Striving for Shalom
Loving Lord Jesus, You lead, direct, and bless me each day. I give You my thanks and praise.
Read Hebrews 4:1-11
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
We have peace with God through the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). We also have the peace of God in our hearts (Phil. 4:7). What good gifts God gives us!
Today’s reading is difficult. The writer is drawing on an interpretation of “rest” that had been a lively subject of debate among Jewish teachers. The concept combines material from Genesis 2:2, Deuteronomy 12:9,10, Numbers 14:35 and Psalm 95:11. By the time that Hebrews was written, “rest” referred not just to the Sabbath or to the entry of the children of Israel into the Promised Land, but to the peace experienced by believers. In one sense this “rest” is still in the future, but it is also a present reality for all believers.
Jesus offers rest in this sense (Matt. 11:28,29). In contrast with the oppressive legalism of the scribes and Pharisees, his offer was “a realization of a deep existential peace, a shalom, or sense of ultimate well-being with regard to one’s relationship to God and his commandments” (M.J.Wilkens). Paradoxically, we are told in Hebrews to “make every effort” to enter this rest (11). Other translations say “strive.” The point is not that we have to work hard to attain it but that we need to understand how important this is and make sure that we have attained it. The difference is between struggling on our own to meet demands that we can never meet, and finding peace through trust in Christ who helps and encourages us through the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is to come to Jesus without pretense, like Pilgrim in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress whose heavy burden fell to the ground at the cross of Christ. The writer emphasizes the seriousness of this, with an emphasis that is particularly applicable to many of today’s evangelical communities. Do we take God’s grace for granted? Have we reflected on what it cost Jesus to make it available to us? Have we thought about the cost of forgiveness? Are our lives lived daily in profound love and gratitude?
Think about these warning passages. What do they say to you? What do they direct you to do or change?
Shepherd God, guard me with Your presence and Your peace. Gather my fragmented self together to serve Your good purposes.
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