That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years. So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”Hebrews 3:7-11
I have now made it very clear to you why the writer of Hebrews has penned these words. I have paused in Paran and outlined for you the significance of the focus in the Book of Numbers on the Rebellion Places on the journey from Paran. It is clear the writer has focused on the places of rebellion spread over a duration of forty years to highlight the on-going nature of the Israelites rebellion. However, I have also pointed out the significance of the names of the places and shown you how what was intended for good in many of these places, ended up being to their detriment. I am going to just select two places to demonstrate this:- Rephidim and Kadesh-Barnea in the wilderness of Paran.
It fascinates me that these two places were named as they were, before the Israelites reached them:-
- Rephidim: “rest”and “delightful” or “delightful rest”.
- Kadesh-Barnea: “the holy place of desert wanderings”.
- Paran: “to endow with glory”.
In both of these places God had intended to bless the Israelites with rest and increasing portions of His glory. But their rebellion interfered with the process. In each place God’s intention was thwarted by the Israelites stubbornness and rebellion. God called it rebellion; I am sure they had softer names for what they did, just as we do. We couch our stubbornness in euphemistic terms, but it is still stubbornness or wilfulness. Let’s learn to call out our behaviours for what they are. The word used in text of Hebrews is [παραπικρασμός] (parapikrasmos). It is a strong word which means to make someone bitter or angry or provoke someone to anger by what you have done. When used intransitively it carries the idea of disobedience or rebellion, even provocation against someone. [Parapikrainō] is the root verb which contains the term [pikros] or [pikria] both of which hold the sense of strong negative emotions against the source or the cause of your rebellion. Something which leaves a strong bitter taste in your mouth (figuratively), bringing forth animosity, anger, harshness and jealousy. It is very interesting that the source of the Israelites strong feelings toward Moses or ultimately God appears to be linked to the bitter waters of Marah, so their feelings had been brewing for a while.
Yet it is clear that God’s intention was to give them rest at Rephidim. The very thing they wanted was denied them because of this growing reaction. The ongoing nature of their rebellion along with these strong emotions resulted in God’s anger. You can almost hear Him saying, “Enough of this!” In both of these cases where God’s intention was thwarted related to rest and glory, the end result was catastrophic. God’s oath stating that they would never enter His place of rest for them. God’s intention clearly was to bring them into rest and to endow the Israelites with His glory.
Let’s now look at the word [katapausis]. Exactly what is this ‘rest’ referring to? It is a physical rest, resting on a journey, resting from work or physical exertion. But it is so much more than that. Again there is a figurative sense to the word. Notice the form “My rest, My place of rest.” This rest is designated as God’s rest or the rest which God Himself wanted to give the Israelites. The rest I (God) designed or planned for you. That has multiple meanings.
- The resting place God had planned to give them in Rephidim, after their experiences in Marah and Elim to do with water. God had the route planned and knew exactly what was going to happen along the way. It was part of His test for them to see if they would trust Him on this journey they were on. Failed
- The rest of Canaan, when the Israelites got to their promised land. The land flowing with milk and honey. Now that would be a good place to rest. The rest in that place was not temporary like that of Marah, Elim or Rephidim. The rest of the Promised Land was a permanent earthly dwelling place. A place where they would be endowed with on-going rest and peace. A place where God’s glory would envelope and clothe them for the rest of their earthly lives. But those who rebelled were either taken out at the time or the rest were prohibited from enter God’s rest in the Promised Land until the rebellious generation had died.
- The ultimate rest of heaven and ever-lasting life. The rest of Eden which you have heard me talk about before. That rest that we are headed for when God restores the Life of the Age to Come. Yes, rest as it was intended when God first created the dwelling place for mankind.
All three of these senses are present in the passage. But I don’t want to extend the intention here to suggest this means ultimate rest. In the context of Numbers, the sense of the rest, peace and glory are essentially physical. But when the writer to the Hebrews picks up the story of Numbers and the rebellion in wilderness it has become more than just rest on a physical journey. Now he has in mind all senses of the rest from purely temporal rest from physical exertion, the ultimate goal of Canaan and ultimately that which was in store for the Hebrew Christians who had left Judaism and had become Christ followers. Remember, that is his prime focus in writing this letter to Jewish Christians at the prelude of Nero’s pending persecution.
Given that context, notice the strength or emphasis in the oath made by God Himself.
“So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
Those strong words appear in two places. Psalm 95:11 and Hebrews 3:11.
Take note: they applied to the ancient ancestors of Israel, they applied to the Jewish Christians at the onset of Nero’s persecution around AD 54 and they apply to those of us who follow Christ and are likely to be heading into persecution as well. You have to admit it is sobering to say the least. Now we come to the second half of the challenge in Hebrews 3. Hebrews 3:12-19 which I first laid before you in Gem 2058. It is time to pick up the challenge the writer of Hebrews laid before the Jewish Christians in the days before Nero’s reign between 54 and 68 AD.
Don’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.Ian
If you had to be the person you are today for the rest of your life, would you be happy? If the answer is no, the power to change is IN YOU!A R Bernard
Your behaviour is what you believe; all the rest is just talk.Ian
Look at the world & be distressed. Look within & be depressed. Look at Christ & be at rest!Corrie Ten Boom