The Sabbath Rest (Hebrews, Part 3)
The essential message of the letter to the Hebrew Christians is that Christ is the fulfilment of the entire Old Covenant. Hebrews takes the blueprints of the Old Covenant and reveals them in three-dimensional glory of the New Covenant. Thus, Christ supersedes the Old Covenant just as the building surpasses the architectural plans of it. Nevertheless, the plans are a true sketch and pointer of things to come. But now that the building has been completed its time to move in and enjoy the new home.
For the writer of Hebrews this applies to the Sabbath rest (Heb 4:1-11). The Sabbath rest, as outlined in the Law of Moses, is only the sketch of the reality to come in Christ. The original Sabbath was a temporary camp, but now we are meant to move into the everlasting Sabbath in Christ. But of course, the sketch is much easier to control, and we can so easily be duped into thinking we have the reality when all we have is the sketch. The Jewish Christians of the first century had a very difficult time letting go of the Old Covenant and accepting the New Covenant. The letter to the Romans, the Galatians and other significant portions of the New Testament all deal with these matters.
Oddly enough however, things have not changed that much. The church can just as easily slip back into the ‘Old Covenant’ modes of being. Jesus Christ is our high priest and has entered the ‘rest’ forever and for all. Whenever we try to hack our own way into the ‘rest’ by meticulous observance of the Sabbath Day we are, paradoxically, denying Christ and living outside the rest. That does not mean the rest is a lethargic-do-nothing-holiday from service. Rather the rest is a place of permanent security and grace in Christ out of which we serve. It is a sharing in the inheritance of Christ and the security that comes from the reality of our inclusion in the family of God. In that place we are free to serve with a spirit joy and levity of being.
In the words of Jesus “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is light and my burden is easy” (Matt 11:28-30).