6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7again 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.”
8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12For 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. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
We’re going to be focusing on verses 12-13 of Hebrews Chapter 4 this morning, but I wanted to provide context for the passage of Hebrews that this section falls within because context is extremely important when you handle the Word of God. I believe its importance will become more apparent to you as I continue but I simply want to continue to be faithful in how I teach the Word of God to you because many men are not faithful in its presentation any more.
God inspired specific thoughts and attitudes that rest within a “story” inside each Book of the Bible. We are not at liberty to pull words out of their place and create a message that we think might help people and baptize our advice by pulling God’s Words out of their intended meaning. I could very easily quote the Psalms in part that say: “…there is no God…” but that’s hardly the message of the Scriptures is it? In fact, the portion of Psalm 14 that I left out is that “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.”
That passage about the fool and his disbelief in God is actually very appropriate for today’s passage. You see this kind of foolishness is not merely demonstrated in people that proclaim themselves to be atheists but, in many cases, it is reflected in the unbelief that is often displayed by people who claim to be religious; worse, yet, by people that claim to be Christian.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author warns Hebrew believers to not neglect the salvation that is found only in Jesus Christ. They are losing family, friends, and jobs because they have turned from Judaism to Christianity. There is a strong temptation to escape this persecution by simply returning to the religion of their youth – to return to being practicing Jews and turning their back on Christ.
The author labors to show that there is nothing to go back to because Christ was the aim of the Jewish religion all along. Even as we learned when studying Galatians, Abraham received a promise of inheritance by faith and even the Law was added to be a preparation for the people of God to receive their long awaited Messiah.
In very stern warnings in Hebrews Chapters 3 and Chapters 4, the author reminds everyone of the Israelites in the desert. He tells them that they heard the Gospel for 40 years and for 40 years they rebelled. At the beginning they rebelled, in the middle they rebelled, and at the very end they rebelled. So God swore by Himself that they would not enter the rest: the promised land of Canaan. This was a picture of what Christ would be – a rest for His people. The author, in the most frightening of terms, points out to the Hebrews that they are actually worse than the Israelites in the desert if they rebel now and forsake the Rock – God the Son who has been revealed in Christ Jesus. He is greater than the angels, than Moses, than Aaron for He is the purpose and the end of all of their work. They all pointed to Him. The Israelites in the desert then become a stark picture of unbelief to the Hebrew believers thinking about forsaking Christ for they would be worse than the Israelites in the desert and if they rebelled against the Son then they would be utterly lost for eternity – never to enter into the rest only found in the Son.
Verse 11: Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Notice the author uses the term us: Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
It’s not enough for you to be concerned about your salvation in the Church of Christ. Christianity is not about you and your personal relationship with Jesus. Of course you must believe upon and lay hold of Christ’s feet by faith but when you believe on Jesus it’s supposed to transform your heart and renew your mind. You’re engrafted into the family of God, the household of faith and you have brothers and sisters who are joint heirs in Christ. We strive together to enter into that rest. This is not some sort of thing where we are casually on a journey just asleep in the back seat as a few people drive the train for us to Happyville.
There are struggles, there are temptations, there is suffering, and there is need. We have brothers and sisters around us who are struggling with sin and we dare not say: “Well, we’re heading on, make sure you keep up.” If they fall behind, God help you if you don’t care in the least that they’re falling behind and you just leave the weak to be devoured by the wolves because you’re keeping up with the pack. Absolutely not! Christ calls Himself the good Shepherd because He won’t lose a single sheep. He’ll leave the 99 because He notices one has wandered off and He’ll leave the 99 to bring that last one back into the fold.
The fool says in his heart: “There is no God.”
Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe He is the Good Shepherd? Do you believe that He loves all of His sheep? Then why do we not care when there are weak sheep among us? Why don’t we have a concern for others among the sheepfold other than ourselves? Why doesn’t our concern reflect the concern of our great Shepherd?
Let us therefore strive. Let none of us be found to be unbelieving and may we all weep when we beg and plead and pray with someone who is falling behind. We do everything in our power to keep him in the fold and even get mauled by the wolves if we have to get in the way of the world who is trying to take one of our own.
But there’s sort of a question here about what we’re believing. What is it that we’re trusting? None of us have seen God so how do we know that this stuff is true. The simple answer is the Word of God. At least that’s the Biblical answer. These days, however, people have very un-Biblical notions about how they know God. In fact our ideas about God are very much affected not by Biblical ideas but Pagan ideas about God.
You see Romans 1 reveals that we are prone to idols. Throughout human history to the present day, the thing that is true of all idols is that they are dumb. They cannot speak. They don’t have mouths.
For this reason, all pagan religions have mystics, they have people in the know. They somehow tap into the sources of knowledge in the universe and information is beamed into their head. They enter into altered states, sometimes with drugs, and they give mystical prophecies of things that nobody else knows about.
But our God is not like the idols. Our God speaks. Our God knows. Our God creates. He creates by the Word of His power and light comes forward simply because He says: “Let there be light.”
How has He spoken though? Hebrews 1: “1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things….” Christ is even referred to in John Chapter 1 as the Word made flesh. God speaks to us through His Word.
But to many people today, the Word of God seems so old, so ancient. It was inspired thousands of years ago and the people who last wrote down the Books of the Bible are long since dead. Men and women everywhere, and sadly many Christians, think that the Word isn’t useful for today. It’s not practical. The letters are dead on a page. In fact, many Pentecostals today seek constant new revelations because, like the pagans, they fall back into the idea that God is mute that He doesn’t speak so they go to their mystics – to people who enter into altered states and tap into the power of the universe. Flee from such people.
But this is what the Scriptures say of the Word: “12For 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.”
Far from being dead, far from lying dormant and being of no use for today, the Word of God is living, it is active. It pulses with life and power.
God’s Word cannot be taken lightly because if anyone doesn’t want to listen to it then that person faces no one less than God Himself. It’s not just a collection of ancient writings but it speaks to people, actively, powerfully today and always. The Bible demands a response because God does not tolerate those who ignore what He says. People who ignore this living and powerful Word do so at their own peril.
Stephen, in Acts 7:38 stated that Moses at Mount Sinai received “living oracles” and Peter in 1 Peter 1:23 states that we are born again through the Word of God that lives and abides forever. What we think of as dead letters on a page has the power to make men alive from their sins because they are the Words of the Everlasting God by whose Powerful Word the heavens and the earth were created.
But the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Just as God’s Word brought forth His creation, His Word recreates men who are dead in sins and transgressions (Eph 2:1-5). The Word is power but even as it brings life to us it is foolishness to the world. 1 Cor 1:18 states: “The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
And because it is powerful and active, it has the effect that it is sharp and cutting and sees right through us: it is sharper than any two-edged sword – like the blade of a surgeon it uncovers the most delicate nerves not merely of the body but of the soul as well. In Rev 1:16, Christ is pictured as having a “sharp double-edged sword” coming out of his mouth.
The division between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, is all conveying the same idea that it uncovers the very thoughts and intentions of our heart. Human judges cannot see into the heart when they are rendering a judgment on criminals. They can only see the actions. God’s Word, however, judges and sees through the intentions of the heart. Everything is laid out by its cutting and discerning power.
Nothing remains untouched by the Word of God for it addresses every aspect of man’s life. All the recesses of body and soul face the sharp edge of God’s dividing sword. We might smile at our neighbor while we inwardly despise him but God’s Word uncovers them. God addresses man in the completeness of his existence and man is unable to escape the penetrating impact of God’s Word.
But the fool says in his heart: “There is no God.”
Hebrews 4:13: 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.
God’s Word uncovers everything so, in the end, everything is laid bare before the almighty God who we owe perfect obedience to. It is impossible for man to hide sin in the dark corners of his heart. God knows. He sees everything; even darkness is as light to him (Psalm 139:12).
The past, the present, and the future are all before God because He is not bound by time or place but He dwells in eternity and is above His Creation. Do you suppose that if His eye is on the sparrow, and He knows the number of hairs on your head, that there is any hidden motive or thought that He does not know about?
The unbeliever seeks to hide from God but has nowhere to go (Jer 23:24). The secret sins of men are literally naked and open before God. Before the Fall, man lived with no shame but, immediately after His sin, he tried to run from God and cover himself with leaves. Man, in his fallen condition, is so foolish to think that leaves can protect him from the wrath of God for sin but leaves are not much protection from a strong wind much less the power of Almighty God.
And because all of our thoughts and deeds and sins are naked and open before God, all men will one day have to give account to their Creator. The books will be audited and all the bills, payments, and receipts will be checked. The consciences of men will literally be put on trial.
On that final day, unbelievers will call to the mountains and rocks in Rev 6:16: “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” Everyone will have to give account of himself.
Yes, the fool has said in his heart: “There is no God” because such a thought can bring no comfort to men apart from God’s grace. This Word simply lays bare the failings of men as God said to him: Obey. Man has failed to obey and so the Word is a frightening thing. It is much easier for the unbeliever to be the fool and say to Himself: “There is no God, this is not His Word, and I will not have to give account to it.”
But, you see, that same Word that lays bare and condemns became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word that condemns for sin, became flesh to bear the sins of all who would believe upon Him. The fool says in his heart that there is no God but the redeemed say in their heart that Christ has died for the sins of men on the Cross and risen from the dead for their eternal life.
Therefore, I urge you that a day has been appointed: Today. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. The Word has searched you out and knows you. It knows all your darkest secrets, hidden sins, and faults. It searches out all those things by which you might be condemned but the Word has also revealed Christ and Him crucified. Do not be the fool that denies the authority of the Word, that acts as if God is dumb, that acts as if God cannot see. Submit to the Word and its authority and hear the Good News announced by it for the salvation of your eternal soul.
Let us pray.