David Jeremiah - Experience God's Best
I'm David Jeremiah, and welcome to this edition of, "Turning Point". If you're like me, getting enough rest is a daily challenge. Between work, family, and personal commitments, there's always a reason to cheat ourselves out of a good night's sleep. But you and I both know that a lack of rest catches up with us eventually. And sooner or later, we crash from exhaustion. In our current series based on the book of Hebrews, "Jesus Is Enough", we will study a passage today that talks about spiritual rest. In fact, the name of today's message is, "Experiencing God's Best" because God's best for us is to experience the spiritual rest he has planned and provided in Jesus Christ. If you're not enjoying God's best because you're cheating yourself out of God's rest, then you'll want to learn the solution on today's edition of "Turning Point".
In the story of the exodus and the people who were traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land, in that story from the Old Testament that is referenced here in the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews are the people who are taking that journey. Are they representative of believers in Jesus Christ, or are they people who are trying to find their way to Jesus Christ and have not yet discovered him? And that's a crucial question because it determines how you look at this whole book.
And I want to try to help us understand the answer to that question today by going back to the story and setting the exodus in its context in the story itself from the Old Testament. After nine terrible plagues had been visited upon the Egyptian nation, and you remember the story, Pharaoh still would not let the people go. And Moses kept going before Pharaoh and saying on behalf of God, "Let my people go". And Pharaoh keeps hardening his heart. And then he would say yes, and then he would change his mind. And through all those nine plagues, there had been no way that the people of Israel were going to be allowed to leave exodus.
And then, something happened that turned the tide. We read about it in Exodus chapter 12, and these are the words. "And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all of the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he and his servants, and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house in Egypt where there was not one dead". God's patience with Pharaoh had come to an end. And that night, judgment came to the nation of Egypt. But what about the people of Israel? They were living there, too. And they had sons, they had livestock. What happened to them?
Once again, let me read to you from the book of Exodus. After instructing Moses and Aaron before this event had happened concerning the sacrifice of a lamb for the observance of the Passover feast, God added these instructions, listen carefully. "And you should tell your people to take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they are eating it. And I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn of the land of Egypt. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I execute judgment, for I am the Lord".
When the plague was visited upon the people of Egypt and the blood of the lamb was applies to the houses of the Israelites, the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain, and the firstborn of the Israelites were saved. It was through the blood of the lamb that Israel was set free from her bondage. And that blood was on the lintel and on the doorposts. I know we don't do action courses at Shadow Mountain, but do this with me. The blood was on the lintel and on the doorposts, the prefiguring of the cross of Jesus Christ. And everywhere the cross was, the people were protected from destruction. And now, here in Hebrews, we are introduced to this nation as they are making their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.
So, let me ask you the question now, are the people who came out of Egypt, do they represent people who are trying to find salvation in God, or do they represent people who have already found it? That's pretty clear, isn't it? The people coming out of Egypt are people who have already been saved from the judgment because of the blood of the lamb. And now, we are given the story of their journey through the wilderness. I've labored to tell you the story because without this background, I am constantly wondering in my own mind, who are these pilgrims, and what are they doing, and where are they going?
I want us to understand Hebrews chapter 4 in what I believe it was written to help us understand, that we face the same challenges in our spiritual life, and they correspond to some of the challenges the Israelites faced in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. And just as faith was needed to bring us into salvation in the first place, faith is needed to bring us into God's best for our lives as well. So, as we look at these verses, first of all in the first three verses of Hebrews 4, we're going to see some experiences on the road to the Promised Land. The first is an experience of fear. It says in verse 1, "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering into his rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it".
Now, at first, this exhortation to be afraid sounds like a disconnect because isn't it true that in the Bible, there are 365 fear-nots, one for every day of the year? That's what I've been told. And doesn't Paul write to young Timothy and say to Timothy, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind"? And didn't he write to the Romans and say, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear"? But here we are in Hebrews chapter 4, and we're told that we are to fear.
And of course, the answers to the questions I've asked are yes, yes, and yes, those are all true. We are told in the Scripture not to be men and women of fear. But here is a different kind of fear that we are to engage in as followers of Christ. The Bible says in Psalm 111, verse 10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". And Hebrews 12:28 says, "Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and fear".
Now, the fear that is mentioned in Hebrews chapter 4 and verse 1 is not the terror of God, or the fear that God is going to strike us with judgment, or that we're going to lose our salvation. It is not that kind of fear. It's a healthy awe and respect for the nature of God, and who he is, and what he has designed for us as his followers. The ancient Israelites left Egypt with the blessing of God, but they lost their sense of who they were in the wilderness. And by the time they got to the border of Palestine, they were so filled with unbelief that they couldn't enter into God's best for them. And the writer of Hebrews says if we are not careful as Christians, we can become believers in Christ, come out of the Egypt of our sin and into our wilderness, and along the way, we can lose our quest for God's best.
I talk to a lot of Christians in my generation, obviously, and one of the saddest things I experience as a pastor is to sit with people who tell me about the places along the way in their life where they heard God speak to them, and because they were afraid, or because of other things, they didn't listen, and so, they ended up not experiencing what they knew was God's best for their lives. Those are sad conversations.
So yes, there's a price to going on to the best that God has for us, but there's a price for not doing it, and the writer says you need to fear that. You need to fear that it even seems to be happening to you. Don't you ever stop your journey before you get to where God wants you to go. The first experience is one of fear, then the second one is an experience of failure. Hebrews 4:2 says, "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it".
Now, first of all, let me explain to you that the word "gospel" here is a word that's very familiar to all of us. And when we say the word "gospel", we usually mean the preaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that's the gospel. But the word "gospel" can be used in other ways because the word "gospel" is simply a word that means the good news, that's all it means. And so, the writer of Hebrews is using the word "gospel" here to describe what happened to the Israelites when the two spies came back out of Kadesh Barnea and they had some good news.
What was their good news? They'd been over and spied out the Promised Land, and they said, "We walked through this land, and it's a land flows with milk and honey, and the pomegranates are great, and the figs are great, and it's just an incredible, everything God said about this land is true. Now, oh by the way, there's some giants over there. But we are well able to take care of it". And we read about this in Numbers 14, "And they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, 'The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. And if the Lord delights in us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which flows with milk and honey'".
That was the gospel. Caleb and Joshua came back from Canaan and they preached the gospel to the Israelites. And the Bible says this gospel was of no value to them because it was not mixed with faith by those who heard it. The experience of fear and the experience of failure. And then notice in verse 3, the third experience in this wilderness journey is one of faith. "For we who have believed do enter into God's rest", God's best. Faith is the critical issue, and it's proven by this quotation. This was God's plan for his people.
What was God's plan for the people of Israel? His plan wasn't just to get them out of Egypt and then they were on their own. That's kind of how we sometimes think about our faith, isn't it? God saved me, now it's up to me to figure out what to do. No, God's plan for you never ended when you came forward in a service and gave your heart to Christ, or you prayed in a small group. That was just the beginning. That wasn't the end.
And so many of us, we come to Christ and we think, "Oh, thank God I'm not going to hell. It's over, man, I'm ready now". No, that's just the beginning. God was never in his plan for the Israelites satisfied with getting them out of Egypt. He wanted to get them into Canaan. But between Egypt and Canaan, they fell victim to some of the same things that get us, isn't that true? If you remember the story, they became grumblers and complainers. They wanted to stone Moses, then they wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb. And they murmured against Moses.
And remember, Moses went to God one day, and he said, "God, what am I going to do with all these people"? They were miserable followers of their leader, and the result was they missed out on God's best. Do you see the example here? God never was satisfied with getting them out of Egypt. He wanted to get them into Canaan. And God isn't satisfied with us just becoming Christians. That's important because that means we're going to spend eternity with him, but how many of you know he cares about the journey we're on right now?
I mean, most of the Bible is about that journey. It's not about starting or ending, it's about the wilderness and where we are. And I have to believe that some of you came to church today and you're kind of lost in the wilderness. You started out with God, man, you were doing good. And you were so happy to be out of Egypt, out of Egypt. And now, you're in the wilderness and you know there's more that God has for you, that his best for your life is out there, just like the Promised Land was out there for the Israelites. And you haven't entered in. You haven't entered into that promise because of fear, or failure, and the lack of faith. The experiences on the road to the Promised Land.
Now I have to hasten, secondly, to give you some examples of the "rest" of the Promised Land. "Rest" is in quotations. First of all, there's an example of creation rest in verses 4 and 5. Notice it says, "For he has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way. 'And God rested on the seventh day from his works'. And again in this place, 'They shall not enter my rest'". Did you know that God always wanted us to have rest? He always wanted us to have a Sabbath kind of life that was at peace with God in what we do. He wants us to enter into that. That's what it means, this creation rest that speaks of the Sabbath.
And then there's a Canaan rest. In verse 6 and 7, "Therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience. And again he designates a certain day, saying in David, 'Today,' after such a long time, it has been said, 'Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts'".
Listen, here's what he's saying here. Israel didn't get what God had for them in the Promised Land, so it was still there. Just as in the Old Testament, the rest that was meant for Israel was never experienced by them and was never experienced through Joshua, was never experienced through David, was never experienced through Solomon. What he's wanting to help us understand is it's all still there, and it's there for us if we want it. And all we have to do is enter into it and desire that what God planned for us as his people is available to us. But you don't get it by osmosis. I want to remind you again that it says in verse 11 that we are to be diligent to enter in. We're to be diligent.
Now, that sounds like doublespeak, be diligent to have rest. No, but here it does make sense. This disconnect is important. If we're to know God's best for our lives, there are certain things we are responsible for to enter into it. We don't enter it in order to achieve it ourselves. We enter into the discipline that allows God to give it to us. When Jesus was hanging on the cross at the end of the salvation experience, he said, "It is finished", and it was. Our salvation is fully done, complete. But that's just Egypt.
You see, we're out of Egypt now, we're on the road. And God says that on this road, he has something special for us. He's got something for you and for me that represents far more than most of us would ever comprehend. We need to labor, we need to be diligent to enter in. Now, that brings us to the end of this passage, and I've summarized here a little bit, but here's the key thing that I think we don't want to go home without. Most of us here today, Egypt is behind us. We understand that, we've been under the blood, that's the cross.
So, we're out of Egypt, thank God for that. We're on our way to heaven. So, how do we know how we're doing on the way to God's best? Here are two verses that we know pretty well, but they really are here in this context to help us get an answer to the question. Here are the examinations of the requirements of the Promised Land. Notice verse 12, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and it is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart".
How do we know if we're entering into God's best for our lives? Well, according to the writer of Hebrews, there are two sources to which we may appeal. One of them is the Word of God, and the other is the God of the Word. If we appeal our case to these two witnesses, we will discover how we're doing. The first of our two witnesses is the Word of God. And the Word of God cuts through all of our pretenses, doesn't it? Have you ever been reading the Word of God and actually get mad at the Bible? Have you ever done that?
I find that happens to me kind of often, because when I read the Bible, it tells me about myself. In fact, James chapter 1 and verses 23 to 25 says, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer", now listen to this, "he's like a man observing his natural face in a mirror. For he observes himself, and he goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he is. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty", you look into this mirror, "and continues in it, you will not be a forgetful hearer, you will be a doer of the work, and you will be blessed in what you do".
What is this verse saying to us? This verse is saying, "I'm out of Egypt. I'm saved, thank God. I'm on my way to God's best for me, but sometimes I'm not sure about my motives, I'm not sure about what I'm doing in my life, I'm not sure if I'm heading toward God's best. I'm not sure if I've been caught up in the pressure that the world puts on me to be like them, and maybe even to wish I had some of the things I had back in Egypt like the Israelites. I'm not sure about myself. How can I be sure of where I am on this journey"?
This is God's GPS. You want to know where you are? Read this Book. And when you read this Book, you will know where you are. And it says this Book is so powerful that it cuts through all the spin stuff we do, it'll cut through all the stuff we try to do to impress other people. And if you stay in this Book and follow it, it will help you know where you are on the road to God's best for your life. But then there's one last thought, and that's in verse 13. This is not the Word of God, this is the God of the Word. Listen to these words, "And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account".
Did you know there is someone up there who's responsible for getting us out of Egypt? And he's looking down on us as we take this journey through the wilderness to his best. And I just want to challenge you today as followers of Christ. And I know I'm a little energized about this because it's been such a challenge to my own life. I do not want to miss out on anything God has for me. I'm out of Egypt, praise God. I'm on the road, that's encouraging. I see the goal, I know where I'm headed. But it's about this journey and the fact that God wants to give me rest. I know that's about peace and tranquility and harmonious involvement, but it's far more than that. I've put in my notes God's rest is God's best. God wants you to have his best in your life. And I want to challenge you today, don't you dare be satisfied with anything less.