II HEBREWS 8
Roy Osborne 2004
THE PROMISE RENEWED THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Nowhere is it more important to keep the total picture of the Bible story before us than here in chapter 4 of Hebrews. In the first paragraph there are three words which demand our attention: The first word is “promise”. In order to hear what the writer is saying, we must realize that the original “promise” was given to Abraham in Genesis 12. It included a land, a nation, and blessings for all mankind through Abraham’s seed. In a larger sense, it was God’s promise to mankind that He was going to make a way for them to return to God’s favor, reconciled to Him after the fall at Eden, and man’s subsequent sinful behavior. Then God made a second promise to Israel as they came out of Egypt. They were offered a promised land, in which they could freely worship and commune with God, but they rejected it. But God did not give up, and even yet continues to promise mankind acceptance, and heavenly companionship, if they will only turn to Him in faith. The promise is always the same: a relationship with the Father, who will protect from all spiritual harm, if we will but put our trust in Him.
The second word is “rest”, which we discussed in our last paper, but which must be revisited in the multiple ways the writer refers to it in this chapter. Of course, God’s original “rest” was after He created all things. The word does not here mean He was tired and so He rested. It means He had completed creation, and He didn’t create any more. He rested, i.e. ,He stopped creating. However, when He promises rest to those who accept Him in faith, it is a rest from life’s struggle with sin. Once I place my faith in Jesus Christ, I rest from my struggle to be righteous and justified. If I put my faith in Him, He cleanses and protects, by His shed blood. This is the “rest” spoken of here. The rest from the battle with forces of evil. God protected Israel, so long as they put their trust in Him. When they did not, they went into bondage, and were overtaken by many troubles.
The third word, in this first paragraph, which we must note , is “gospel”. The writer says they also had the gospel preached to them. This means that the “gospel” is not just the good news about Christ. In a much broader sense, it means that God loves us, and wants to save us, if we will place our total trust in Him. Israel was told that by the prophets, and by Moses and Joshua, but they rejected the promise. We are told that good news by the coming of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice of the Cross.
All three of these words convey the message that God has continued to renew His promise of a complete relationship with Him, and He has done so throughout the ages. He would have rescued mankind from the struggle for righteousness and justification, if they had only heard that good news, and accepted it by faith. It is the same today.
We are in a great struggle in our world today between the ones who believe in God, as the standard of right and wrong, the source of rightness, and those who do not want any restrictions on their behavior. The real battle is not with guns and bombs. The real battle is between those who believe in a moral world and those who do not. Christians are hated and mocked today because they believe one should be a morally good person. The mockers do not want any rules to restrict their behavior, for their desires are, for the most part, to do the very things which God forbids.
So, to sum up the first 13 verses of chapter 4, the writer is urging us to look at history. Here we see God continually trying to save His people, and continually being rejected. The warning here is “be careful….make every effort, to enter His rest”, i.e., accept the salvation God offers, so that no one imitates those of the past who were “disobedient”, i.e., would not be convinced.
The final ringing word in this passage warns that God demands the whole man. The Word of God pierces soul and spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing escapes the vision of God. He can and will transform all of you with His Word, if you will place your trust in Him, and let Him be the Lord of your life.
Before moving into a study of Jesus Christ as our High Priest, I would like to give you a brief recap of how God has dealt with His creature, man, over the history of time. First He placed him in an ideal garden, in a close personal relationship with his Creator. But man wanted to make his own rules, which destroyed his relationship with the source of his life. God patiently promised Abraham that everything would be set right if man would turn back to Him in faith. Man refused and became even more sinful.
God rescued Israel from Egypt and performed many great miracles for them. They still refused to be convinced, or to listen to Moses and Joshua. Then God sent the Prophets to tell them again and again of His love, and His desire to have them come back in faith. They still would not be convinced.
Finally He sent His Son to earth with the message of His love. They crucified Him. But God, still with love and patience, preserved for us the story of His continuing love, and His continuing invitation to return to companionship with Him, in the pages of the Bible. It is now up to us. The promise is still alive. Accept God’s rule in our lives, or continue the downward road to degradation and destruction, followed by all those who refuse His Word, and choose to make their own rules.