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The same precious Subject is continued through this whole Chapter. The Lord's People are here shewn, that Christ is their Rest. Christ having passed into the Heavens, is made an unanswerable Argument, to come unto him boldly.
(4) Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. (2) For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (3) For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (4) For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. (5) And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. (6) Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: (7) Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (8) For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. (9) There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. (10) For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. (11) Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
The opening of this Chapter is so immediately connected with the close of the former, that it becomes the very inference of it. Let us therefore fear, saith the Apostle, while beholding the awful carcasses of unbelievers, as from such distinguishing grace as we have received, in being given to believe in God for salvation, we have abundant reason to rejoice with trembling, Psalms 2:11 . The fear here spoken of, cannot mean a fear of coming short of Christ; for the Apostle had before said, we are made partakers of Christ; and we are his house. Neither are we called upon to the exercise of bondage fear, while conscious of having received a spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba Father, Romans 8:15 . Neither can the seeming to come short of it, mean the seeming so to a believer's own soul; for it is expressly added, (Hebrews 4:3 .) For we which have believed do enter into rest. A plain proof, that the child of God, resting on Christ, could not doubt his interest in Christ. But what then is to be supposed the fear here recommended, and to be sought after? Certainly that holy, jealous, child-like fear, which an obedient son wishes to have always before him, not to do or say anything towards a kind father, which might grieve him. Such as is inculcated towards the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 4:30 . And the Apostle beautifully illustrates the subject, by a case in point. The Gospel was preached in the old Church, in type, and figure, as it is now in substance, and reality, in the New. But there were then hearers who never felt the power of it, as there are now; and, consequently, to both alike, it is unprofitable. But the mark is decisive, where faith cometh by hearing. A child of God regenerated, heareth to the salvation of the soul. The unawakened doth not. And the Lord Jesus himself sets this down, as the sure, unerring testimony, in his account, to the carnal Jews, He that is of God, (saith Christ,) heareth God's Words. Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God, John 8:47 .
I admire the very beautiful manner of expression, made use of in these verses, in allusion to the Lord's resting, after the works of creation. And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. What rest? Not in a way of taking repose, as (speaking after the manner of men) we are said to do, when tired, and our work is over. But the calling into being of creatures, then ceased; and God rested from it, in a way of creation, when the whole which the Lord ordained to bring forth into life, was made. It is in this sense, the expression plainly means. And the same is meant of the personal work of Christ, as Christ. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own work, as God did from his. Yes! For when Jesus had by himself purged our sins, be sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3 . Herein Christ, as our High Priest, differed from all other priests, who always stood ministering. And so far from ceasing, their offerings were daily. Christ's but once, and that in effect forever. Oh! the preciousness of Christ! And true believers also, when ceasing from seeking justification, either in whole, or in part, from any, or all the works of their own; but count themselves, and everything in themselves, filthy, and unclean; hanging upon Christ only, as the vessel upon the nail in a sure place: such may be said, as indeed was said before (Hebrews 4:3 ), to rest on Christ, and enter by faith upon the enjoyment of it.
It may not be improper to observe, on what is said of Jesus, not having given the people rest, that it doth not mean the Lord Jesus Christ, but Joshua, the son of Nun, who succeeded Moses in the ministry of the Church, See Joshua 1:1 . The name Joshua is the same in the Hebrew language, as Jesus; and signifies Savior. But though Joshua did bring the people into Canaan, yet this was only typical of a better rest, which remaineth for the people of God. Hence it is plain, by the Lord's speaking of another rest, this of Joshua's was not the one intended. Christ himself is indeed the rest wherewith the Lord causeth the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing, Isaiah 28:12 . Reader! it will be your happiness, and mine, if, under divine teaching, we are come to Christ, as our rest; and from a knowledge of Him, are made sensible of his bountiful dealing with us, in the rest of salvation, Matthew 11:28 &c; Psalms 116:7 .
(12) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (13) Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
The Word of God is here evidently intended to mean, the un - created Word, of which John speaks in his Gospel, John 1:1 . And let the Reader pause, and observe, what is here said of Christ's glory on this ground. His eyes, like a flame of fire, penetrates through all coverings. He is the Almighty Zephnath-paaneah, the great Revealer of secrets. What a folly to think that anything can escape his observation? What an unanswerable proof of his Godhead?
(14) Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (15) For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (16) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
I include these verses within one reading, because they are so interwoven, that it were a pity to consider them distinctly, for they form one beautiful whole. And yet, they open to so many volumes of subject, that a whole life of grace can never go over the several parts of them, so as to say, there is no more to he said upon them. In a Poor Man's Commentary I must study shortness, and therefore can only glance at the outlines.
And, first. We are called upon to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth; and here we are said to behold, with full confidence, our great High Priest, as passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. I admire the manner in which this blessed truth is spoken. Seeing then, saith the Apostle; as if (and which is in reality the case,) all dispute about it was done away. There is a special emphasis on the words, seeing then. He is gone into heaven, (saith Peter). There Christ our forerunner is entered. And is on the right hand of God angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject unto him, 1 Peter 3:22 . And I admire the Apostle's joining to this account of Christ's return to heaven both the office of Christ, and the name of Christ. He had before, in the second Chapter (Hebrews 2:0 ), spoken somewhat largely of Christ, as a Priest, and an High Priest; and here he calls him a great High Priest. And, as the Apostle delighted upon all occasions, to introduce the name of his Lord, whenever an opportunity offered, he adds to the account of our great High Priest having passed into the heavens; his name, Jesus the Son of God! Reader! note this down first, in your looking to Him, who is thus passed into the heavens. It is Jesus, God's dear Son, and your dear High Priest; yea, your great High Priest!
Secondly, Paul here from draws the strongest of all arguments, that we should hold fast our profession. Not as if this depended upon any strength in ourselves to hold it but, that in Christ's strength we should grasp it, and carry it about with us as the credentials of our faith, rather parting with life than with a belief in Christ, Isaiah 27:5 . And this holding fast, implies making use of Christ upon all occasions; continually acting faith upon him; depending in him; and in spite of all temptations, resolutely holding on, and holding out, as those, who in a consciousness that He who is our great High Priest is passed into the heavens, hath obtained eternal redemption for us, by his blood and righteousness, and is now returned to heaven, to see the merit of it recompensed in some measure and degree, (though fully it never can be through all eternity,) to all his people. This is our profession. And the consciousness of Christ being passed into the heavens is enough in itself to make all his people, in spite of hell and sin, to hold it fast.
Thirdly. people, the next persuasion from these precious words, riseth still higher. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Of all the consolations and encouragements under the trials of the faithful, these views of Jesus, are certainly the greatest, and the best. First, as they relate to Christ's Person. And, Secondly, as they relate to his High Priestly Office
Reader! what a thought is it, to lead the child of God to the mercy-seat of God in Christ, with every comfortable assurance of success; when we consider who it is we go to, what a knowledge he hath of our persons, wants, circumstances, trials, and difficulties; what a personal experience he himself hath had of the same things, being when upon earth in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. In all things else the same.
It is possible I may be singular. But, if I am, I can truly say I find the blessedness of it; and would not think otherwise than I do, on those sweet points, for a thousand worlds. I frequently say to myself, when my necessities compel me to go to the throne, (and, Reader, I fear, notwithstanding the frank and tender reception I always meet with there, when I go to my God and Savior, I should seldom go there, did not my wants make me;) but I frequently say, was not Jesus made an High Priest purposely that He might be merciful? Was it not his deep love, and his deep affection to sinners, which made Him, of all others, the most fitted to be our High Priest? And will he not exercise it towards me? Doth not the very nature of an High Priest call for mercy? Would the office itself be needed, if there were not poor sinners to receive from it? It is most true, and it is most blessed in the truth, that Jesus is a great High Priest, and is passed into the heavens, in proof of his Almighty greatness, and his Almighty power; but what endears Jesus to my heart still more, is that he is a merciful and faithful High Priest, in things pertaining to God; and can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; in that, he himself was once encompassed with our infirmity, and was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Reader! is it not this which gives a lift to poor, tried, buffeted, tempted souls, and enables them to come boldly to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need?
One word more. It is an additional argument, and the Apostle most blessedly blends it with the former; that not only Christ's greatness, and Christ's fellow-feeling and compassion, make him a suited High Priest for his people, and such as none other, but God and Man in one Person can be; but also, that the exercises he himself hath gone through, and the sorrows in those exercises he hath borne, give him such a personal knowledge of all, the cases and circumstances of his people, as nothing but the having trod the path himself could have brought him acquainted with. And, although it is most true, that as God he could have no additional knowledge, neither be more merciful, in taking upon him our nature, yet, had Jesus the Son of God not been man, as well as God, he could not have had human affections, and human feelings, in a personal experience of what human sorrows are. So that it doth tend to give yet further encouragement to go to Jesus, when we keep in remembrance, that he not only knows as God, but that he feels as man. And in his own breast, we have this sweet and affectionate advocate, in that he knoweth our frame by his own, and how to administer the suited relief.
Precious Lord Jesus! do thou, by the sweet influences of thy blessed Spirit, keep those views everlastingly alive in my heart; that my soul may have the most lively actings of faith, upon thy Person, as God-Man, and thy knowledge, as having gone before in the tabulated path in my nature; so that I may not only come, but come boldly to thy mercy-seat, and always obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need!
How shall I properly prize my mercies, in the grace the Lord gives me, to receive and believe in Jesus; when I am told, as in this Chapter, that the professing Israel of old, to whom the Gospel was preached, found no profit, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Oh! how plain and evident it is, from the experience of mankind in all ages, that grace makes all the difference between him who serveth God, and him who serveth him not. Lord! cause thy Church, thy people, thy redeemed, to rest in Christ and his finished work, as God in creation, and Christ in redemption, rested from theirs. Oh! the sweet thought! There is a rest, and Christ is that rest, which remaineth for the people of God.
Oh! thou uncreated Word! let my soul be always under thy soul - warning, and spirit-comforting power. And, as all things are naked, and open to thine all-piercing sight, do thou, Lord, impart the very grace thou seest to be needful for me. Oh! thou risen and exalted Savior! Thou art indeed passed into the heavens. Thither would my soul by faith and love follow thee. Jesus knoweth me, feeleth for me, is sensibly touched with the circumstances of my infirmities. Surely, Jesus can, and Jesus will, impart all necessary strength, and my God and Savior will make me more than conqueror, through his grace helping me!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent