Derek Prince - God's Word Exposes Us
We're commencing this session at the beginning of Hebrews 4. This is in the middle of one of the warning passages that I pointed out to you, the longest of all of them. It began in Hebrews 3:7 and it continues through to chapter 4, verse 13. The warning is against unbelief. We will not go over all the material that we covered last time but let me just read to you the last three verses of chapter 3 so that we're in gear and moving. For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? And I pointed out to you last time that that word also means "refuse to believe". It combines both the concept of unbelief and disobedience.
And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. That's the closing line of chapter 3. They were not able to enter because of unbelief. We need to then move into chapter 4 and note the first word, which is a therefore. Therefore, let us fear. What does the "therefore" imply? It implies that we could possibly make the same tragic error that they made, which would be what? Failing to enter God's appointed rest through unbelief. I don't believe that we really give sufficient attention to the danger of unbelief, just as I also believe we don't lay sufficient emphasis on the necessity of faith. I am really desirous to move on in the things of God and to lead people on in the things of God but sometimes we move on so fast that we get away from the things that really matter to start with.
I never feel that I can ignore the importance of faith in my own life. I'm always conscious of the importance of faith and I'm always aware of the danger of unbelief. So this verse and this passage really speak to me. Now I'm going on translating from the Greek, pausing to make comments as necessary. First of all, I pointed out in outline that this is the first of twelve passages where the writer says "let us". Actually, there are four of them in this chapter. The first one is the opening words. "Therefore, let us fear". Would that surprise you or offend you? Would you feel that that's out of place? Christians have no room for fear.
I went through a rather tragic experience with that. The people who as far as anybody was humanly responsible for my coming to the Lord, were a fine Christian couple in a town in Yorkshire, England. I was only with them for a few weeks and then the British Army sent me overseas. When I went back to England in 1948–49, I went and visited them. I discovered that in some respects they were not doing well spiritually- particularly the man who was in some ways my father in the faith. He had this teaching which I think he came to by himself that there was no room left for fear in the Christian life. It was difficult for me to argue with him, because he was much my senior and I had real respect and love for him. I said, "That depends on what kind of fear you're talking about, because in Psalm 19 it says, 'The fear of the LORD is clean and endureth forever.' So, there's never an end to that kind of fear".
The sad thing was he took a stand about never using medicine and it was in a way somewhat arrogant. I linked it with this attitude of his there's no more room for fear of any kind. Tragically, he developed diabetes and had to have his leg amputated. He could hardly get over the shock that his faith hadn't brought him healing. In my observation, the real problem was that he didn't understand that there is a kind of fear which is very much in place in the Christian life. These words here are not addressed to unbelievers; they're addressed to Christian believers. "Let us fear". Let us bear in mind there's always a possibility of not getting in to what God has appointed for us. This is also the first occurrence in this verse of the word that we're tracing through, promise. Therefore, let us fear lest, there being left to us a promise to enter into His rest [that's God's rest], any of you should seem to have come short of it.
A promise is two sided. It offers you good but on the other hand, if you fail to claim the promise, you're deprived of something. I think that's how it is with so much in the Christian life. The good is available but with the offer of the good there's always the possibility of missing it. So for me this is a very important verse. I don't ever want to progress beyond this. I want to walk in that fear that keeps me very sober and humble. There's no room for arrogance, for pride, for self-confidence. I think you'll find that this is one of the main lessons of this chapter. The main theme of the chapter, the practical application is entering into God's rest. But, I Believe we have to come with this attitude if we're going to be able to enter into God's rest.
Let's go on to the second verse. For we also have been evangelized [we've had good news proclaimed to us. It's one single verb in Greek, to evangelize.] just as they did too; but the word of hearing Literally you can translate it "the word they heard" but it is a word of hearing. I don't know whether you can see what I'm trying to get at. It's a word to be heard. the word of hearing did not help them [or profit them], because it was not mixed with faith in those who heard it. Again, there's an important application. God's Word is sent to do us good, but it only benefits us if it's mixed with faith enough to hear it. Faith is the catalyst that releases the beneficial effects of the Word of God.
Turn for a moment, if you wish, to 1 Thessalonians 2:13: And for this reason we also thank God continually [this is addressed to the Thessalonian Christians] because when you received the word of hearing It's exactly the same phrase, "the word of hearing", the word that was designed to be heard. from us the word of God, you received it not as a word of man, but as it truly is, a word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe it. So the condition for the Word of God working in us effectively, doing what it's supposed to do, is that we believe it. If it is not mixed with faith in us, it does not produce the results that are promised. And faith, in turn, comes by hearing, as we saw last week, I believe.
So that, in a sense, hearing is the essence of what's required of us. Going back to verses 3–5 of chapter 4: For we who have believed do enter into the rest Or "are entering into the rest". You can translate it either way. Maybe for some one is true and for some the other is true. We who believed do enter into rest or are entering into rest. as He said. And we get now a quotation once more from Psalm 95, which is quoted about five or six times in this passage. "As I swore in My wrath, they shall never enter into My rest". Now the emphasis here is on "My rest," God's rest. although the works [God's works] were finished from the foundation of the world. For He said somewhere.
And I notice the writer of Hebrews doesn't always give the exact reference. Have you noticed that? He said "somewhere". Once or twice he does that. He said somewhere concerning the seventh day as follows, "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and here again, "They shall never enter into My rest". Let's analyze that a little. "We who believed enter into rest". Believing is past tense, entering is present tense. So, before you can enter, you must have believed. Believing must be a settled decision. You don't keep going back and doing it again; it's something you've done. You've made the decision, you've made the commitment. On the basis of that, you can proceed to enter into rest. The people who are always having to go back and do their believing again really don't qualify to enter into the rest. "We who believed, or have believed, do enter into rest". And it's God's rest that is being spoken about.
One of the things about God is that He likes to share His good things with us. In one of the psalms it says that "He makes us to drink of the river of His pleasures". So God shares His pleasures with us. One of the pleasures that He wants to share is His rest. He wants us to enter into the rest that He entered into. Now, in order to follow up this theme of rest, let's turn to the Old Testament for a moment. Genesis 2:2: And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. So God's rest is a ceasing from all the work He did. I'm sure there are aspects of this that I don't fully understand, but I don't believe that God rested precisely because He was tired. His rest was not the result of weariness. It was one of His pleasures. I would almost like to say He relaxed. If I could use the phrase, He sat back and looked at everything He'd made and took time to enjoy it.
How many of us ever take time to enjoy the things we do or have done? It's good for those that do, but it's not a conspicuous feature of American life. Most Americans today in our culture, by the time they've done something are busy starting the next thing. The pattern of God is when you've done something, enjoy it. Take time to enjoy it. If you've brought up a family, take time to enjoy them. Whatever it may be you've done, it's godly to enjoy it, to relax. In fact, the ability to relax is a divine ability.
Now, I want to follow that theme up in Exodus 20, which is where we are first given the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:8–11 is the fourth commandment. It's interesting that far more space is given to the fourth commandment than to any of the others. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy". Incidentally, the word Sabbath, Hebrew: shabbat. It's directly related to the word for "rest," which is also shabbat. Let's not bother about the middle letter. So, "rest" and "Sabbath" are actually from the same root. So God took a Sabbath on the seventh day; He rested. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy". Ruth and I always enjoy the Sabbath in Israel. One of the things you do when you meet somebody or you take your farewell from somebody and say, Friday lunch time, the Sabbath will begin at sunset Friday. You say, "Shabbat shalom" "Sabbath peace to you". It really is a blessing to say that.
In fact, Ruth and I when we get to Friday here in Florida we turn to one another and say, "Shabbat shalom". It's something for which English-speaking Christians really don't have anything. So, let's look at this: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work [that's also a command], but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; on it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy".
A dear rabbi, who's a friend of mine, pointed out to me that God blessed time and sanctified that before He blessed space. Time was the first thing God sanctified. And there is a rather beautiful book written by an older rabbi that says "the Sabbath is God's cathedral in time". It's His place of worship and rest and holiness. So Israel were commanded to keep the Sabbath because God kept the Sabbath. In Deuteronomy where the Ten Commandments are repeated, another reason is given: because they had been slaves in Egypt and God had delivered them. So it was also a commemoration of their release from slavery, of their ability to take rest. Then another very significant passage, I believe, in Exodus 31:16-17: Exodus 31:16-17: "So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate [to do] the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant".
That's an interesting point which we really don't have time to go into. In fact, I'm not sure I'm really competent to go into it, but God said, "As far as Israel is concerned, that's a perpetual covenant". Verse 17: "It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed". That was spoken probably something like 3,500 years ago and, as far as the Jewish people as a whole are concerned, it's been true ever since. They have kept the seventh day holy for 3,500 years. That's a pretty good record. One of the things it's done is keep them a separate people, because if you actually really observe that seventh day, not Sunday, but the seventh day, you'll be different from most of the people round about you. Secondly, it's a perpetual sign that they're the Lord's people. The people who keep the Sabbath are the Lord's people.
Now, I don't believe as Christians we are expected, or required, let me say to observe the Sabbath in precisely that way. But, I want to suggest to you that to be able to rest is a mark of God's people. Those who haven't entered into rest don't really carry the token that they're the people of God. I think this theme of rest is far more important than most of us have made room for in our thinking. As a matter of fact, God has been dealing with me since I prepared this study. As a result of preparing this study my whole attitude has undergone certain very important adjustments. Now we'll go on in Hebrews 4 with the 6th verse. Since therefore it remains for some to enter into it [that's God's rest], and those who previously had the good news presented did not enter in through [what?] disobedience [unbelief].
I've explained there the Greek word. I'd like you to look in the outline if you can. It means literally "not allowing oneself to be persuaded". So it's refusing or withholding belief. This centers in the will, not in the intellect. The problem with this kind of unbelief is not in the mind, it's in the will. It's a refusal to give consent. Hence, it is the primary sin. Keep your finger in Hebrews and turn to John 16 just for a moment. John 16:8–9, Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the coming of the comforter, the Holy Spirit and He speaks about what He will do when He comes. John 16:8-9: "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness and judgment".
Those are the three basic issues of all true religion: sin, righteousness, judgment. The human mind, especially today in our culture, does not like that word judgment. But it's one of the three basic issues that build up true religion. There's sin, there's righteousness and there's judgment according to sin or righteousness. Verse 9: "concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me". Notice that's the primary sin that the Holy Spirit convicts of, that's unbelief. It's rather amazing how He does it.
I remember years back when I was teaching the Bible to my students in East Africa, to my African students, I felt prompted to speak on faith. I preached what I trusted was a positive message on faith. One of my women students, a young woman of about 20 broke down and started sobbing. I was really surprised, I didn't understand what had upset her. But when I began to deal with her privately, I discovered that the Holy Spirit had convicted her of unbelief. His conviction was so powerful that she was actually just broken down with it. It was a little demonstration to me of what the Holy Spirit can do when He gets our attention. She was a professing Christian.
Going back to Hebrews 4:7–9, but we'll probably have to go back to verse 6. I hope you can follow this, it's a little involved. But that's not my fault, I didn't write it. Since therefore it remains for some to enter into God's rest, and those who previously had the good news presented to them did not enter in through disobedience [unbelief], and again He sets aside [or He defines or specifies] a day, saying, "Today," That's a quotation-through David after such a long time. Well, David was probably four or five hundred years after the time when God spoke these words to the Israelites in the desert. But David, again in the psalm, brings up this issue of entering into God's rest. In other words, the Israelites to whom it was first presented did not accept, they did not enter in.
God didn't give up because hundreds of years later by the Holy Spirit through David in the book of Psalms he raises again the issue of entering into God's rest. He says: "Today", and as I say, that was hundreds of years after the Israelites were in the wilderness, "if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts". My comment on that (which is in your outline) is, Man's failure and Satan's activity can delay the outworking of God's purpose but never ultimately thwart it. I think that's important. Israel didn't enter in in the wilderness but that didn't mean that God gave up and said, "Nobody will enter in". He just waited for another group of people at another time.
I like the Scripture there in Job 42:2. Keep your finger in Hebrews, I don't need to tell you that. Job 42:2. This to me is a great comfort. We'll read verse 1. Then Job answered the LORD, and said, [and it took him 41 chapters to discover this!] "I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted". Do you know that? Do you realize no purpose of God can be thwarted? It may be delayed, but Satan cannot ultimately thwart God's purpose. That's a great comfort to me personally because I believe it's true in my life. I may have problems, there may be opposition, but ultimately God's purpose in my life cannot be thwarted. That's good news. We need to be convinced of that. So it was with Israel. They failed, but God said, "There are still going to be people that will enter into My rest. I'm not giving up".
Going back to Hebrews 4:8. For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not be speaking about another day after all that. So the writer points out that though the words were spoken first to Moses and to Joshua, they did not bring God's people into rest. My comment again, the generation under Moses never entered the Promised Land at all. The generation under Joshua entered the land, but did not fully obey the Lord's commands and so did not enjoy full possession or permanent rest. There's a lengthy quotation there from Joshua 23, we will not turn to it and read it because I need to move on. But the essence of it was: "Now you're in the land. If you obey Me and above all, if you will not have any kind of relationship or dealing with the Canaanites but if you will separate yourself totally from them, then you'll be My people".
But we know historically Israel failed to meet that condition so they did not have full possession of the land or permanent rest. There's a lesson. The lesson is twofold. First of all, outside your inheritance, as I said last time, you cannot rest. The rest is only in the inheritance. But, on the other hand, you can be in the inheritance and still not rest if you get involved with the Canaanites. So, there's a double warning. Going on, chapter 4, verse 10-the latter part of verse 9: There remains therefore a keeping of the sabbath for the people of God. The Greek word, in case you're interested is ?sabatismal?, which means precisely "an observing of the Sabbath". Most of the translations say "a sabbath rest for the people of God," but the emphasis is on the Sabbath character of the rest.
Verse 10: For the one who has entered into His rest [that's God's rest] has also himself rested from his own work, as God did from His. So we have the pattern of God. God worked for six days, the seventh day He took a Sabbath. Taking the Sabbath, He ceased from His work. We enter into rest the same way that God did. How? By ceasing from our own work. That's the key. I'm going to devote the latter part of this study to the conditions for entering into rest so I'm going to move on to the end of the chapter, then go back and give a practical application. I want to emphasize that: the key to entering into God's rest is doing what God did, which is ceasing from our own works. Going on now.
Let me amplify this, although we'll come back to it. In my outline the key to entering rest is resting from our own works and that covers two aspects. First of all, no longer doing our own will. Secondly, no longer doing God's will in our own strength. And primarily, this is a decision. If you haven't taken the decision, I question whether you are in the rest. Going on in verse 11: Let us [and this is the second "let us" passage] . Let us therefore be zealous [or diligent]. And the other version says, "Let us make a real effort". I prefer that, because it brings out the fact that to get into rest you have to make an effort. Okay? There's a deliberate paradox.
Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, that nobody may fall through the same example of disobedience [or unbelief]. Again, what's the warning? Unbelief. This is real to me. I don't know how many of you are in any way familiar with Jewish neighbors or friends, but one of the busiest periods in any Jewish home is Friday, especially for the Jewish housemothers. She has to get everything ready before the sun sets. She has to get the children washed clean, dressed, the table set, the food cooked, everything. So, the busiest period is just before the Sabbath. And I think the writer says we've got to be equally diligent to make sure that we're ready to enter into our rest.
Verse 12. Now we get a slightly different approach or theme here and we get a "for". I'll translate it, and then we'll go back and examine it. For the word of God is living and active. The Greek word is the word that gives us energetic in English. and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrates to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and the marrow, and is a judge [or a discerner] of the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature that is invisible before Him, but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. You must say, that's a very solemn passage. I am continually amazed at the severity of these words.
As I begin to teach them I'm amazed at the way in which I feel the Holy Spirit kind of transmitting that severity through me. Let's look at a few of the implications. Why does it say, "For the word of God is living"? What's the reason? When it is said, "Let us therefore be diligent [or make every effort] for the word of God is living," what's the connection? Well, I think I'm going to read from my outline which I think says it as well as I can. God's word penetrates to every area of our being, spiritual and physical. If we regularly expose ourselves to it, it will lay bare any undetected areas of unbelief or disobedience.
So, don't judge yourself. Don't say, "I'm okay; I've nothing to worry about". Expose yourself to the word of God. Let it judge your thoughts and intentions. Open your whole life to it. Then it says there in the 13th verse, "Everything is naked and bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do". Bear in mind, with whom do we have to do? Is it the pastor, or your shepherd? With whom do we have to do? God, that's right. I have met countless Christians whose whole conduct told me that they were convinced if they could fool me, nobody would know. And I really prayed, "God, show them that it isn't really me they have to deal with. It's You". It's very, very easy to get to that attitude where if I can fool people, I've got by. There's an amazing word there which I carefully investigated in the dictionary.
"All things are laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do". Apparently, it's a metaphor from one or other of two things. Either wrestling, where the wrestler gets his hand under the other man's chin and pushes his chin back till his throat is exposed and then chops him on the throat, or from killing something like a chicken where you take the chicken's throat and expose it so that you can cut it with the knife. In other words, God's word exposes our throat. It's such a vivid metaphor. It's like you're trying to argue with God but He's a smarter wrestler than you are, in His word. And He gets you to the point where you're just exposed. Or, take the example of the chicken. The knife is right at your throat, what are you going to say next? "I didn't do it, Lord".
Well, the knife is right there. I don't know whether you can see it but it is so vivid. So, let me give you my two quotes there. Consider the following. While you are reading your Bible, your Bible is also reading you. Did you discover that? I discovered that when I wasn't even a believer and started to read the Bible as a philosopher. After awhile, I lost the excitement of life. I would go out to dances and fall asleep before midnight. I thought, I'm getting old before my time. I wasn't even 25 at the time. The things that had excited me and thrilled me no longer really seemed to satisfy and I lost my confidence in my own intellectual ability. I thought I had the answer to every question and I really began to wonder, What's gone wrong with me?
The truth was I was reading my Bible and my Bible was reading me. It was telling me, "You're not really nearly as clever as you think you are. And here and here are certain areas that prove it"! Second, either your Bible will keep you from sin from sin or sin will keep you from your Bible. Basically, that is ultimately true. If you lose interest in your Bible, it's a bad symptom. Furthermore, it's going to lead to worse results. If you expose yourself to the Bible, as the writer says here, it will lay bare those secret areas of unbelief and disobedience, stubbornness. I've been amazed by some people I've been dealing with lately, cause far away from here, let me say at least not in the room right now! I've been amazed at their stubbornness. I don't believe they saw it themselves at all because they hadn't exposed themselves to this penetrating word that goes right inside and divides the soulish and the spiritual.