The Promise of Entering God’s Rest -vs- the Fear of God

Rest (610x351)Hebrews 4:1: Therefore, let us fear so that, while the promise of entering God’s rest still stands, none of you will fail to reach it.


Fear of God

“The fear of the LORD” is a key idea throughout Scripture. In Hebrew, the word y’rah is usually translated as “fear.” And y’rah can mean to be afraid of something or someone. But when referring to a person of high position, y’rah also means being in a state of awe or reverence before that person. Since no one is in a higher position than God, the fear of the Lord carries such a meaning (but with much more awe and reverence). That’s why the book of Hebrews says that acceptable worship to God is worship done in “reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).


The promise of Eternal Rest

Genesis 2:2-3:

By the seventh day God had completed the work he had been doing, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had been doing. Then God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.

After God created man and woman, Genesis tells us that He set up the day of rest (Genesis 2:2). God didn’t simply “rest on the seventh day,” He “blessed it and made it holy” (Genesis 2:2-3). 

Read Genesis 21:27-32

But it still does not fully “fit” together until we think like an ancient Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “swearing an oath” is sheva, a word that is based on the Hebrew word for the number “seven.” In Hebrew, to swear an oath, which is what you do when you make a covenant, is “to seven yourself.” 

When we understand that, that swearing an oath is “to seven yourself,” then what God did on the 7th day of creation makes sense. God rested from creation to bind Himself in an enduring, covenantal relationship. Every Sabbath would then become a time when God would “seven” Himself for His people, giving and renewing again His covenant with His people. That was His purpose for Sabbath rest.

Read Exodus 20:8-11

  • What did God institute for his people at Mt. Sinai?


Exodus 23:12: [God speaking to the people of Israel:] “For six days you will do your work. But on the seventh day you are to rest, so your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave as and the foreign resident may be refreshed.”

Refreshment came as God’s people refrained from work to rest. More specifically, this was to be brought into the Sabbath rest that God had established for His people. The people we refreshed during worship; worship was their rest, not their work.

Exodus 31:16-17: [The Lord told Moses,] “The Israelites are to keep the Sabbath, observing it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, because the LORD made the heavens and the earth in six days, but on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”

  • What took place with God on the Sabbath (7th day)?


  • How long was this Sabbath rest to continue for God’s people?


  • What does this mean for us in the New Covenant, if Sabbath rest was to go on throughout the generations of God’s people, even forever?


  • If God “blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy” (Exodus 20:11), and if God was “rested and refreshed” on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:17), what does that mean about what God will do with His people on the Sabbath?


God’s Sabbath Rest For You

Hebrews 4:9-10: So then [in the New Covenant], a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. For the person who has entered God’s rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His.


How many in Jesus’ day misunderstood worship

When Jesus confronted His fellow Jews, He condemned them for many false beliefs and practices. When it came to worship, Jesus said their worship was of no value, quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “They worship me [God] in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men” (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7).

When it came to worship, we don’t specifically know where they had gone wrong. Jesus never directly said what those “commands of men” were. But we do get a clue from a parable that Jesus told.

Read Luke 18:9-14

  • What were the hearers of Jesus’ parable trusting in?


  • What did the Pharisee’s prayer revolve around?


  • How was the tax collector’s prayer different?


The Pharisee trusted in his own righteousness and what he did. For the Pharisee, worship was about what he did for God: how he prayed and tithed. For the tax collector, it was about what God did for him: giving him mercy. Instead of worship being brought into God’s Sabbath rest for His people, it had become a work that the people did for God.


Contrasting Worship


And yet, for many today, worship has also become something other than being brought into God’s Sabbath rest for them: God delivering His mercy. Instead, it has become about what one does for God.


Contrasting Worship Today


  • What is the purpose of worship?


What “fear” has to do with the promise of entering God’s rest

Hebrews 4:2-3a: For we also have received the good news [Gospel] just as the Israelites did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened to it. We who have believed are entering that rest.

  • Why didn’t the Gospel benefit many in ancient Israel?


  • What is different for those who believe?


Hebrews 4:6-7: Those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them failed to enter it [God’s rest] because of their disobedience…. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

  • What kept many Israelites of old from entering God’s promised rest?


  • What’s the opposite of “hard heart”?


Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-6

  • Using events in Israel’s history, how were the ancient Israelites like us when it came to receiving what God did for all of them? (vs. 2-4)


  • Yet what kept them from entering God’s promised rest (shown by not being allowed to enter the Promised Land)?


  • What warning is that for us?


  • How does “fear” tie into that (think the purpose of God’s Law)?


Acts 11:18: [After Peter told the Church in Jerusalem how God had brought Gentiles into the Church, they responded,] “God also has granted [them] repentance that leads to life.”

The Greek text literally says “repentance into life.” “Repentance into life” sums up Christian conversion. Repentance involves a twofold movement of the heart: one who repents turns away from sin (1 Kings 8:35, Ezekiel 18:30) toward God (Hosea 6:1, Sirach 17:25-26, and Hebrews 6:1).  

A hardened heart does not receive God’s gift of His own divine life; a repentant heart does. If one chooses to remain in sin, he chooses to exclude himself from God’s saving grace. Yet, “repentance into life” is something that God grants. Even repentance, the turning away from sin, is brought about by God (this is also part of the mystery of faith).

Hebrews 4:11: Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fail by following their example of disobedience.

  • How does one “make every effort to enter that rest”?


  • How does worship (being brought into God’s Sabbath rest for us) help point us to the eternal rest God has for us in eternity?