn from Israel's unbelief. He doesn’t encourage us to trust in
Moses for our salvation.
A Rest Remains for the Courageous
The Hebrew writer also sees faith in God rooted
in the biblical narratives. The writer seeks to teach us important lessons
from the past. He seeks to reveal the relevance of the past to the present.
The writer seeks to connect us to our roots as we are taken back to the
forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Then he stretches
our mind as he takes us all the way back to the beginning. The writer reveals
to us how God’s rest on the seventh day after six days of creation relates
to our future.
Therefore, since the promise
of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be
found to have fallen short of it. 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. Now we who
have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on
oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has
been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken
about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested
from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They shall
never enter my rest." It still remains that some will enter that rest,
and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because
of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it
Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua
had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who
enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one
will fall by following their example of disobedience. 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. (NIV)
It is essential for those growing tired and
weary of the journey to focus on what awaits them at the end of the journey.
To solely focus on the immediate difficulties of the journey will discourage
us. To focus on what awaits us builds perseverance. Otherwise we may want
to quit too soon. We must remind ourselves that reaching the final rest
stop is possible. The key to reaching that final rest stop may be to look
back and see how others have failed to reach it. Looking back can encourage
us to look to the future.
It is interesting to know that the model for
the church today is found in the Sinai desert. There in that barren desert
the simple lessons of faith are discovered. It is there the greatest lessons
from rebelling against belief are learned. "Therefore, since the
promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none
of you be found to have fallen short of it. 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."
It is hard to understand why the children
of Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness. It is even harder to
understand why the miracles they witnessed were not combined with a personal
faith, which would give them hope for the future. It is even more difficult
to understand their disobedience, when you realize their failures after
crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. It is almost impossible
to understand until you realize their reasons for not believing are the
same as yours. This is why the key to our survival is the same as theirs;
it is found through your response to disappointment and frustration.
We have the same tendencies and we must
be careful that none of us fall short of God’s rest through unbelief.
How do you feel when you are disillusioned, disappointed and frustrated?
Why do you lose sight of God's wrath, mercy and faithfulness when times
are difficult? Why do your difficulties blind you to God’s presence? This
is why the reasons they failed to enter God's rest become the keys for
our entrance into God's rest.
The true rest of God remains because the Israelites
never fully inherited the promised rest. After crossing over the Jordan
River to conquer Canaan, the Israelites never fully enjoyed the rest the
Promised Land offered. They were never completely able to drive out their
enemies because of their disobedience to God. (Joshua 23:12-13; Judges
Likewise, the Hebrew Christians were forsaking
Christ. They were seeking to find comfort in what God did through Moses.
They wanted to return to their past. The writer returns to their past with
them and endeavors to teach them how their past points the way back to
the rest Christ provides. Their past points the way to a greater rest than
envisioned in the land of Canaan.
God's resting on the seventh day foreshadowed
the kind of rest God desired for Israel in the Promised Land. Although,
their lack of faith never completely allowed them to fully enjoy God's
high idea of rest. The rest God desired for Israel continues to foreshadow
the kind of rest that remains for us today. "It still remains that
some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached
to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again
set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through
David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden
your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken
later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people
of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work,
just as God did from his."
God rested on the seventh day after six days
of creation. However, his rest didn't last long. Satan entered into God's
creation turning the world on its head. Since that day God has been working
to recreate the world through Jesus Christ. God's rest was not completely
realized in the Old Testament, therefore God's rest still remains for those
who seek Christ. The key to a meaningful life is found by entering into
the rest God provides through Jesus Christ."
God’s rest typified the rest he desired for
the Hebrews in Canaan. David makes it clear that a rest remained for the
Israelites. The Hebrew writer is pointing us to the rest of which David
speaks. It is clear that the writer is talking about our heavenly rest
that awaits the faithful. The Hebrew writer says, "
. . . the promise of entering his rest still stands . . ." The
ultimate rest for the children of Israel was not in Canaan; it is not a
place found on a map. Rather, it is a place that is found in the heart
of God. He makes us understand that we too are standing on
the brink of heaven's Promised Land. We sing an old song that speaks figuratively
of the rest that remains for the children of God.
On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
We will rest in the fair and happy
land, by and by,
Just across on the evergreen shore
Sing the song of Moses and the Lamb,
by and by
And dwell with Jesus evermore.
The promise of rest is a reality for the faithful.
The possibility of God's future rest gives us the courage we need to remain
faithful. We must not allow earth's difficulties to blind us to the rest
that remains for us.
In Revelation John gives us a glimpse the
future holds for those who have chosen to be faithful. We see those who
have been martyred for the cause of Christ, but they stand before God's
throne as God is working to culminate his work of redemption on earth to
bring eternal rest to those who have been faithful.
When he opened the fifth seal,
I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of
the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out
in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge
the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was
given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the
number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they
had been was completed. (NIV)
Then I heard a voice from heaven
say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes,"
says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will
follow them." (NIV)
As we look at these verses we not only understand
the rest God’s children will enjoy, but we also understand the courage
needed to remain faithful.
Essentials for Entering God's Rest
An essential for entering into God's
rest is to realize that we can miss it. The writer speaks of the
Israelites who rebelled in the wilderness as those who would not enter
into God's rest. God says, "They shall never enter my rest."
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
And to you who are troubled
rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his
mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished
with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the
glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and
to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you
was believed) in that day. (KJV)
Before we can respond in courageous
obedience we must recognize our tendency to disobedience. "See
to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that
turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long
as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
Sin is a vicious cycle of deceit. Sin makes
great promises. It promises that we can become our own god. It assures
us that we can direct our own lives better than God. Yet, have you ever
noticed how illusive our schemes are? Just about the time you get a handle
on what you are seeking, it vaporizes. The deceitful thing about sin is
that it always blinds you to the consequences of sin. Sin results in a
lifetime of scheming and dreaming without realizing the fruition of our
efforts. The consequence of sin is the only fruit we gather from a disobedient
life. This leaves bitterness and cynicism, which results in hardened hearts.
Hard hearts find no comfort in God's promises, because ultimately sin has
a way of blaming God for its own troubles.
For the Hebrews to leave their hopes in Christ
to return to Moses was paramount to the Israelites desiring to return to
Egypt after their deliverance. To leave Christ would be to return to the
bondage of sin. There is no greater bondage than deceitfulness of sin.
To remain courageous despite the lure of sin,
it is essential that we combine what we hear from God's word with faith.
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." Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God
has said, 'So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my
Obedience is the only action I know that
will combine what we hear with faith. The writer says, " . .
.but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who
heard did not combine it with faith."
A Christian husband wanted to take a trip
to the Holy Lands. He was trying to convince his wife of the value of such
a trip. He told his wife, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to go and shout the
Ten Commandments from the place where they were originally given." The
wife responded, "I think it would be better if we stayed home and obeyed
Obedience makes personal effort essential.
"Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one
will fall by following their example of disobedience." (Heb 4:11 NIV)
It is all in how we choose to hear the message,
for there are may different ways of hearing. There is indifferent hearing,
disinterested hearing, critical hearing, skeptical hearing and cynical
hearing. The hearing that matters is the hearing that listens eagerly,
believes and acts. The promises of God are not merely beautiful pieces
of literature; they are promises on which a person is encouraged to stake
his/her life through obedience.
The Effectiveness of God's Word
The author of Hebrews has taken the readers
on a journey through the wilderness of Sinai to warn them of dangers from
the past. He has taken them through a historical story about God's rest.
He has revealed to them the significance of the historical narrative to
their personal lives. He has demonstrated the effectiveness of the historical
narrative to guide their lives. He makes the scriptures breathe as he relates
the story. He gives them a living example of how those narratives can penetrate
their lives. They become a part of the story as the author relates their
struggles to the struggles of the Israelites. The real connection is made
when the writer says, "the good news came to us just as to them .
. ." The bad news is that we can ". . . fall by following
their example of disobedience."
The writer not only does that in this chapter,
but he is constantly quoting from the Old Testament throughout Hebrews.
He is using the Scriptures to penetrate rebellious hearts by allowing the
readers to see themselves in Scripture. The author consistently reveals
the effectiveness of the Scriptures to sort through their problems no matter
how deep-rooted they may be.
It is no accident that the admonition for
us to make every effort to enter into God's rest is followed by a descriptive
purpose of God's word.
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. (NIV)
Just as God's invisible qualities are made
known to us by what is seen in this natural world (Romans 1:28), God's
penetrating word reveals the deepest hidden secrets of our hearts. The
hidden things are revealed by what is plainly written in scripture.
The heart is deceitful above
all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the
heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according
to what his deeds deserve." (NIV)
We know how fearful we are for others to see
who we really are. We are even more fearful to see ourselves as God sees
us. God's word is defined as that which enters our hearts for the purpose
of revealing to us how God sees us. It seems scary to see yourself as God
I think one of the greatest hindrances to
real Bible study is fear of discovering who we really are. It is not easy
to allow God's word to set in judgment of our thoughts and the attitudes
of our hearts. It requires making tough introspection. I think this is
why most find it easier to study the Bible to support their theology. Theology
doesn't get very personal. Theology is more interested in the positions
we hold in our minds than it is with practicing the implications of those
positions. Theology is more concerned about what we can do and what we
can't do than it is with why we do either.
A real study of God's word lays our lives
bare. Have you ever had those dreams where you are walking around naked?"
You are trying to hide your nakedness. I think that's what we do when we
read God's word. God’s word exposes our nakedness. We try to run from it
in an effort to hide our nakedness. But this only leaves us naked.
The same Spirit that breathed God’s message
into the minds of the apostles seeks to impart that written message to
the deepest recesses of our being. His skill in imparting the message far
exceeds the skill of the most masterful surgeon. The Spirit penetrates
our hearts with the light of God's presence for the purpose of exposing
the darkness of our hearts. He is inviting us to come to the light that
we might be healed.
God does not seek to expose our nakedness
to embarrass us. He reveals our nakedness so that we might be properly
clothed. There is an XXX-Rated chapter in Ezekiel that reveals God’s desire
to clothe us. Ezekiel is speaking figurative of how God viewed Israel during
their rebellion before Babylonian captivity and how he sought to love them.
Ezekiel’s portrayal of God reveals God’s compassionate
desire to enter our lives to enable us to face our problems through an
understanding of his powerful Word. He is not embarrassed to look upon
our nakedness and he doesn’t try to hide our nakedness. He seeks to care
for us as a nurse would care for a dying child.
God's word is not written to just record the
great events of the past. It is more than a historical record. The word
"Today" is found several times in chapters 3 & 4. The emphasis of the
writer is that God is speaking to us "today" through those events. He shows
that God's word is perpetually relevant. The word is an energetic sword
cutting through our lives without difficulty. It penetrates us through
and through. It probes the deepest recesses of our subconscious existence.
There is no place we can hide from it.
We have been reminded that entering into God's
rest is absolutely possible. We are reminded that it is the Word of God
that is able to direct us to that rest.
"As for the person who hears
my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come
to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects
me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn
him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father
who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his
command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father
has told me to say." (NIV)