In striking contrast to the desert graves that marked the wanderings of unbelief in the wilderness, in this chapter we view the glorious land into which faith enters. The keynote is rest, God’s rest. Glad tidings have reached us from the glory, telling us of this land of rest that is fairer far than Canaan—the land from whence came such a glowing report, when the spies brought back the luscious fruit from its bountiful vines. Israel came short of it, but all the while they wandered in the desert Caleb and Joshua carried Canaan in their hearts. Having once seen the land of their inheritance, they could not rest outside its boundaries.
And thus it is with us. We have gazed upon the Man in the glory, He is our promised land of rest; having the promise of entering into that rest where He is, we cannot be satisfied elsewhere. The dove found no rest for the sole of her foot until the waters had completely abated from off the face of the earth. There can be no rest where there is sin and sorrow. God rests where all is according to His heart, where Christ is all. We are treading the path that leads to that rest of God; meanwhile our hearts find their rest there.
Three things we notice in our chapter. The rest of God, the goal of faith; the Word of God, the test of faith; and the Son of God, the resource of faith.
1. The Rest of God (vv. 1 -11)
Down the course of the ages we are directed to this rest. God had it ever in view as the climax of blessing, the goal of all His labors.
Rest was proclaimed in Creation (v. 4). God spoke of a rest there. He was able to survey all His works and pronounce them very good. He delighted in and rested in a finished work. But man, whom He called to share His rest, disturbed it. God became a Worker where He had provided Himself a rest. “My Father worketh until now, and I work also,” said the Lord Jesus when He was on earth.
Rest was prefigured in Canaan (v. 8). Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, but neither they nor God rested there. If the serpent entered the first garden, he was found already in possession of the second Eden. But the rest remained to be enjoyed. Many years later God speaks of it through David as still future, and the invitation to enjoy rest with Him assures us of the fulfillment of the promise.
Rest was procured at Calvary (v. 10). God has a rest that is undisturbed by man. When the work of Calvary was finished, when the true Ark of the Covenant, passing through the dark waters of Jordan, finally reaches its resting-place on the holy hill of Sion., God can say, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it” (Ps. 132:14). We turn our eyes to the glory-circled throne, and point to the Man that sits there, the Man of Calvary, and say, “There, there is our rest.” It is a threefold rest, enjoyed now by faith: rest of salvation, for He has made an end of sin; rest of submission, in taking His yoke upon us; rest of satisfaction, in contemplating His Blessed Person.
Rest is promised in Christ (v. 11). One has said, “The secret of the whole Book of God is: God retreating into Christ as the One who has worked out that rest, and who holds it now, and it remains with Him both for God and for His saints.” Canaan does not picture for us our final entrance into the rest of God, but rather our present enjoyment of it by faith. There is a rest that remains, when God shall bring in the full result of the travail of Christ’s soul.
Then shall Thy love find perfect rest,
Where all around is bliss;
Where all in Thee supremely blest,
Thy praise their service is.
2. The Word of God (vv. 12, 13)
We have not yet entered into final rest. Surrounded as we are by the many pitfalls and the snares of the road, harassed by the enemy who ever challenges our progress, and encumbered by the flesh, ever a traitor to Christ, we need the Word of God to carry us through. It is the “light divine that surrounds our goings,” pointing out .the way, silencing the enemy, and dealing death to all the creatures of darkness exposed to its searching rays. A fourfold description of the Word is given here.
It is living, as coming from the Living God and imparting life to all who receive it by faith into their hearts. It is powerful, or energetic, like the seedling that forces its way through every barrier into the upper region of sunlight and air. The transforming power of the Word has been realized in countless lives. It is sharp, penetrating where no surgeon’s knife can reach; convicting, cutting, not sparing the flesh, as did Saul with Agag. It is a discerner—critic or judge is the thought here. All that ever we did and all we are, our inmost thoughts, all are laid bare by the Word. Nor would we have it otherwise when we know the grace of our God. We can say, “Search me, and try me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
3. The Son of God (vv. 14-16)
The woman at Sychar’s well said to the Samaritans, “Come, see a Man, which told me all that ever I did.” The light that exposed her, attracted her; revealing her sin, it also revealed the grace in which her sinful soul could rest. Such is also our experience. The Word of God is like the surgeon’s lancet, unrelenting, probing deep down into the wound, removing all foreign matter. The grace of our heavenly High Priest is like the ointment applied for healing, antiseptic and soothing. Because we are a sinning people, we need the Word of God to judge us. Because we are a stumbling, struggling people, we need the grace of the High Priest to sustain us. We need both the rod for correction and the staff for support; and it is from the Son of God that we draw support and succor for all the needs of the pilgrim way.
The greatness of our High Priest is seen in His exalted place on high (v. 14). We trace His footsteps in the sanctuary as He passes from the blood-stained altar, through the heavens, to the throne of glory. Our eyes are directed to Him there while His eyes are ever upon us here as we struggle onward to our rest.
The goodness of our High Priest is seen in His compassion towards us as we trudge along the weary road (v. 15). He has been over the road before us and has passed through every difficulty and every trial that any saint encounters, and ten thousand more. True it is that He knew no sin, but I do not want pity for my sins; I want sympathy for suffering, and this He gives me. He has not forgotten the sorrows of the path He trod, nor does He forget those who are His companions, following in His steps.
The grace of our High Priest is seen in our access to the very throne of God (v. 16). Where the cherubim gazed in wonder at the sprinkled blood, and where the glory shone, there was God’s throne in Israel. But angels spoke not of sympathy, and that glory furnished no resting-place. With trembling the High Priest performed his duties and then hastily withdrew. Christ sits enthroned where angels gazed, and the glory of God shines in all the splendor of His grace. That throne is a mercy-seat, a throne of grace, to which we may come in holy boldness.
Jesus, I rest in Thee, in Thee, myself I hide,
Laden with guilt and misery, where can I rest beside?
’Tis on Thy meek and lowly breast
My weary soul alone can rest.
Thou Holy One of God, The Father rests in Thee,
And in the virtue of that blood which speaks to Him of me:
The curse is gone, through Thee I’m blest,
God rests in Thee, in Thee I rest.
We are now in the wilderness, we also wrestle with wicked spirits in heavenly places. A blessed rest remains for us in which our hearts will repose in the presence of God. Faith lays hold on what is future for present enjoyment.
The Creator provided Himself a rest after Creation. He promised Himself a rest in Canaan. Adam disturbed His Creation rest, Israel His Canaan rest. He has found rest in Christ.
“Soul and spirit” can only be the two parts of the immaterial nature of man. In spite of what many think, Scripture everywhere clearly distinguishes one from the other. The soul is the lower, sensitive, instinctive, emotional part; the spirit is intelligent and moral, that which knows human things (1 Cor. 2:11).
“Joints and marrow” convey to us the difference between the external and internal, the outward form and the essence hidden in it.
The Word of God surveys with critical judgment. If its eye is keen, its range of vision is also wide. Every created thing is seen and manifested. The surface is bored and and depth within is opened up before it.
Grace was here in Jesus. Grace is on the throne now.
We look from earth and self to the sanctuary above and find there nothing but love, grace, sympathy and fullness of blessing.
For my weakness and difficulties I seek sympathy, and that from One whose nature is capable of appreciating my pain.