“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:8,9).
THE “PEOPLE OF GOD” IS A PHRASE FAMILIAR TO US IN THE SCRIPTURES, BUT WHO ARE THE INDIVIDUALS TO WHOM THE EXPRESSION APPLIES? In the widest sense, these words apply to every person whom God ever created. But in the Scriptures, the phrase often refers to a subset of the human race: a group with a special relationship due to having been redeemed and rescued by God.
At the time when the Law of Moses was in effect, the tribes of Israel were God’s people in a unique sense. They were the physical family through whom God was going to bring the Messiah, or Christ, into the world. That mission having been accomplished, however, and the special role of Israel having been laid aside (Hebrews 8:1-13), who are the ones today who are the “people of God”? It is those who obey the gospel of Christ. The nation of Israel, in fact, pointed forward to this greater Israel, a spiritual people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9,10). If you want to know whether you are among these “people of God,” ask yourself these questions:
(1) Have I been reconciled to God — on His terms? God’s people are His forgiven ones, having died to sin in baptism (Romans 6:3-5).
(2) Do I offer to God what He is seeking from His creatures? God has always looked for those who would love Him with all their hearts and live accordingly (Deuteronomy 10:12,13; Micah 6:8).
(3) Do I live on the basis of faith in God? I am not one of God’s people if my life doesn’t show that I trust Him — taking risks to do things His way. “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
It is only the people of God who can look forward to the eternal rest that He has promised. For Israel, Canaan was the land in which they hoped to rest, but as Hebrews 4:8,9 points out, God spoke even then of a greater rest awaiting His people. “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” May God hasten the day when all His foes have been vanquished and He reigns over all His faithful people forever.
Come, Thou almighty King, help us Thy name to sing, help us to praise!
Father all-glorious, o’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us, Ancient of Days.