Rest From Politics & Religion: The Oppression of Rome and of the Pharisees

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. More specifically today’s passage is found in the fifth and sixth chapters of this New Testament book. “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:1-10).

 

            “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

 

            “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and brineth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:1-8).

 

            “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 6:9-20).

 

            When you come to the fifth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find it coming directly on the heels of two emphatic and powerful declarations made by the author. In the third and fourth chapters the author of this epistle draws and calls our attention to the rest that is available to us as the saints of God and the people of God. You cannot read the words found in these chapters and not find intrinsically and directly linked to the rest offered unto the people of God the tremendous need to not only hear the word of the gospel but also to mix it with faith. At the very heart of the words found in these chapters is a tremendous picture of the saints of God being invited into a rest that is offered unto them by the eternal and living God. Moreover the author explained in very clear terms that if Joshua had truly brought the children of Israel into the promised rest they would not have any need of an additional rest. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for when we read these chapters we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the rest that is afforded unto the saints of God—and not only a rest that is afforded to the saints of God but a rest that is afforded to them through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when we consider this concept of rest is that it is not only a destination but it is also a person as well as Jesus is indeed the destination of rest as well as the pursuit of rest. Consider if you will the following words found in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

            Please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for with it Jesus issues a powerful and beautiful invitation unto His followers. If there is one thing I can’t help but think about when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that Jesus wasn’t merely offering this rest unto His disciples. I am absolutely convinced that when Jesus offered this rest He was offering it both to His disciples and followers as well as unto those who would hear and listen to His words. If you consider the actual words and language found in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus inviting men and women to come unto Him but this is immediately followed by His speaking of “ALL” that labor and are heavy laden. Stop and consider just how many men and women who might have been within the sound of the voice of the Lord Jesus at this time would and could have felt the way Jesus had described unto them. Think about how many men and women within the sound of Jesus’ voice not only labored and felt like they were laboring but were also heavy laden. Undoubtedly there were a number of men and women who were present with Jesus on this particular day who were indeed weary, worn out, tired and fatigued.

 

            If there is one thing I can’t help but think about when reading these words it’s that it is possible for countless men and women who right now feel as though they are tired, weak, weary, worn out and just burnt out. The words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers here on this particular occasion are incredibly powerful for what we find here is Jesus speaking unto a number of men and women who undoubtedly were feeling burdened, worn out, and perhaps even oppressed during those days and times. The more I read and consider the words which are found in the gospels the more I can’t help but think about the fact that those who were present during those days were not only oppressed by the Romans who ruled over them but they were also oppressed by the scribes, the Pharisees and the religious leaders. I have previously written concerning the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders of the people and the religious community during those days how they were essentially like the cruel task masters which were present in the land of Egypt during the time of the children of Israel. In all reality I would dare say that in the land of Egypt it was the taskmasters who cruelly oppressed and mistreated and abused the people while during the days of the Lord Jesus they had to deal with this oppression on two fronts. I am absolutely convinced that when you consider the people which were present during the days of Jesus they were not only oppressed politically but they were also oppressed religiously. Oh how absolutely intense this truly is when you take the time to consider it for I am convinced that even in our own generation right now there are men and women who are oppressed—not only by those in the political sphere but also those in the religious sphere.

 

            It is with all of this being said I invite you to not only consider the following words which are found—first in the Old Testament book of Exodus as well as the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It’s incredibly interesting that in the same New Testament gospel where we find this invitation to come unto the Lord Jesus to receive and find rest we also find a powerful description and depiction of the oppression of the scribes and the Pharisees who were present during those days. I am absolutely convinced that during the days of the Lord Jesus there were countless men and women who were incredibly burnt out, weak, weary, worn down and run down—not only because of the oppression of the scribes and Pharisees but also because of the Romans who were present during those days as well. I firmly believe that when Jesus spoke and issued these words He was issuing them to those who were experiencing oppression on two entirely different fronts—the religious front and the political front. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it helps us to truly understand the significance of the words the Lord Jesus spoke unto those who were within the sound of His voice on this particular occasion. When the Lord Jesus spoke concerning those who labored and were heavy laden I am absolutely convinced they were not only laboring to satisfy the Romans who would oppress them through tax collectors but they would also labor to appease and satisfy the scribes and the Pharisees who placed unrealistic and heavy burdens on them—burdens which the Lord Jesus emphatically declared they were unable to bear and carry.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the narrative surrounding those who lived during the days of the Lord Jesus and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth of how many were living having to contend with oppression and burdens on two different fronts. I am absolutely convinced many who were present during those days were finding themselves struggling with the weight of the oppression of the Romans through their tax collectors as well as iron fisted control over the land of Judaea and Galilee. As if this weren’t enough there was also the oppression of the religious leaders—the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders of the people and the like—who were oppressing them through their unrealistic burdens. Oh what a tremendous thought it is to think about those who were present during the days of Jesus and how Jesus interjected Himself in the midst of a culture and society where men and women were living under the tremendous weight and burden of religious and political oppression. I am absolutely convinced we have a great need to recognize and pay attention to this when considering the words Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers which are recorded in the eleventh chapter of the gospel written by the apostle Matthew. The Lord Jesus called and invited men and women to forsake their heavy burdens and leave their labors behind and take upon themselves His rest—a rest that was ready and available for the taking. What’s more is the Lord Jesus also invited them to take His yoke upon them and to learn of Him for He was meek and lowly in heart. Moreover the Lord Jesus would also declare that by doing so they would find rest unto their souls.

 

            Perhaps one of the greatest truths we have when considering the words found in this passage of Scripture is not only the declaration the Lord Jesus made that He would give them rest but also the declaration that those who took His yoke upon themselves themselves and learned of Him would find rest for their souls. What an incredibly powerful reality it is to read these words and consider the Lord Jesus not only promising that He would give them rest but also that they would find rest unto their souls. Not only this but when we think about and experience this reality and concept of rest we must needs recognize that the true place within ourselves where the burdens and weights of labor and being weak, weary, burned out and run down is within our souls. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus knew exactly what He was speaking about on this particular occasion when He declared that those who took His yoke upon them and learned of Him would find rest unto their souls. Undoubtedly Jesus knew there were a lot of men and women whose souls were incredibly burdened and weighed down with the weights, the pressures and the burdens placed upon them by the Romans and the religious. THE OPPRESSION OF ROME & RELIGION! Oh that we would recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and consider the truth surrounding those who were present during the times of Jesus and understand just how much they were weighed down and crushed under the religious taskmasters as well as the political task masters—not only the political task masters in terms of the tax collectors but also the Roman soldiers themselves.

 

            Having said all of this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the Old Testament book of Exodus concerning the children of Israel as well as the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. Not only this but I would also like to invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints which were scattered and suffering during the days of the apostles:

 

            “And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get themn up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raames. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: and they made their lives biter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein made them serve, was with rigour” (Exodus 1:7-14).

 

            “And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face: for he was afraid to look upon God. And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I. know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them” (Exodus 3: 3-9).

 

            “And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? Get you unto your burdens. And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, and heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they ma labour therein; and let them not regard vain words. And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw. Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?” (Exodus 5:4-14).

 

            “TThen spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not yet after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacterieis, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greater among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you scribes, and Pharisees, for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty? Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchures, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchures of the righteous. And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:1-36).

 

            With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter. If you turn and direct your attention to the fifth and final chapter of this epistle you will find incredibly powerful language written unto saints which were not only scattered but also which were suffering in the flesh during the days of the early church. What makes the words which are found in the fifth chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Peter so incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it is that that they come directly on the heels of the final words which were found in the fourth chapter of this epistle. The words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fourth chapter of this epistle call and draw your attention to the suffering of the saints—and not only the suffering of the saints but also the expectation of suffering within the flesh. When writing unto saints which were already scattered and which had already been suffering the apostle Peter called them to understand and acknowledge the truth that they ought not be surprised by the suffering which they experience in the flesh. There was perhaps the tendency to be shocked and surprised when suffering arose in the flesh—particularly and especially when it arose on account of the name and the word of the Lord Jesus. Remember when Jesus delivered the parable of the seed and the sower and described how the seed which fell on the stony ground represented those who heard the word of the kingdom and received it with joy. These who heard the word with joy received it with joy and endured for a while, however, when persecution and suffering arose because of the word they were offended. In all reality I would dare say that when suffering arises within our lives—and not only within our lives but also within our communities, our neighborhoods, our cities, and even our nation—one of the greatest decisions we must needs make is whether or not we are and will be offended at the suffering.

 

            If you consider the words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will discover the tremendous truth that suffering can and suffering will arise. What’s more is that not only can and will suffering arise but it can arise because of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that moment we will be faced with a choice and a decision whether we will be offended within our hearts—offended with Jesus Himself as well as with the Father—or whether we will endure hardness, trials, troubles, tribulation and affliction knowing that we must through many trials enter into the kingdom of heaven. With this being said I am absolutely convinced the words written by the apostle Peter call and invite us into the place where we learn to expect and even anticipate suffering within the flesh in this life. I am convinced those who cannot and those who do not anticipate or expect suffering in the flesh are those who perhaps made the decision to follow Jesus—not because of a genuine desire to leave and forsake everything behind them in their lives but because of what they could get from Him. Those who can and those who will be offended within their hearts and souls when suffering arises in the flesh can and will be those who made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus because of what they thought He could provide and offer them within their lives. Such men and women will not only be offended but will also turn back and walk no more with the Lord Jesus.

 

            Having said and written all of this I find it absolutely necessary to draw your attention to the expectation of and the actual suffering of the saints as well as the words which the apostle Peter wrote which describe the attitude and mindset of the disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ during such suffering. If you want to truly understand the rest which the apostle Peter wrote and spoke about in this epistle you must not only understand it in terms of resisting the devil but also in terms of the suffering we experience in the flesh. Consider if you will the following words which are found first in the final verses of the fourth chapter of this first epistle and second in the fifth chapter of the same epistle:

 

            “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

 

            Consider also the words which are found in the fifth chapter of this epistle beginning to read with and from the first verse—not only to learn of the suffering of the saints even more but also this suffering in direct relationship to resisting the devil and casting all our cares upon the living God knowing that He cares for us:

 

            “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that ye may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:1-11).

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these two passages of Scripture for on the one hand we find the apostle Peter instructing the saints of God not to be surprised or caught off guard when they experience suffering and affliction in the flesh as though some strange thing happened unto them. What makes this all the more captivating is when you consider the words which are found in the fifth chapter for within the very next chapter we find the apostle Peter instructing those same saints resist the devil in faith knowing that the same afflictions which are accomplished in them was accomplished in their brethren which were throughout the world. Oh there is something truly captivating about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here is not only the expectation and anticipation of suffering in the flesh but also the community and fellowship of suffering. Oh there are indeed times when we can and will suffer alone in the flesh as Daniel did when he was placed into the den of lions alone and by himself. There are, however, other times when we walk through suffering together with others as did the three Hebrews who entered into the fiery furnace together. What is so amazing about each of these narratives is that although Daniel entered into the den of lions alone and the three Hebrews entered into the fiery furnace with just the three of them there was another who came among them. In the case of Daniel in the den of lions the LORD sent His angel to shut the mouths of the lions whereas in the case of the three Hebrews there was a fourth man in the fire—one who was likened unto the Son of man.

 

            If you consider the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter you will not only find him instructing and inviting these saints which were suffering and were scattered to not be surprised by and in their suffering as though some strange thing happened unto them. What they were to experience instead was this underlying knowledge that they must through many trials, troubles and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. Not only this but they were to resist their adversary who like a raging lion prowls around seeking whom he may devour knowing that the same afflictions they experienced in the flesh their brethren throughout the world were also experiencing. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider the awesome and tremendous truth that directly and intrinsically linked to suffering in the flesh is not only resistance of the devil but also casting all our cares upon the living God. This is something we absolutely must needs recognize and understand when we consider suffering in the flesh for we must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to this for when we come to the epistle written unto the Hebrews we find the author writing and speaking unto them concerning a rest that is offered and afforded unto them in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this being said there is a great need to recognize and understand that this rest is not only available to us when there we do not find ourselves in the midst of the fire and/or the flood but also when we find ourselves in the midst of the raging inferno or flood that seeks to overwhelm and consume us.

            The fourth chapter of this epistle begins and opens with the author inviting their audience to fear lest a promise being left them of entering into the rest of the living God should come short of it. The author of this epistle diligently sought to bring these readers and audience into the place where they not only recognized the rest that was offered and present unto and for them but also invited them to do anything and everything they could to ensure they were able to enter into that rest. Moreover the author of this epistle would go on to describe how unto us was the gospel preached as it was unto those who were present in the wilderness. The one fundamental difference between us who heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and those who were present in the wilderness was that the word which they heard was not heard or mixed with faith. Instead of hearing and receiving the word with faith there in the midst of the wilderness they stumbled and struggled with an evil and hardened heart of unbelief. It was because of this hardened heart of unbelief they were unable to enter into the rest which was offered and promised unto them—and not only unto them but first promised unto their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was in light of this the author of this epistle went on to describe and declare unto them that those who have believed do in fact enter into the rest offered by the living God. With this being said, however, it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand that entering into the rest for the children of Israel did not mean there was no more struggle and conflict in the earth for although they entered into the land of Canaan they still needed to conquer the land by driving out, defeating and dispossessing the nations and enemies which were present in the midst of the land.

 

            Upon continuing to read the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this epistle you will find the author going on to describe how there remains a rest to the people of God and that those who entered into his rest has ceased from their own works as God did from his. The author would then call and invite them to labor to enter into that rest lest any man fall after the same example or similitude of unbelief which was manifested in the wilderness. Oh it is absolutely clear when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that the people of God are not only invited to enter into the rest which was offered and afforded unto them but they were also to cease from their labors and their works. Remember the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto those who heard His words and how He invited all those who labored and were heavy laden to come unto Him and He would give them rest. Moreover Jesus also instructed and invited them to take and learn from Him for He was meek and lowly of heart that they might find rest unto their souls. This invitation which the Lord Jesus offered and promised unto was one that would not only provide them rest for their souls but would also allow them to cease from all their strivings, cease from all their labors, cease from all their works and simply come unto Him that they might find rest for their souls. With this being said, however, it’s important to note that we can indeed find rest for our souls despite the fact that the storm rages all around us. Although Jesus promised us that we would find rest for our souls He never promised that we would escape and avoid suffering and affliction in the flesh. In fact when you consider the final words of the Sermon on the Mount you will find that even that one who heard and obeyed the teaching(s) of the Lord Jesus and built their house upon the firm foundation which was the rock would experience the wind, the rain and the pounding of the storm against and around their house.

 

            If you continue reading the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this epistle you will find the author going on to describe the word as being quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword which pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow. Not only this but the word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart and there is nothing that is not manifest in His sight for all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Oh how absolutely incredible this truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the word of God and its presence and manifestation within our hearts and lives. It is the word of God which pierces unto the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and discerns the thoughts and intents of our heart within us . We who are the saints and people of God must needs recognize that there is no creature that is not manifest in the sight of the living God but that all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. What a tremendous truth it truly is when you think about the fact that the word of God can not only divide our soul and spirit—two of the parts of our tri-part being—but it can also discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts. There is a great need for us to pay attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words which are presented here bring us face to face with the impact and presence of the word of the living God within our hearts and lives—namely, as it pierces and divides the soul from the spirit and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.

 

            In the final verses of the fourth chapter the author of this epistle once more appeals to the reality and concept of the Lord Jesus as our faithful and merciful high priest. Beginning with the fourteenth verse the author of this epistle writes how seeing we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—we are to hold fast our profession. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to for not only do we find the author once more speaking of the Lord Jesus as the high priest but we also find the author writing and speaking of the profession of the faith which is within our hearts and souls. The author goes on to declare and describe how we do not have a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like as we are and yet without sin. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it is within our hearts and lives. There is a great need within our hearts and minds to recognize that not only is the Lord Jesus our faithful and merciful high priest but He is also a high priest who can indeed be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Oh although the Lord Jesus can never be touched with the actual infirmities, afflictions, persecutions, suffering and tribulations which we face in the flesh He can indeed be touched with the feeling of those infirmities. That which we face and experience within the depths of our being—within the depths of our heart and soul—the Lord Jesus not only knows and is aware of but can also be touched with and by. What a truly awesome and powerful truth is found in this passage of Scripture for the words which we find here bring us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth concerning the merciful and faithful high priest we have in the heavens who can in fact be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

 

            If you consider the final words which are found in the fourth chapter of this epistle you will find the author inviting their audience to come boldly unto the throne of grace that they might obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Oh how absolutely incredible and powerful this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful reality that directly linked and connected to the rest which we can have for our souls is not only the knowledge that we have a high priest who can be touched with and by the feeling of our infirmities but also that there is a throne of grace which we can come boldly unto that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. What’s more is that this text not only seems to speak to and suggest infirmities within the flesh but also times of need in this life. It is absolutely impossible to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ being a faithful and merciful high priest who can indeed be touched with the feeling of our infirmities and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. The throne of God is not only the place where the living God and Creator of the universe sits but it is also a place where the Lord Jesus is set down at the right hand as a faithful and merciful high priest. It is within and from this place we can not only obtain mercy but also find grace to help in time of need. What a truly awesome and powerful truth is found in this passage of Scripture as it brings us face to face with the wonderful and powerful reality within our hearts and souls that the rest which is afforded and provided unto us is a place where we recognize the merciful and faithful high priest we have in the heavens and that there is both mercy and grace to help in time of need.

 

            Continuing on into the fifth chapter you will find the author continuing to expound upon this concept of the high priest—and not only the concept of the high priest but also the Lord Jesus as the high priest which has passed into the heavens. Up until this point—beginning with the second chapter—the author has written concerning the Lord Jesus and how He is our faithful and merciful high priest. It was in the second chapter the author emphatically declared that we have a merciful and faithful high priest who is able to succour us in all our suffering, all our affliction, all our trials, all our troubles and all our tribulation. It is in the third chapter where we learn and discover the Lord Jesus is both the Apostle and High Priest of our profession while it is in the fourth chapter we learn how the Lord Jesus is a High Priest who has passed into the heavens and who is not one who cannot be touched with and by the feeling of our infirmities. The Lord Jesus is indeed a faithful and merciful high priest who can be touched with and by the feeling of our infirmities and was in all ways tempted as we are and yet without sin. It is in light of all this we come to the fifth chapter and read of every high priest being taken from among men being ordained for men in things pertaining to God that he might offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. Not only this but the high priest which was chosen from among men was ordained to have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. The author goes on to write and describe how no man takes this honor unto himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron the brother of Moses and Miriam. In light of this the author goes on to describe and declare how Christ did not glorify Himself to be made a nigh priest but heard the voice of the same One who declared that He was His Son whom He had begotten also declaring that He was a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

 

 

            Oh the further you delve into the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will find additional language and verbiage concerning the Lord Jesus as our faithful and merciful high priest for in the days of His flesh—when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death—was heard in that He feared. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous truth that is found within these verses and passage of Scripture for what we find within it is a powerful picture of the Lord Jesus being ordained and appointed as a faithful and merciful high priest by the eternal and living God. Not only this but we learn of the Lord Jesus how during the days of His flesh He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death and was heard. With this being said, however, we must also recognize and understand that though He were a Son He yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Moreover the Lord Jesus—being made perfect—became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him as He was indeed called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisidec. We must needs recognize and understand this for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and His being a high priest who in the days of His flesh offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death. Thus we learn and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that the Lord Jesus Christ while He walked among us in the flesh experienced His own suffering(s), affliction(s), trial(s) and tribulation(s). Not only this but although He were a Son He yet learned obedience through the things which He suffered in the flesh.

 

            As I bring this writing to a close it’s necessary to go on to read the words which are found in the final verses of the fifth chapter as well as the words which are present in the sixth chapter. In the final verses of the fifth chapter the author of this epistle goes on to declare how they had many things to say which were hard to be uttered seeing they were dull of hearing. The author of this epistle goes on to write and declare how when the time came that they ought to be teachers they have need that one teach them again the first principles of the oracles of God and were become such as had need of milk, and not of strong meat. Everyone who uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness for they are a babe. Strong meat belongs to those that are full of age—even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words which are found in these verses and not only learn and discover that we have been called to a place of maturity and growth in the Lord Jesus but we have also been called into a place of discernment of both good and evil. It was in the garden of evil where Adam and Eve were given permission to eat of the fruit of every tree including the tree of life while needing to abstain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ultimately of course we know that the serpent would beguile Eve and she would partake of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Immediately their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, they were afraid and ashamed, and not only sewed fig leaves to cover themselves but also hid themselves from the presence of the Lord. Oh perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is that we not only have to be afraid and ashamed but we also no longer need to hide ourselves among the trees all around us. We can be naked and vulnerable before and in the sight of the living God knowing that we have been washed and cleansed by and through the blood of the cross of the Lord Jesus and by His word.

 

            In the opening verses of the sixth chapter of this epistle the author speaks of our leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ and inviting us to go on unto perfection. It is as we go on unto this perfection that we are no longer to lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. What the author then goes on to do next is incredibly significant when you take the time to think about it for the author goes on to write how it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come—if they should fall away—to renew them again unto repentance seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame. Essentially that which we find in these verses and passages of Scripture bring us face to face with the tremendous need for growth and maturity within our hearts and lives in the presence and sight of the One before whose eyes everything is naked and bare. We are to be those who have pressed on to maturity and those whose senses are exercised to discern both good and evil that we be no longer babes who are tossed to and fro by the wind of every doctrine. The author of this epistle would go on to emphatically declare that they were persuaded of better things of them and things which accompany salvation. Moreover the author goes on to declare how God was not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love which they showed unto others toward His name and how they ministered unto the saints and continued to minister. With this being said the author would go on to speak of their desire that every one of them show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end and that they be not slothful but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Oh it is with this being said I leave you with the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Ephesian saints beginning with the first verse:

 

            “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also the ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16).

 

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