THE REST OF THE STORY — Part 1
by Pastor Mike Fortune
November 5, 2011
YouTube: I Am Second (02:55-end)
- Rest is a relationship (Hebrews 3:7-11; Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 33:12)
- Rest is a result (Hebrews 3:12-14; Isaiah 30:15; Jeremiah 6:16)
- Rest can be rejected (Hebrews 3:15-19; Revelation 14:11,13)
I think Pete in our video clip accurately describes the nature of our relationship with Jesus. He is first. We are second. As we learned in our previous sermon series based on the book of Hebrews, Jesus is first because Jesus creates (Hebrews 1:3), saves (Hebrews 1:4), and sustains (Hebrews 1:4). Scriptures point to Jesus (Hebrews 1:5), angels point to Jesus (Hebrews 1:6-7), and hospitality—still the most effective evangelistic tool in our box—points people to Jesus (Hebrews 1:14).
Absence from God makes the heart wander (Hebrews 2:1). Which leads to salvation squander (Hebrews 2:2-3). Even such a great salvation as ours! But absence can also make the heart grow fonder (Hebrews 2:9). And even when we’re absent from God, we don't embarrass Jesus. Why? Because He loves us like family because we are family (Hebrews 2:10-12)! When He died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sin and was resurrected to heaven, He not only gave us eternal life, He simultaneously freed us from our fear of dying (Hebrews 2:13-15). Jesus is God’s apostle and our High Priest (Hebrews 2:16-18) always interceding for us on our team. That’s why He is supreme and we aren’t. That’s why He is first. And we are second. Once we know this, we’re ready to hear the rest of the story. Which is where Hebrews 3 and 4 takes us next in our new sermon series The Rest of the Story.
Some of you may be familiar with the famous America radio broadcaster Paul Harvey who died in 2009 but before that broadcast News and Comment on weekday mornings and mid-days including a segment he called The Rest of the Story. According to Wikepedia, his listening audience was estimated, at its peak, at 24 million people a week via 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations, and 300 newspapers. The most noticeable features of Harvey's folksy delivery were his dramatic pauses and quirky intonations. I loved how he began his really truly segments with "Hello Americans, I'm Paul Harvey. You know what the news is, in a minute, you're going to hear...the rest of the story.” And after he was done, right before the improbable ending, he would sign off saying, “Paul Harvey...Good day.”
This morning we’re going to take a closer look at the improbable ending of Israel’s story that Paul recalls in Hebrews 3. Please read along with me from Hebrews 3:7-19. “7That is why the Holy Spirit says, "Today when you hear his voice, 8don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. 9There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years. 10So I was angry with them, and I said, 'Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them. 11So in my anger I took an oath: 'They will never enter my place of rest.'" 12Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13You must warn each other every day, while it is still "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 15Remember what it says: "Today when you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled." 16And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn't it the people Moses led out of Egypt? 17And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn't it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? 18And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn't it the people who disobeyed him? 19 So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.”
Point number one: Rest is a relationship (Hebrews 3:7-11). Our passage today begins with Paul quoting Psalm 95 almost verbatim. Much of Paul’s writings and references in fact are based on the book of Psalms. One reason Paul uses Psalms, especially in this passage is because Psalms is addressed to the nation of Israel as a whole not individuals. Individually, there were some people who understood the rest of the story. And developed a saving relationship with God by grace alone, through faith alone. Created in God’s image, Adam before he fell, rested in God’s love for him and after he fell he rested in God’s Messianic promise of Jesus that He would provide One who would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 1:27; 3:15). Enoch by faith literally rested in God when Hebrews 11:5 says, “he was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death.” Noah rested in God before the flood by building the ark according to Hebrews 11:7, but I also think he “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (cf. Genesis 6:8) even after the flood when his sons found him naked and drunk in his vineyard (cf. Genesis 9:20). Why I never heard about that story in Sabbath School I don’t know!
And there are many more examples of individuals found in Hebrews 11 that though they lived before the cross in the Old Testament era, what some mistakenly equate with the Old Covenant era, which we’ll talk more about that soon, they still rested in God. They weren’t saved by works. They too found grace in the eyes of the Lord! Caleb and Joshua were two other faithful examples of individuals who rested in God (Numbers 14:30). But the nation of Israel as a whole did not. So instead of quoting Old Testament books of Exodus or Numbers or Joshua with the individual exceptions to the rule, Paul goes to his favorite book of the Old Testament, Psalms, to explain how as a nation Israel rebelled against the rest God was offering. We won’t read Psalm 95 because we really already did since its quoted in Hebrews 3:7-11.
Instead, let’s notice a couple other verses in the Old Testament that accurately captures the nature of this rest and how God defined it. The first can be found in Exodus 33:14. Here the same Moses Hebrews 3:5 assures us was “certainly faithful” in following God even though he made mistakes (cf. Numbers 20:12) is imploring God to show him His glory. But God says you can’t see me like that yet without dying in my presence. So I’ll hide you in the cleft of the rock and pass by and you can see me from behind and live. But before that, here’s what else God tells Moses in Exodus 33:14. “14The LORD replied, "I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you."
Point number one: Rest therefore is a relationship because the LORD promises to give Moses Himself! He will personally go with Moses to give him rest. Jesus would say something very similar in the flesh in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” This is why recent Adventist commentators like Skip MacCarty in his book In Granite or Ingrained? proudly published by Andrews University Press accurately conclude that “God Himself is His people’s true rest. As they would put their faith in Him, and through the empowerment of His Spirit would [sincerely - my addition] obey His commandments, they would experience covenant rest—a confident rest in His love and promises to provide for their temporal needs and eternal salvation” (pp.217-218). Deuteronomy 33:12 in the New International Version says is this way. “2Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”
Coming unto Jesus all you who are weary and heavy laden is not a New Testament idea. The rest of the story has been embedded in the beginning of the story from the beginning of the story. Rightly understood, God has always been our rest! Though supreme and glorious beyond our imagination, He promises to go with us. Which should give us courage amen? As Hebrews 3:6 says, “Christ is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.” God’s house is in the house!
So the first thing we need to know about the rest God is offering us in Hebrews 3 and 4 is it’s the same rest He offered to the children of Israel before the cross—He’s offering them Himself! He’s offering them a relationship with Himself! He’s saying, “Let me lead you.” Which reminds me of that KLove song by the great Toledo band Sanctus Real. Anybody heard that song they sing called “Lead Me”? I post lyrics to one of my fave Christian songs on Facebook every Friday evening and this week’s post was lyrics from the Sanctus Real song “Lead Me.” Listen to just a few of them. “Father, give me the strength / To be everything I'm called to be / Oh Father, show me the way to lead them / Won't You lead me?” If you’re on Facebook, type my name into the search engine to see those lyrics and be my friend. I’d love to see you online as well as in church.
But rest is not just a relationship, it is also a result. Which is point number two. Take a look at Hebrews 7:14, “Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13You must warn each other every day, while it is still "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.”
If we let God lead us, He will. But if we don’t, disbelief and disobedience can lead us away from God. Examples of this can be found in Exodus 17:1-7. “1At the LORD's command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sinai and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. 2So once more the people complained against Moses. "Give us water to drink!" they demanded. "Quiet!" Moses replied. "Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the LORD?" 3But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. "Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?" 4Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!" 5The LORD said to Moses, "Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. 6I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink." So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on. 7Moses named the place Massah (which means "test") and Meribah (which means "arguing") because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the LORD by saying, "Is the LORD here with us or not?"
Another example in Numbers 20:1-13 many years later describes how even Moses disobeyed God. This time God told him to speak to the rock and it will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock but Moses in his anger raised his hand, asked the people if he and Aaron must bring water from this rock and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out, but the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!" This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means "arguing") because there the people of Israel argued with the LORD, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them.”
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, Deuteronomy 12:8-11 says He promised to lead them into Canaan and give them rest from their enemies that they might worship Him, be groomed by His Spirit into a holy people who “keep his precepts and observe his laws” and fulfill their missionary purpose unhindered (cf. Psalm 105:42-45). He performed mighty acts on their behalf, providing them with abundant evidence that they could trust Him and rest in His promises to provide for their every physical and spiritual necessity. He worked miracles to deliver them from Egypt, opened the Red Sea before them, fed them with manna from heaven, brought water from more than one rock to quench their thirst, and gave them His law amidst a fireworks show of epic proportion. He taught them the “true conception of the holiness of God”, the “exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts”, their “utter inability in themselves to render obedience to God’s law”, and their “need of a Savior” (Patriarchs and Prophets p.371) but when He brought them up to the borders of Canaan to take the land He had promised them, Numbers 14:2-11 says they rebelled refusing to go in for fear of being impotent against the fortified cities and well-armed giants of the land. As a result, Numbers 14:26-33 says they were required to return to the wilderness where they wandered around for forty years until a new generation grew up who would exercise greater faith.
Their refusal to trust their relationship with God and enter Canaan at the first opportunity became known as “the rebellion” and that’s what Hebrews 3:12 and Hebrews 3:8 and Psalm 95:7 is referring to. Forever after, it would symbolize their failure to rest in God proving that those who do not exercise faith in God will never enter His rest. But long after the next generation, God kept making this same invitation to His people. That’s why years later King David in Psalm 95 is saying in the “today” of his day 1k years before the cross, “today, if you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts” like Israel did in the rebellion. But sadly, the rest of the story is most of them disbelieved God’s invitation and disobeyed His laws. Not because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to believe. Or because God wasn’t clear about helping them obey. But because they would have none of it.
That’s literally Isaiah’s take 300 years after David. Listen to what he says of their response to God’s invitation to rest in God. Isaiah 30:15 says, “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” Another prophet Jeremiah said it this way, “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, 'No, that's not the road we want!”
So point number two: Rest is a result of trusting in God and His ways. He will provide. He will lead. He will help us believe and sincerely obey. But we must stay in relationship with God to experience His rest. Hebrews 3:14 says, “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.”
But if we don’t stay faithful and trusting till the end, we too can reject His rest. Which is point number three. Hebrews 3:16-19 says, “Who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn't it the people Moses led out of Egypt? 17And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn't it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? 18And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn't it the people who disobeyed him? 19 So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.” I’m going to owe Josh a dollar for this story. But when he was a little kid and didn’t want to go to bed, he would run around the house faster and faster until eventually he would pass out and we would find him in the middle of the kitchen on or on the stairs like a chalked homicide victim. We would scoop him up and put him to rest and he would wake up in the morning like the Energizer Bunny ready to wear us out once more.
Though we grow up, many of us like our children and the children of Israel still find ourselves running away from resting in God. We either forget how supremely good God is by miraculously providing for us in the past and leading us in the present promising to make our paths straight or clear (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). Or we rebelliously choose to disobey Him knowing full well that we’re following our plans not God’s but still we act surprised when we reap what we sow. Either way, we should realize it is still possible to reject the trusting relationship and rest of God by disbelief or disobedience. God still loves us like crazy if we do and continually offers his grace and goodness and guidance to us like He did before the cross, but that doesn’t mean we’ll accept it. Individuals still do, but many don’t. That’s why the Revelation of Jesus says in Revelation 14:11,13 (NIV), “There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” But “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.’”
A relationship with God can relieve us of our fears and worries and striving resulting in rest from our labor and eternal life with Jesus. But ignoring that relationship can also result in no rest day or night and the loss of eternal life. My hope and prayer is that today, we will once again say yes to God Himself—who rightly understood is and has always been His people’s true rest. Next week, we’ll see powerfully from Scripture in part 2 of this message how the seventh-day Sabbath is God’s chosen symbol of humanity's rest in Christ. So be sure to come back for that! I'm Mike Fortune...Good day!!!