Roy Osborne 2004


As I approach the 4th chapter of Hebrews, I must admit that I am not really sure what the writer is referring to by the word “rest”.   I have done considerable research among various writers, and there is no consensus as to the exact meaning intended by this word.   In this paper, therefore, I will give you my personal concept of the word.   I am convinced that the principles which I will develop are true and sound interpretations of what the Bible teaches.   I am not certain that this is what the writer of Hebrews meant by his use of the word “rest”, but these principles do apply to the problem he is discussing.

In Matthew 11, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”.   The word “rest” here is a word that means ease and comfort…release from pain and sorrow. However, the word “rest” in Hebrews is a word that means to cease from labor.   It does not mean to sit down and rest after working.   It means simply to complete your work and stop.

After man was exiled from the Garden of Eden, he faced a very unfriendly world.   Since that time, man has worked to survive and to give some meaning and purpose to his life.   He has been alienated from God by his sins, and has found no peace. In Romans 5, Paul says, “Having been justified by faith, let us have peace with God”.   The sin in the Garden, which alienated man from God, was trusting in self instead of God.   In all the rest of Biblical history, God has been trying to teach man that the way back to peace with Him was faith.   The reason for the selection of Abraham, as the progenitor of God’s people, was his faith in God.

In view of this, I believe the writer of Hebrews is saying that the people of Israel failed to receive the blessings God promised them, because they didn’t place their faith in Him.   He is urging his readers that the promise is still alive, and that it is not too late for them to have it, if they will not abandon their faith in Jesus Christ.  Here I am reminded of the song we sometimes sing, “Safe in the arms of Jesus”.   In faith, we can come back to peace with God, end the struggle with sin, quit the endless quest for meaning and happiness in life.   This is God’s promise to those who will place their trust in Him.   This is God’s “rest”.

In Romans 7, Paul indicates that he is struggling…working hard to find justification from his sins, and yet his work is frustrating because his human nature causes him to do that which he should not, and not do that which he should.   In frustration he cries out, “Oh wretched man that I am.   Who will deliver me?”   The answer is, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ”.   Faith in Christ ends my struggles and gives me rest from my fruitless work to be righteous.   It is God’s rest, given by His grace, on the basis of my faith in Him.   (Ephesians 2:8 “By grace are you saved, through faith.”)

I think it important here to say a word about obedience, as it relates to this faith, about which we are talking.   Obedience is not what God demands, it is what He offers.   When the doctor says he can cure you, if you place your faith in him, he then offers you a prescription, which is to solve your health problem.

Obedience here simply means following the path, laid out by the One who knows, so you will be cured.   God does not give arbitrary orders, just to see if we will obey.   Neither does our obedience save us.   Following God’s orders simply means walking the path, laid out by the One who knows what will make us happy.   When we have faith that God knows, and that He loves us, we do His will, for we know it is the only way we can live.   God’s “rest”, then, is placing our complete trust in Him, and letting Him be the guide of our lives.