About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Warning Against Unbelief (Ch. 3:7-19)

 

Verse 7 begins with the words, "As the Holy Spirit says."  The writer is about to quote from Psalm 95, not from the Hebrew text, but from the Septuagint.  This accounts for the discrepancy if you go back and read Psalm 95 from your Bible.   He is saying that although there was a human author to this Psalm, in reality, it is the very words of the Holy Spirit.  This is a New Testament verse that speaks to the Old Testament as being inspired by God, and especially so in the case of the Psalms of which many are prophetic.    

 

The prophetic warning to Israelis of old was not to harden their hearts.  Moses was faithful to God in leading Israel  out of bondage, but the people werenít faithful after they were freed from Egyptian domination.  That sounds a little familiar, doesnít it?  Because of Israeliís unbelief, or lack of trust in God, God was very upset with them.  He was so upset that it says in verse 11, "I declared on oath in my anger, 'they shall never enter my rest.'" 

 

Note the word "today" in verse 7.  Today meant the exact day this Psalm was written and spoken to Israel.  That very day Israelis were to not harden their hearts. 

 

The verse says, "If you hear my voice."   The word "if" is important here.  It implies that one might not always hear God's voice but when you do, make sure you respond in a positive manner.

 

In verse 10 we see that God was angry with the generation of Israelis, those in the desert, because their hearts were always going astray.  This is typical humanity.  We need to understand that, despite the thinking of some, God does get angry. 

 

Note the words, "They have not known my ways" in verse 10.  Remember, many of the Israelis who escaped Egypt died in the desert.  The second generation of Jews was not raised in the faith, thus the reason why they did not know the ways of God. This is also typical of humanity, even Christian humanity.  Passing the faith and intensity of faith from one generation to the next always seems problematic.  Either the faith does not get passed down or if it does, it is a weak faith.    

 

In verse 11 we note that God declared an oath.  This simply means that God covenanted with Himself, He agreed with Himself, that these rebellious Jews would never enter His rest.  The rest referred to here was the peace and security of knowing God and walking in His ways, that maybe is symbolized in the Promised Land.  I use the word "maybe" because I am not totally convinced that the rest is in relation to the Promised Land, although I can see how it could be.    

 

Note that this is a negative promise of God.  We often think of Godís promises as being positive, something good to look forward to, but not this time.  God promised these people that they would not get what He originally promised.  God was very angry at His people.  Why was He angry?  He was angry because of their unbelief.  I believe that God does not like it when we sin, but I strongly believe that what really makes Him angry is unbelief, or not trusting Him, or rejecting Him and His provisions.  This is what really gets God upset.  This will be demonstrated on that Day of Judgment when all those who are not found in the Book of Life, because of their unbelief, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.

 

Verse 12 says, "See to it Ö that
none of you have a sinful, unbelieving heart."  The author has just related the story of Old Testament Israel to these people and now he is comparing Old Testament Israel to these people.  He is doing so by telling them not to fall into unbelief.  Unbelief is the worst sin. Unbelief is the only sin that the Lord did not forgive on the cross, nor could He forgive.  If God had forgiven unbelief or rejection of Him on the cross then there would be no reason for Him to eternally punish the unbelievers.  

 

Note the words "turns away from the living God" in verse 12.  This suggests to me that those to whom this letter is written are indeed Christian Jews who are being tempted to walk away from their faith in Jesus.  This letter is thus not written to non-Christian Jews, which we should pay attention to throughout our study.

 

In verse 13 we see the author is encouraging these people to encourage each "other daily, as long as it is called today."  The word "today" is in relation to the word "Today" we saw back in verse 7 when the author quoted from Psalm 95.  Whatever day it is, in Biblical terms, it's always "today," the day to obey God. 

 

We see in verse 13 that sin is deceptive.  You might think one sin is not all that important, but it is.  Sin is indeed deceptive.  It deceives us into thinking that it won't make a difference with your faith in God, but it does.  Sin separates us from God.  It messes up our fellowship with Him.  Sin can lead to unbelief, as it did with Israelis of old.

 

Verse 14 clearly tells us that the author is writing to Jewish Christians when he says, "We have come to share in Christ."  Clearly, the people to whom this letter is addressed are not non-Christian Jews.        

 

In verse 14 the writer is talking about holding on to the end and keeping the confidence that they had at the start.  Again, the words "At the start" suggest these people have faith.  This was an encouragement to keep the faith.  The implication of verse 14, at least in my thinking, is that that these people can lose their faith.  What happens at that point has been debated for centuries.  I believe that if you throw away your faith, you throw away your salvation.  

 

Once again the writer refers back to an Old Testament Scripture and says, "Today if you hear His voice, donít harden your hearts."  Really, this is part of the message of the gospel.  It is all about "today."  If you hear His voice calling you, donít delay until tomorrow.  There may not be a tomorrow.   Respond today.  It could be a call to salvation that He is speaking to us about, or it could be a call to ministry.  Whatever He says, we should not put it off to a future time.  We should respond in faith.    

 

In verse 16 the question is asked.  "Who were they who heard and rebelled?"  The answer is; "Those who Moses led out of Egypt."  The rebellious people, those with the hard hearts were Godís people.  These were people who had been saved from the Egyptians.  They saw the miracle at the Red Sea.  They received the provision of God in the desert.  On and on it goes, but they still rebelled.  The warning the writer directs his comments to were saved people as well.  That is to say, saved in Old Testament terms.     

 

The next question that the writer asks in verse 17 is, "With whom was He angry?"  We have the same answer.  God was angry at His people, who, as the verse states, died in the desert.  

 

Yet another question is asked; "Who did God swear that would not enter into rest?"  Once again, the answer is Godís people.  The whole point here is that God can be angry at His people.  This is to be a warning to these New Testament believers.  If God could be angry with His Old Testament people He can be angry with His New Testament people.      

 

The writer closes this chapter by saying that Godís people of old did not enter into the rest they were promised because of their unbelief.  This is the key to any promise that God makes to us.  The only way in which we can receive the promise is by trusting Jesus to deliver it.  If we harden our hearts because it does not happen right away, we can be guaranteed that we will not receive the promise.  Why is this so?  It is because getting upset with God is not trusting Him.  You cannot be mad at Jesus and fully trust Him at the same time. 

 

One thing I think we should note here is that God was upset with the Jews in the Old Testament.  He told them that they would not enter rest, yet, when we put this in context of the Abrahamic Covenant and other prophetic promises, God will eventually bring His people into rest at the end of this age.  

 

These Jewish people to whom the author of Hebrews was writing were in the process of thinking of giving up their faith in Jesus.  They were in the process of doing the same thing their ancestors did centuries ago. The writer was pleading with them not to give into the human tendency to harden their hearts.  Unless we are careful, human tendency is to let lifeís difficulties sink us down into unbelief, and let our trust fall by the wayside.   

 

Many Bible teachers have debated what this rest is that the author has been talking about.  I believe in New Testament terms it is rest from our works.  It is the rest we find in Jesus.  It is the rest we find in salvation by faith, a rest that will be fully realized when this present heaven and earth flees from existence and is replaced by a new heaven and a new earth. 

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