These … having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. … seeking a homeland. … desire a better country ... Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
The generation in the desert refused to enter the Promised Land. The writer of Hebrews compares entrance to the Promised Land to the time of Shabbat Rest of the World to Come, but the generation who lived under the bounty of God's welfare system for some time now it may have felt different about it. They were going to have to fight to inherit the Land, fight and protect their borders. The manna would cease falling, and they would now have to start landscaping, seeding, planting, irrigating, all to sustain themselves. They were also going to have to build houses, establish a government, continue train their army …Doesn't sound like much rest to me.
The Rest spoken of in Hebrews is not from activity, but the rest of being home. When you are home you may still have to 'work', but you are home. You have the right to lock your door and enjoy privacy, to eat and live the way you want to. In essence, home is where you have the freedom to serve your God the way He desires it.
In that respect we are, as the writer of Hebrews also said, strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13). As the Children of Israel did in the desert, we in this age receive a foretaste of the bounties of the World to Come through the daily provisions He allows us to partake of. We also learn to live by the legislative Constitution of the future Kingdom which is the Torah.
The Day comes when we will 'cross the Jordan' into that Promised Land of the Kingdom of God established 'on earth as it is in heaven'. We will then finally be 'home' eating the grapes of our own vine seating under our own fig tree in a place when none shall make us afraid anymore (Micah 4:4). "So, Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness Hebrews 3:7-8 quoting psalms 95: 7-8 which read at the welcoming of the Shabbat).
Jewish sages use the word 'Today' to refer to the Shabbat. In a sense the Shabbat is a glimpse of the 'World to Come'. Why one would refuse to enter the Shabbat of the World to Come? At the welcoming of the Shabbat we have to consciously stop our feverish personal activities in order to focus our attention on the awesome moment. We have to change gears; what is not done is not done; game over, it's 'half-time', and some find it difficult. Maybe also like in the case of The Children of Israel there is a sense of loss and fear, the loss of the comfort of the familiar lifestyle mixed with fear and apprehension of entering unto the new.
May we learn today to live under the rules and principles of the World to Come so that it will not feel so strange to us when its righteousness covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. May it be soon Abba, even in our days!