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The First Step to Rest

And you had compassion on those who were bound, and you endured with joy the seizing of your goods, knowing yourselves to have a better and an enduring substance.

Do not, therefore, lose your confidence, which has a great reward.

For you have need of patience, so that, accomplishing the will of God, you may receive the promise.

The Letter to the Hebrews

When we think of rest, whether living or teaching, there is no use turning it into a fantasy or an escape. Nothing could be more harmful to our state of mind than a delusional call to rest that pretends we won’t suffer. There is no rest apart from the truth, and the truth tells us that we must suffer. The attempt to avoid or prevent it creates endless anxiety.

You can suffer honorably and for someone noble and exalted, or you can suffer for something petty and base.

The first contains the joy of confidence; the second the shame of cowardice.

The section in Hebrews quoted above begins with an exhortation. Since I am trying to learn Latin I’ll give it to you in Jerome’s translation with English woven interlinear:

Remoramini autem pristinos dies

But remember (or “call to mind”) the early days

in quibus illuminati

in which, being enlightened

magnum certamen sustinuisits passionum

a great contest (fight, struggle, etc) you endured of afflictions (pains)

The Hebrews are suffering when the Author writes to them, but they had also suffered earlier, in those “pristine” or early days. Back then they had endured a great fight of pains or a great conflict of afflictions. Why? Because they were enlightened or illumined. They were, it is no stretch to say, lights or candles in the candelabra in the temple. They were alight with the flame of God’s Spirit of Truth.

They were made a spectacle by “opprobriis” (reproaches, opprobation) and tribulationibus. People stared at them and mocked them. They also identified themselves with those who were mocked and tried.

And then our verse: You both had compassion and endured with joy!

They didn’t just accept it with resignation, they sustained it with joy (cum gaudio). They did not do so because they hid their heads in the sand and denied that it hurt. They did so because they were illumined.

What was it they saw, being illumined? What was it they could place their confidence in? What gave them so much confidence that they could joyfully endure the seizure of their own goods?

There are three verses that tell us, but we are not inclined to see the practical value of these verses, especially when it comes to teaching and living in a state of rest. Let me quote the verses and then try to draw them into our day. The Author says:

Now the main point in what has been said is this: We have such a high priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man. (Hebrews 8:1,2)

For Jesus has not entered into the Holies made with hands, the imitations of the true: but into Heaven itself, so that he can appear now before the face of God for us. (Hebrews 9:24)

Moses saw that heavenly tabernacle when he entered the cloud on Sinai. Isaiah saw it when he was commioned in Isaiah 6. Ezekiel saw it at the end of his vision, and maybe at the beginning. John saw it at the end of his apocolypse. It’s an eternal temple, and one which the world was created to imitate. It’s what Moses and Solomon were imitating when they made the earthly tabernacle and temple.

We become anxious when we take imitations for the real thing and insist on living in them as though they are ultimate. Adam did that when he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He placed God’s creation above God’s word and chose to need the former over the latter. The Israelites repeated the pattern exactly when they complained and God told them that “man shall not live by bread (food) alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” They rejected the Word for bread.

Jesus overcame this temptation because He was illumined. He knew what He had memorized as a child, so, when He renounced the Adversary with this scripture, it overcame him. The Word of God speaks blessing and life, the creation apart from that Word brings death and anxiety.

So Jesus invited those who would follow Him at the very beginning of his ministry to put their confidence in Him. You can seek food and clothes, you can anxiously follow Mammon, or you can seek the kingdom of God. But you can’t do both.

There is no use discussing teaching or living from a state of rest without that starting point. A Christian school built on any other foundation is not a Christian school and is not a house builty by the Lord.

Things created and things made with hands are imitations of heavenly things. You have to choose the real if you want to live. The imitations, whether gold coins, trees, or sacrifices made in a tabernacle patterned on the heavenly, cannot give you rest or save your soul.

But the main point in what I am saying is this: you and I have a high priest who has conquered death, entered the throne room of the living God, presented His blood before the eternal throne of grace and mercy, been accepted by the Majesty on High, and sat down at His right hand. He has taken possession of what is rightly His and now He is resting. He never has to die again, and He never has to make another sacrifice.

He’ll come back as He promised, and when He does He’ll come without sin and appear to those who are faithfully waiting for Him. His enemies will be made His footstool. They might take away the possessions of the faithful now; when He comes back they will become His footstool.

After God created the heavens and the earth on the seventh day He rested. He invited Adam to enter that rest and to participate in it while cultivating the earth as a priest-king. He chose the earth over the promise, and thus death, shame, and anxiety.

After Adam fell, the Lord invited Israel to enter His rest by taking possession of the promised land where they would serve as a nation of priests, but they chose the earth and its gods over the promise, and embraced death, shame, and anxiety.

When Christ came, He was a new Adam. He believed the Word of the Promise, and for His faith He was given a name above every name. He was made a perfect priest through His sufferings and as a Son He took possession of the whole creation. He gave it to those who received Him.

He is the Word and Promise of God. If we abide in Him and He abides in us, then nothing prevents us from taking possession of what He has given us. We can ask whatever we want, and it will be given to us. If we abide in Him.

We hope for things we can’t see. As long as we can’t see them, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that they are real. As long as we hope for them, they don’t seem to have any substance. But God’s just man lives by faith, not sight. And in that faith, things that are only hoped for find their substance. And in that faith, evidence is found for things that cannot be seen by the senses.

This is true at least in part because faith is the faculty by which we see beyond what the senses perceive. Faith IS the substance of those things we hope for. It doesn’t give them substance; it is their substance. Faith IS the evidence of things we can’t see. It doesn’t dig up evidence and convince itself. It is the evidence.

Faith in Christ is not wishful thinking or the product of convincing oneself against the evidence. Faith is a faculty enlivened by the Holy Spirit that illumines us.

When we have it, we rejoice at the loss of our earthly goods because we know that we have a better substance and one that lasts. It’s real, not a shadow. It’s eternal, not passing. It’s in the Holy of Holies, not the outer courts. It is everything; not a crumb for the dogs.

So when we talk about teaching or living in a state of rest, the first thing we have to get straight is that there is no rest for those who chase shadows, but only for those who seek the eternal and real things that are ours in Christ, who has already secured the Kingdom of God and is even now distributing it to those who believe in Him.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter into His rest.

Adhuc enim modicum aliquantulum, qui venturus est, veniet, et non tardabit.

For yet a little little while, and the one who is coming will come, and he will not delay.

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