Lectio Divina – 35
“Let us beware, then: since the promise never lapses, none of you must think that he has come too late for the promise of entering his place of rest. We received the gospel exactly as they did; but hearing the message did them no good because they did not share the faith of those who did listen. We, however, who have faith, are entering a place of rest, as in the text: And then in my anger I swore that they would never enter my place of rest. Now God’s work was all finished at the beginning of the world; as one text says, referring to the seventh day: And God rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. And, again, the passage above says: They will never reach my place of rest. It remains the case, then, that there would be some people who would reach it, and since those who first heard the good news were prevented from entering by their refusal to believe, God fixed another day, a Today, when he said through David in the text already quoted: If only you would listen to him today; do not harden your hearts. If Joshua had led them into this place of rest, God would notlater have spoken of another day. There must still be, therefore, a seventh-day rest reserved for God’s people, since to enter the place of rest is to rest after your work, as God did after his. Let us, then, press forward to enter this place of rest, or some of you might copy this example of refusal to believe and be lost” (Heb. 4:1-11)
The passage we have read is about rest – God’s rest as well as our rest. There are two traditions about rest in the Old Testament. The first tradition is found in the Book of Joshua where God’s promise of rest to His people is fulfilled in the settlement of Canaan (Josh 21:44, 22:4). The second tradition is found in the Book of Psalms where Israelites fail to enter into the rest promised by God (Ps 95:11). This is not a needless theological distinction. How we shape up our life depends very much on what we understand by “rest.” For, everyone longs for rest. As the first tradition holds, rest as a historical reality refers to the entry to the Promised Land, Canaan. But, as the second tradition implies and as the passage we have just read confirms, Canaan is only a symbol of the complete rest God intends for God’s people. If rest, thus, exceeds the temporal limits of entering into Canaan, what then is actually prefigured in settlement in Canaan? The seventh day, i.e., the Sabbath, clarifies the distinct character of the rest God offers. First, according to the scripture, the most important term in the Sabbath instruction is rest (Ex 20:8-11). Second, the seventh day on which God rested is separated from other days, and thus, it is a segment of time that belongs exclusively to God. Third, the seventh day has no evening and no ending (Gen 2:2-3). Thus, the Sabbath, the primordial rest into which God entered, is the eternal peaceable self-existence of God Himself. As scholars rightly say, rest is a theological metaphor for God. Since God’s rest (i.e., Godself) is identified with the Sabbath, God’s children are asked to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Ex 20:8). But, are you ready and worthy to enter into the rest that is God?
Lord, I tremble with fear when I learn that hearing the Good News can do no good if I refuse to believe. Joshua could not lead the disbelieving exodus-generation into the much-awaited place of rest. Lord, I find myself very much at the centre of the present day exodus movement, the Church. I do belong to the Church that you lead to your fatherland, but I hardly believe. And, hence I often walk out of your way. Jesus, I am stressed, tired, weary and worn out. Help my unbelief, Lord, and take me to the place where you rest forever!
To enter the Promised Land is to find rest in God; and the time to enter is an open-ended-today. Leave aside all the old griefs and current worries about the near and far future, and open up your whole self to the present moment. Enjoy the taste of the simple now.
Write down your most favourite verse from the Bible; and then, ask yourself if you really believe it. For instance, do you honestly believe that “Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love” (1Jn 4:8)?