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Saturday 28 October 2023

No Rest In The Land Of Canaan


There is no rest in the land of Canaan. Not without Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:12, says this, "12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

This is perhaps one of the most famous passages in the Bible. So many Christians know it and believe it. God's word is our sword, dividing between the soul and the spirit. God's word is our spiritual weapon against sin in this life. But what is the context of this famous verse?

The context is that there is no rest in the land of Canaan, but in a better land, one secured by Christ.

Here is the extended context:

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
    and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
    they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
    ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

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. For 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, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, 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 have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 3:7-4:16).

The person who wrote Hebrews (some think Paul, we don't really know for sure) went out of his way to direct his readers, likely mostly Hebrew Christians, away from looking back to the Old Covenant, or looking back to the land, or to the temple or the sacrifices, or any of the trappings of the Mosaic law. That way lies destruction, that way lies defeat, that way lies spiritual death. What he wanted them to do was look to Christ and look to the hope found in him.

If the writers of the New Testament went out of their way to warn the Jewish Christians that there is no hope or rest for them in the land of Israel, "8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on." Then how cruel would it be for us to tell non-believing or believing Jews that there is hope in that land? Rest was offered there at one point, but the people failed to obtain it, Joshua even failed to obtain it, and rebellion guaranteed there would never be rest in that land.

I believe God will bring physical Israelites back to the land, in the Millenium when he sets up his reign on the throne of David. I believe they will be Christians though at that point who have turned to Jesus and they will worship the Lord Jesus Christ alongside of their Gentile brothers and sisters, when Jesus makes the whole earth his literal kingdom. But before the King returns there is no rest in the land, Joshua could not give them rest, and Netanyahu cannot give them rest. There is no rest in the land, there is only conflict and strife.

How incredible is that a Jewish Christian writing nearly 2000 years ago, could so accurately see what it would be like for his people to try and live in the land? I believe the best way to love the kin of Jesus, the Jews, is to point them to Jesus. In Jesus all the promises are fulfilled (2 Cor. 1:20). There is hope in Jesus. There is rest in Jesus. We can rest from our works because he achieved salvation for us and we do not have to earn this salvation. And one day he will take us all, Jew and Gentile believers, into the true promise land, where we can rest completely.

This is the hope we should preach. This is the hope we should point all people from all nations to. Pointing people to hope in blocks of land and telling them that that is their promise land, will only bring disappointment and a striving that will never cease. I love how insightfully the word of God speaks to the issues of today. For there truly is no rest in the land of Canaan.

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