Friday, 21 September 2018
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. Hebrews 4:1
The word “therefore” is given for the reader to contemplate what has been said about the people not entering God’s rest because of unbelief, as stated in Chapter 3. From there, it says, “since a promise remains of entering His rest.” This is the key idea of the argument, and it is that upon which the whole discussion turns. There was the promise of rest, it was not believed by the people, and yet now the promise of rest still remains for God’s people. The truth of the matter still stands; it is yet ahead in God’s redemptive plans.
From there he says, “let us fear.” It is these words that actually begin the verse in the Greek. It bears a special emphasis by saying, “Let us fear, therefore.” The emphasis is on the word “fear,” not the word “us.” In essence, “Lest us (each of us within the group should be in the same mind) fear…” The fear he is referring to isn’t a fear of something like wrath or being condemned, but one of uncertainty of an outcome. An example of this thought would be, “O dear, I fear I may have missed the train.” The “rest of God” still stands as a promise and the author says that his readers should fear “lest any of you seem to have come short of it.”
This is not speaking of coming short of it in qualification, such as, “I didn’t make the grade, and thus I am excluded.” Rather, it is speaking of timing and surety of being able to attain what is still available. As Vincent’s Word Studies states it, “Since this promise remains, let us fear to distrust it.” Continuing the example of the train might help.
1) The train is set to take the people to their rest. However, because the people in the wilderness did not believe God’s promise of entering His rest, the train never took them there.
2) The psalmist then said, “Today,” when speaking of hearing God’s voice – the very thing that will allow them to enter His rest. The promise of rest still awaits. If not, he could not say to them “Today.” He is asking them to hear God’s voice (believe), and in believing they will enter His rest.
3) Now in Hebrews, the author says, “Don’t worry, the promise of rest still stands. ‘Today’ is still the day. And because the promise still stands, let us fear to not believe that it is true.” It is God’s rest which is still anticipated, and it is attained by belief in God’s promise. The train is still at the station, waiting to take the people to God’s rest. Let us fear to distrust it. The clock has not run out, the train has not left, and those who believe will be there on time.
It should be noted that the citation by Vincent’s Word Studies (above) is completely opposed by the scholars at Cambridge. They say that the words should be translated as “should seem to have failed in attaining it.” They then explain that with the words, “The Greek might also mean ‘should think that he has come too late for it;’ but the writer’s object is to stimulate the negligent, not to encourage the despondent.”
As you can see, they dismiss the logic of Vincent’s Word Studies. However, the context of what has been said, and that of which is coming through verse 4:10, supports what Vincent proposes. Each point of this will be explained in those coming verses as the author continues. It is true that the author will stimulate the audience to not be negligent, but that is because the promise of God’s rest is still available. The people are not to be despondent that they have missed the train.
Life application: This is a difficult verse to understand without explanation. Translations of the Bible are given to hopefully provide a snapshot of what is being conveyed, but quite often they simply cannot do so without additional commentary. And in reading commentaries, there may be a multitude of opinions on what that one verse is saying. Therefore, it is unwise to 1) read a single translation of the Bible lest an unsound opinion arises about what is being relayed; and 2) to stick with a single commentator on the Bible who may have derived an unsound opinion about what is being relayed. The more versions we read, and the more commentaries we study, the more we will have sufficient more information to arrive at a sound conclusion as to the original intent of the passage.
Lord God, there is a promise of heaven for those who believe in Christ Jesus. We should not fear that we have missed that train because of our past failures, but we should believe in the promise, come to the cross, and receive our ticket which grants us that access. Let us not be despondent that we have missed out because of what has been, but let us be confident in what can be – all because of Jesus. Thank You that the promise is still available to us. Amen.