There is very good reason to come before the presence of the LORD with thanksgiving. He is the great God, and the great King above all Gods (Psalm 95.2-3). He is worthy of our worship. We bow and kneel before Him alone (Psalm 95.6). “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95.7). The psalmist concludes with a bracing exhortation:
Today, if you will hear His voice:
“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.
For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.'”
What is the rest to which the psalmist refers? The writer of Hebrews quotes this psalm twice in successive chapters (see Hebrews 3.7-11; 4.1-10). The LORD leads us to rest. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. The LORD may lead us to rest, but we must not come short of it. The rest of which the LORD speaks is the rest of our reward – our inheritance.
Our rest is not a location. It is not sleep or a day off. Some believe that rest is synonymous with Heaven. Yet our rest does not refer to Heaven, but what awaits us once we get to Heaven. As believers, we will go to Heaven because we trusted in Jesus Christ as our Savior by the grace of God. We don’t enter Heaven because of our endurance. That would be works-salvation. Heaven is for those who trust in the finished work of Christ not the enduring work of men. Heaven is assured regardless the level of commitment and faithfulness on the part of a believer (John 5.24; 6.47). Our assurance rests on Jesus’ perfect commitment and faithfulness.
Joshua entered the promised land ready for battle. He believed that the LORD would give Israel rest after the conflict with the Canaanites. He won the war (Joshua), but Israel failed to follow through (Judges). Many Christians start well. They trust in Christ’s finished work. They are called to press on and endure trials and suffering and overcome temptation. As we rely upon the power of God’s Word and Spirit, we take ground. We amass an inheritance in Heaven. It is in store for us. Yet by walking in the Spirit, we improve the quality of our lives here and now. Our faith is strengthened, hope is bolstered, and the LORD is glorified.
The good news of Joshua’s day is the same good news preached to us. That good news is that we have a rest waiting for us in the form of a reward. Joshua’s audience, the psalmist’s audience, and the Hebrew Christians of the first century are all promised this rest. It did not profit those in Joshua’s day because they didn’t rely upon the LORD; they rebelled instead.
Our inheritance is all God desires to give us. We are assured of Heaven even if we backslide and fall away from the LORD. We may not have that assurance because our feelings govern us, but we should rest assured of it. If we fall away from the LORD, we will not receive our full rest. Also, we will not live an eternal quality of life. Our rest is our reward. We must claim a full inheritance.
Christians have everything they need to amass a reward. The wonderful blessing is that as we rest in Christ here on earth and accomplish our Father’s will, our reward in Heaven increases while our lives on earth gain more access, peace, and hope. Truly, the most useful people on earth are those who are heavenly-minded.