- Faith that is crucial for experiencing the peace of God. Obedience to God is responding in faith in God’s calling/guidance/will/teachings (vv 1-12)
- The Word of God cuts deep inside you to reveal your inner thoughts and motives. Make sure you’re genuine to God: being serious about our faith and approach God in confidence that he provides mercy and grace when we need it (vv13-16)
A few key questions:
- What is rebellion/disobedience to God?
- How do we get this peace that transcends understanding?
- What role does Bible studying have to do with the first two questions?
Over this past week as I’ve been slowly chipping away ideas from Chapter 4, I thought of training a lot. Training, it seems, is the best way to get the job done when the need arises.
Whether it’s responding to a client crisis situation, or a challenging question about faith, or a life-or-death situation, training is a life saver. For me, a great illustration of training is martial arts and self-defense. The teacher acts out coordinated hands-feet movement to repel an attacker with minimal force. Each move is based on countless experiences of countless other people, so by training, we rely on their life experiences and their wisdom. By training, we get to benefit from all those combined experiences that would take many lifetimes and a lot of beating to accumulate if we didn’t want to do training. Those movements are what you’d have to do in order to save yourself from an attacker. The more you practice them, the more your mind builds new pathways and these movements become second nature. So when a crisis situation comes, you don’t have to think… because you won’t have the time to think. Then, you fall back on your training, and do the moves needed as a reflex to the attack.
So what has this to do with our Christian walk on a daily basis?
Vv 1-12: The Peace of God: What is it, and how to get it
Building up on the previous 3 chapters, this “Therefore” is like another layer to the many points the preacher tries to convey. So since Christ is the God-in-flesh, revealing Himself to us as a community, and we are called to trust His guidance… THEREFORE, we’re now called pay attention that none of us screws up like the Israelites in the desert.
In v. 1 We’re immediately faced with the idea of entering God’s rest. Looking at the wider context of this passage, this rest, the Shalom, is a theological concept of the will of God being completed: in a person’s life for that day, in a group of people as they work past their differences, in the Church as enduring till Christ returns as the salt and light of the world.
The interesting thing here is that the text sets the pegs at opposite sides of eternity: The Shalom after all creation was completed as God planned it (v.4); and the Shalom rest that is for the people of God to attain (v.8). Sandwitched between the beginning and end of time is our personal and communal history as followers of Christ. And we wonder how to attain this peace of God. Today.
As the peace of God in vv.3-5 is mixed up in activity and attitude, my question, our question is how to grab a hold of this active, vibrant peace of God? Last week, in Chapter 3, we found out that the peace of God, the peace that Christ gives, is best described with a painting of a sparrow peacefully sitting in a crevice of a rock while a storm rages out. It is a dynamic, pulsating, energetic sort of peace that doesn’t revolve around circumstances.
Before the Israelites went into their promised land, some decided to take things into their own hands. They thought that since Moses was gone for 40 days, Yahweh will not be able to deliver on His promises, so they turned their focus away from God and built themselves a new golden god. Their calf was a precursor to Niche’s mad man in the open market screaming “God is dead, God is dead, we’ve killed him!” In their eyes, since God didn’t come through according to their schedule, he must be a non-god, equal to a dead god.
The interesting side-note here, in this epistle, is that they aren’t really punished for their orgy after making the calf. It’s the very making of the calf that was the reason why God says “they will not enter my rest”. It was the majority’s doubt in God’s abilities that got them in trouble. Only a small minority, represented by Joshua and Caleb, believed the promises of God.
Fast forward to our Today, we can answer the first question of what is rebellion/disobedience to God: Not believing God’s promises is rebellion and disobedience to God. Based on this lack of faith, the Israelites turned to other gods. Based on this lack of faith, a believer gives up on following God. Based on this doubt we end up feeling depressed thinking that we’re alone in our suffering, nobody is around to help, nobody understands, nobody cares.
As God’s peace is tied to attitude and action, when we feel like we’re not in God’s rest, we’re called to remember that God rested when He finished what He had planned about Creation. Mirroring this cause and effect in our lives, if we don’t finish God’s will for this day, we can’t really “rest”. Resting in God is not laziness. It’s enjoying the results of: listening to God, understanding His word, and doing it TODAY.
We can’t rest based on what we’ll do tomorrow. We can’t rest based on what we’ve done yesterday. While it is called today, we’re called to live out our faith by remembering the Gospel, remembering that we’re called to love our neighbor as ourselves, remembering that loving God is serving, helping, making disciples of people around us.
So, in this passage we answered two of the questions raised at the beginning:
- Rebellion/disobedience to God is not believing His promises, not believing the fullness of the Gospel that stretches outside of time into the Heavens, where He is already seated as the King of Kings, and down here within the confounds of time, where He is a high priest that understands us and pleads our case on the Heavenly altar.
- The peace of God that transcends understanding is not a hidden thing. It’s been out in the open for ages. Attaining this peace isn’t by sitting under a palm tree half-asleep like Buddha. It’s out there in the wide world, holding on to the teachings of the Bible and playing our part in God’s great drama of human history. By understanding the will of God (be the salt and light of the world, make disciples), and finding ways to play our small role each day, we can grab a piece of this peace that transcends understanding.
Vv. 13-16 The Role of The Bible in Daily Shalom
We’ve covered most of the chapter and answered the first two key questions. Now it’s time to build an answer to the third one: What’s the bible got to do with the previous two questions?
To understand the role of the Bible in our daily pursuit of the peace of God, we need to remember the illustration of our history as a drama directed by God, from Chapter 3, and the idea of training martial arts from the beginning of this text/sermon.
Each person has a role to play. We tend to get so wrapped up in the here and now, in our next line, in our next step… that over time, we forget the script. We forget what our role was in God’s drama. And we tend to improvise, like Israelites did in the desert when forgetting who God is. They made a golden calf to worship. Going back to the Word is going back to the script, to make sure we know what the next step is. Going back to the script reminds us that we’re the actors and God is the author of this drama.
Going back to the Bible is like practicing martial arts. We get to perfect our moves, hone our senses, make those moves our second nature, so that when we face a difficult situation we wouldn’t be challenged with questions like What Would Jesus Do. We’d know it already because we took initiative to learn His will ahead of time.
If we step back a bit, and look at where “the word of God” is mentioned earlier, we notice that in 3: 7 it says “As the Holy Spirit says..” Starting in 3:7 and ending in 4:13 we see a good explanation of Psalm 95 in light of Genesis 2 and God’s rest.
The point of this story is that the generation of Moses witnessed all the miracles God did in bringing them out of Egypt and yet they doubted God. Their rebellion wasn’t a moral issue. It was a faith issue. The reason why they’re called a rebellious, hard-hearted generation is because they doubted God. They didn’t believe He’ll come through for them
The meaning of this story for us today is that we should look back at how Israel screwed up, and see to it that we don’t do the same. They doubted God, but we shouldn’t. Christ is our high priest who understands our pains and problems, and he’s here for us. We can approach him and ask for help.
Wrapping it all up
From Chapter 4 we get to realize that rebellion against God is not believing His promises we see in the Bible. Because of this unbelief we end up improvising, making up stuff as we go through our act on God’s stage. But we’re not called to do everything perfect. Instead, we’re called to just keep a healthy focus on Christ and what He has to say to us through the Bible. And that isn’t much to ask. The one parameter that shows just how spiritual we are is the level of confidence/faith we have in what we learn from the Bible, and how this confidence shapes what we do on a daily basis.
It is this reliance on the Bible that helps us not fall back on our own understanding, but tune in to how God’s wisdom would play itself out in any given situation.
How we experience the peace of God that transcends understanding is based on our understanding of God’s will and plan, and how faithfully we reproduce his plan: be the salt and light in the world, make disciples, love one another.