Part 5 - Resting by Faith
Psalm 95 concludes with God's testimony about the unbelieving Hebrews in the wilderness: "For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest' " (Ps. 95:10-11). And they didn't. God waited until that entire generation died in the wilderness before He brought their children into the land of promise. Of those who came out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb entered.
An example of unbelief
The writer to the Hebrews says concerning this, "For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?" (Heb. 3:16-18). God says about that which caused Him grief and made Him angry: "It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways." The people, having rejected the person of God (see Hardened Hearts), and having rejected the plan and purpose of God (see Rejection of God's Works), also rejected the righteousness of God. They went astray in their hearts and chose their own ways instead of God's ways.
Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, "But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.' Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:5-12).
Unbelief in the righteousness of God
Unbelief begins with a failure to delight in the person of God and His glory. When this happens then one will also fail to glory in God's judgment as the Creator, One who has a plan and purpose for that which He created. When one exhibits unbelief in God's plan and purpose then that person will seek his own ways, looking for fulfillment in ways contrary to God's righteousness. This is a third trait of unbelief, the determination of righteousness that is according to one's own understanding, even though it be contrary to God's determination.
Proverbs states, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts" (Prov. 21:2). A characteristic of unbelief is self-justification. It discounts the righteousness of God and the standard He has set and formulates a standard of righteousness that is according to one's own understanding and ways. This enables the wicked to justify themselves.
Chapter one of the book of Romans lays out the characteristics of unbelief. It shows how the unbelieving reject the person of God (verses 18-21), how they reject the purpose of the Creator (verses 22-25), and then how they reject God's righteousness and determine their own. The Apostle Paul continues with this last thought: "For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Rom. 1:26-32).
The conviction of the Spirit
Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came, this being after He rose and was glorified, that the Spirit would convict the world of sin: "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged" (John 16:8-11). This conviction upon all in the world causes all to know "the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death." Yet the Scripture says of those who continually reject God and resist the Spirit that He "gave them up" and "gave them over to" their own wicked ways. God will let a world that rejects His righteousness see and experience the fruit of its rebellion against God.
The writer to the Hebrews says, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" (Heb. 3:12-14).
Isaiah wrote, "Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord" (Isaiah 55:7-8). God said of the unbelieving Hebrews who failed to enter His rest, "It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways." The first call Jesus made in His ministry was a call to repentance. This is a change of mind and heart toward God and His righteousness. There is a peace and rest freely available through Christ, but it is given only to those who will repent and turn to the person of God, the plan of God, and the righteousness of God.
The writer to the Hebrews says of the failure of the children of Israel to enter the land, "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest," ' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:2-3). God's work in the creation of the heavens and earth, God's seventh day rest, and the Sabbath Day rest given to Israel is a model of redemption. This points to God's work in redeeming Israel from bondage in Egypt and the rest by faith that Israel was to have in God. Both of these model the work of the redemption of the world from sin and death by Jesus Christ. The writer says that those of Israel who did not enter did so by a lack of faith. Those who enter today do so by faith in the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The model completed
One aspect of the model of God's work in creation, God's seventh day rest, and the Sabbath rest is that the nation of Israel never fully entered into the rest that God would give them. The model as used in the book of Hebrews is indeed one of failing to enter the rest. The writer says of those who did enter, "For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God" (Heb. 4:8-9). Joshua did lead the nation into the land of promise and they did experience a rest to some degree, but the history of the nation shows it to be one of failing to attain to the place that God planned for it.
However, the model is not completed. The prophecies of the Bible show that Israel's Messiah (the Christ) will one day reign from the heart of Israel, Jerusalem. This reign will last for a thousand years and bring prosperity and peace not only to the nation of Israel, but also to all the world. This reign of Jesus Christ will complete the model concerning Israel and bring Israel into the complete rest it never had. This will testify to the believer's rest that all are called to: as Israel will only have its complete rest when Jesus reigns from the heart of Israel, Jerusalem, so too, it is only when Jesus Christ reigns from the heart of a person as Lord and Savior that one will fully enter into the rest.
Redemption through faith in Christ
Jeremiah wrote, "Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,' says the Lord" (Jer. 9:23-24). Mankind fell in the Garden of Eden when his heart turned from God and onto himself. This caused him to glory in the riches of his own soul instead of the richness of God who is characterized by lovingkindness. It caused mankind to glory in his own wisdom and understanding instead of the judgment of the Creator. It caused mankind to glory in his own strength and ways instead of the righteousness of God.
Redemption from the rebellion of the Fall comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The heart of fallen man glories in his own soul, mind, and strength. Repentance and faith in Christ causes one to glory in God's person, God's judgment, and God's righteousness, a turning from glory in self to glory in God. To put faith in Christ is to rest in His work and righteousness instead of one's own efforts. To put faith in Christ is to trust in Him instead of one's own wisdom. To put faith in Christ is to enter into new life in the Spirit, a life characterized by the richness of His presence and love. By its very nature, faith in Christ corrects the rebellion of the Fall and causes one's heart to glory in God. Opposed to this is the nature of unbelief which rejects the being of God, the judgment of God, and the righteousness of God.
The writer to the Hebrews said, "Therefore, as the
Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your
hearts as in the rebellion' " (Heb. 3:7-8). Regarding the voice of Christ,
God the Father said from Heaven, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Luke
9:35). Jesus said regarding the unbelieving, "And the Father Himself, who
sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time,
nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom
He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you
think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you
are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:37-40).