Entering into rest
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus (=Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
The promised land
At first sight the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, the promised land, seems nothing to do with our subject of being baptised into Christ. But a closer consideration will bring back to mind that, when the children of Israel finally entered the promised land, they did so in a similar way to that of the first generation’s exodus from Egypt. Namely God parted the waters, this time of the river Jordan, and the people crossed the dry river bed. In doing so they left the wilderness behind and entered the promised land flowing with milk and honey.
It is worth noting that with the exception of Joshua and Caleb that present generation of Israelites never experienced the Moses ‘baptism’. To qualify this we, of course, mean adults, those who were of the years of accountability.
We would also note that the entering in of Canaan was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Moses in Ex.6:1-13. Namely that He would bring Israel to a land previously promised, and He would give it as an heritage to His people. It had been delayed because of the first generation’s rebellion at Kadesh-barnea.
In the Hebrew letter the section quoted above is the NT commentary on Israel’s failure at first to enter the land, and then the following generation’s successful entry into Canaan. It will be recalled that the first generation, with whom God was displeased, had failed to enter the promised land after the report of the twelve spies. Of the dozen spies only Caleb and Joshua gave a good report and encouraged their brethren to enter. Believing the majority report the nation, because of their unbelief, failed to enter and were doomed to wander the wilderness, until all that evil generation had perished in the wilderness (Num.13-14).
And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
The Hebrew writer in his commentary mentions creation. He says that God rested from all His works. That is when creation was finished. There was no more to do, God had pronounced everything very good and then rested.
We can take this thought further in order to understand what is meant by rest in the context of the Hebrews epistle. God’s last creation was man, and this was on the sixth day. So the first day of life for the man was a day of rest! He entered God’s rest and enjoyed all of God’s creation. Man hadn’t done anything towards creation, instead he just entered the finished works of God and enjoyed them. It was in that state that God gave man work to do.
It is this thought that the Hebrew writer is conveying. Namely that for the believer there is a rest, and it is by faith we enter the finished works of God. This of course is the finished work of Calvary; God has now ceased from the work of Redemption, because it was all accomplished at Calvary. It by ceasing from our own works, and entering God’s finished work of Redemption by faith that we enter the true rest, and do the good works of which the NT speaks.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The Word not mixed with faith
The writer to the Hebrews makes the statement that the word did not profit the Israelites because it was not mixed with faith. The story of the spies is clear cut and a lesson to us all.
Firstly, when the Israelites came to Kadesh-Barnea God told them to go up and possess the land that was promised to them (Dt. 2:21). But their first reaction was to send spies. Note that the initiative for spies came first from the Israelites, which was then sanctioned by Moses, because it pleased him well (Dt.2:23). This detail is not recorded in Numbers, but in Deuteronomy and gives us an interesting insight. For this is the foundation of their failure.
God said go up and possess the land, they said, let us check things out first. So for forty days they had to wait for the reports of the spies; in that time just think of the doubts that would be raised in their minds, just as it was when Moses was forty days in the mountain (Ex.32)! It would have been better if they had just believed God, and not had followed their own ideas, and entered immediately.
In the main section on the spies’ mission, we see that they all came back with the same report but different interpretations according to their faith or unbelief! They all agreed that the land flowed with milk and honey. The difference between the ten faithless ones and Joshua and Caleb was that the former group said that the people there were giants and the Israelites were grasshoppers, thus putting fear into the Israelites. Whereas the other two said that they were able to overcome; ‘ let us go in’ Num.13:27-33.
The children of Israel chose to believe the majority report, and failed to enter the land. The word was not mixed with faith. Then to make matters worse the Israelites decided, after God’s judgement to wander the wilderness, to presume and to go into Canaan when God had forbidden it. They were defeated and put to shame. It is interesting to note that their own carnal attempt to enter the promised land is called presumption (Num.14:40-45).
Often what we call faith is in fact presumption. True faith is the correct response to God’s word speaking to our hearts. If God doesn’t speak then we cannot exercise faith. Faith is not some magical force to get what we want!
So Israel’s first attempt to cross into Canaan ended up in failure because of their disobedience in refusing to listen to the good report of the two faithful spies. Consequently that generation was condemned to wander the wilderness until they died off. For forty years Israel wandered in the wilderness, going round in circles and never inheriting what God had promised them.
Possess your souls
In your patience possess ye your souls.
That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
In the OT the Israelites were to possess a physical piece of land, of real estate. In the NC we are to possess our souls and our bodies for His glory. That is to have the life of Christ manifested in our bodies and soul – to be Christ-like, made conformable to the image of God’s Son. The crossing of the Jordan gives us some lessons to us of entering into this rest of God’s finished work.
And Joshua rose early in the morning ; and they removed from Shittim and came to Jordan, he and the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
Joshua is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus. So quite clearly we see Joshua here as a type of Jesus. It was he who was to lead the Israelites into the promised land Josh.1:10-11.
Before they came to Jordan for the crossing they departed from Shittim. Shittim was the place where the previous generation had sinned in the matter of Baalim Num.25:1. Jesus sums up the teaching of Baalim as being of idolatry and fornication Rev.2:14. These are manifestations of the works of the flesh Gal.5:19-21.
In type then we can see that entering Canaan illustrates being cut off from the works of the flesh in order to walk in the Spirit. That is, ceasing from our own works and entering the rest, or the finished works of God.
Jordan was a significant river in Israel’s history. It is a river that starts on the slopes of Mount Hermon, flows through the Sea of Galilee and then runs into the Dead Sea. It was at Jordan that John the Baptist baptised Jesus Mtt.3:5.
So in type then, when the children of Israel passed over the Jordan, they were baptised into Joshua. In type they were being baptised into death and in doing so were cut off from the wilderness way.
On new birth we must are cut off from the spiritual wilderness of unbelief and the works of the flesh , so that we can enter into the rest of God. That is to cease from our own efforts, rest in God and learn how to possess our possession in Christ.