Resting in the work that’s finished.
Alexander Maclaren on the good news of the new Sabbath rest in Christ crucified.
In Hebrews 3 and 4, the writer spends a considerable amount of time discussing the good news of entering into the rest of God. As a proof of concept, he refers to Psalm 95 throughout this section, employing the censorious words David declared to his own people concerning their forefathers’ wanton disbelief and denial of entry into the land of promise as a vehicle to admonish the Hebrew church to take seriously the evangelistic opportunity in front of them. Essentially, the writer utilizes one of the most pivotal moments in Jewish history — namely, the “rebellion” at Kadesh Barnea which earned them forty years of wandering (Num. 13—14) — to not only jog their memory regarding one of the darkest blemishes on their national résumé, but also to emphasize the critical distinction between belief and unbelief. As he say quite plainly in chapter 4, “For we who have believed enter that rest” (Heb. 4:3). “Rest,” of course, carries multiple meanings in both chapters. But, as the writer endeavors to show, they all tend towards and culminate in one true meaning, that is, the finished rest of Christ’s finished work of redemption. Alexander Maclaren’s comments are helpful, here:
The Sabbath on which God rested from His work, and the new Sabbath on which Christ rose from the dead, the conqueror of death, the destruction of sin, are parallel in this, that in either case the work was done, that in either case the Doer needed no repose after His finished task. And just as God, full of all the energy of being, operated unspent after creation, needed not that rest for His refreshment, but took it as the pledge and proclamation to the universe that all was done; so Christ, unwearied and unwounded from His dreadful close and sore wrestle with sin and death, sprung from the grave to the skies and rests — proclamation and token to the world that His work is finished, that the Cross is enough for the race forevermore, that all is complete, and man’s salvation secure. (15:1.317)
The rest of God the Father from creation and the rest of God the Son from redemption are tied together in Hebrews 3 and 4 in a profound way. The writer himself makes this point in Hebrew 4:4 (cf. Gen. 2:2). And the point is, the Sabbath rest of God, typified by the day of rest (Exod. 20:8–11) and by the land of promise, was culminated in the crucified Christ, whose rest on Holy Saturday finishes the work of reconciliation by which sinners are invited to enter into the rest God’s righteousness. This is the good news that is announced to us in the gospel, and it is news which warrants reorientation. As the writer says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). We are, by nature, spiritual workaholics who have to be told to stop and rest in the work that’s already finished. This corresponds with Jesus’s own words in John’s Gospel, where he declares, “This is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).
This day and everyday, then, may you find rest for your weary bones in the resounding declaration of God’s only Son, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And he says that, may you truly believe that it is true.
Grace and peace to you.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vols. 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1944).