Our next study takes us through the remainder of Hebrews chapter three:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways. ’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest. ’”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-19 ESV)
Verse seven begins with another “therefore“:
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, (Hebrews 3:7 ESV)
Again, the “therefore” is pointing us back to the point previously made, in this case the points made in verses 3:1-6. What are the main points of that passage? Let me give three quick reminders:
1) Consider Jesus. This isn’t a passive, non-confrontational, non-offensive way to slip Jesus in the back door. No, this passage reminds all that if we are going to have a relationship with God, it will come through Jesus, “the apostle and high priest of our confession.”
2) Jesus is greater than Moses because He is the Builder. The writer presents an analogy of a builder and a house. The house represents God’s people and the builder represents God (v. 4 – “…but the builder of all things is God.”) Who is greater? Obviously the builder and Jesus is equated with the builder.
3) Jesus is greater than Moses because He is faithful as a Son. The “house” represents those called by God into His family and Moses served the household as a faithful servant. But Jesus served the household as a faithful son.
These comparisons with Moses were not meant to demean Moses, but to make much of Jesus, the “apostle and high priest of our confession” (v. 1).
So, the “therefore” in verse seven is pointing us back to these reminders from verses one through six, and then points us toward the message the Holy Spirit is delivering. What did the Holy Spirit say? Well, actually the Holy Spirit has authored all that we are reading here in Hebrews, but, specifically, the writer has included a portion of Psalm 95 in verses 3:7 through 3:11 and then again in verse 15 to deliver a stern message.
The message in Psalm 95 is God reflecting back on the days of Moses and the people of Israel just after they had been brought out of Egypt (as told in Numbers 14) and were on the footsteps of the Promised Land. Moses had sent spies into Canaan and after 40 days they returned to report a land flowing with milk and honey, but also filled with strong people and fortified cities. Though the people had been brought out of slavery – in miraculous fashion – that was quickly forgotten and the congregation began to grumble as they worried about their safety.
In return for their faithlessness, God promised judgment for the people. In return for their grumbling, God promised that everyone over 20 years old would wander in the desert for 40 years and would not see the Promised Land (except for Caleb and Joshua).
This is the “rebellion” as described in verses 3:7 through 3:11 and 3:15 and the writer also reminds us in 3:16-3:18:
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?
Ultimately, this grumbling prevented the Israelites from entering God’s rest. Lord willing, we shall discuss the idea of God’s rest in greater detail in our chapter four study, so for now, let’s note that God’s rest refers to a relationship with God. This relationship has present and future benefits and both types include a provision of God’s rest – provisions that are both present and eternal. (Again, Lord willing we shall discuss this further later…)
A final warning is delivered in verse 19:
So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19 ESV)
Why did this grumbling anger God? It was because this demonstrated a lack of faith. It’s rather easy for us now, but we read through the Scriptures and see example after example of God’s faithfulness to His people. We can see example after example of mighty works He did to magnify and glorify Himself – works that ultimately were designed to show Himself to the Israelites. But it was not enough for them. Instead of seeing a crisis as a time to look and see what God would do, the people, instead, chose to grumble, complain and talk about how they were cared for and settled back in Egypt. Ungrateful? Yes. Disrespectful? Yes. But in the end, this shows and amazing lack of faith in almighty God.
This seems like an easy lesson for us to learn and apply to our lives, right? Unfortunately, this problem of “grumbling” still happens in our time, but, thankfully, God has provided an exhortation to remind us and to encourage us to not let this happen:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14 ESV)
1) (v. 12) Take care – Could this happen to us? If there is an “evil, unbelieving heart” in us, yes, we will “fall away from the living God.”
2) (v. 13) Exhort one another – How important the body of Christ is for each of us! We see here the encouragement that should exist among believers on a daily basis and we see the benefit from this relationship: “…that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
3) (v. 14) Hold firm – Some may come to Christ, but only genuine followers of Him will persevere to the end. Those that fall away were never true followers.
For some of us, there’s a need to periodically ask “am I really saved?” One of my children, in particular, ponders this from time to time. Though it is my child’s relationship with Christ, when this occurs, I remind her of the gospel and remind her of the profession she made. I remind her of Christ promising that nothing will snatch her out of his hands and I remind her that God will complete His good work in her. But this is also an excellent reminder. Is our heart hard and lacking faith? Are we allowing ourselves to receive exhortation from other believers to help us along in our walk? And finally, are we holding firm until the end?
If you are in the faith, let these be constant reminders as you walk with the Lord.
If you are not a follower of Christ, I encourage you, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Today, hear His call and come to Him.