“And I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known My ways.’ So I declared an oath in My anger, ‘they shall never enter My rest.’” (Hebrews 3:10)
“And again in the passage above [God] says, ‘They shall never enter My rest.’ It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those that formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in” (Hebrews 4:5)
The writer of Hebrews is comparing the “Day of Rest,” or “Sabbath rest,” which can mean getting to the Promised Land as in the Old Testament, or maybe as Christians we would think of it as the peace of God that our Lord said “passes all understanding,” life everlasting with the Holy Trinity. We do not understand because it lies ahead of us. It’s a complicated matter not just misunderstood by us but ignored or considered passé.
The first point is that it always lies ahead of us as a promise. We should look forward to the end of the work week, a day set aside for prayer, reflection, and rest. For the Hebrew children wandering the wilderness having left Egypt, it is held out as a promise that a land awaited them that would give meaning and reward for their trust in the Lord’s command to obey the Lord and Moses, His appointed leader; but they continued to try working out the way to the Promised Land by their own devices, and so they never really achieved the rest promised to them, even after they returned to the Holy Land. When the gospel was preached to them, they rejected Jesus Christ as the one whom God would send to them as the long-promised Messiah, and so there was no day of rest, but a never-ending sequence of trials and misdirection.
If we are not able to separate ourselves from the environment some call a post-Christian generation, we are little more than ignorant victims of all that our world considers precious. Free will is the ability to discern and affirm Christ’s values from what we are conditioned to esteem as worthwhile and valuable by our culture. What we will then have lost is the concept of life as rhythm, on the simplest level realizing the therapeutic benefit of rest for the body and mind. More, to comprehend the soul’s need to realize that the deepest part of our inner being is starved for nourishment. An infant instinctively cries out when hungry, but an adult or teenager out of touch with the inner self is not always able to recognize the yearning of a heart thirsting for what only the divine One can provide. This world we live in is confused and out of touch with time. Worse, it doesn’t realize that it is lost in its cycles without beginning or end. It would not matter to them if we were able to separate our lives and our Church from a society spinning its wheels and assuming it’s on the way somewhere spiritually, nor is it what our Lord commanded us—which is rather to set examples of peace with God within this culture.
Read the seventh day of God’s creation: “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work He had done” (Genesis 2:3). Unlike the six days previous, there is no mention of evening. We sing of a “mystical new day,” which like the Sabbath has no evening. A day without end where there will be no darkness or night, no need for sleep because we shall be energy-charged for all eternity to live in the light of the Lord. We utilize our Sabbath, the new day of Resurrection, in order to practice what will be normal “over there;” to glow with the grace to look into the face of the Almighty and be free of all impediments that prevent us in this world from doing so with all our heart and mind. In that sense, it’s not really “rest,” but engagement with the Creator and the fruit of creation.