Hebrews 3:7-11… Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways;’ 11 as I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
Hebrews 3:7 could not be more specific in the revelation that the words of Scripture are the words of the Holy Spirit. And if the Spirit has written the Bible then the Bible is inspired by God, without error, and authoritative in all matters. The Apostle Peter said as much when spoke of prophecy: “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:21). Now the words the Spirit speaks in this passage paint a picture for people on the brink of decision deciding whether or not they will commit their lives to Christ, for the Hebrews audience believed Jesus was the Messiah but fell short of saving faith.
The picture painted by the author is the story of Israel’s unbelief when they were poised to enter the Promised Land in Numbers 13-14. Though Israel had witnessed God’s mighty acts at that time they were an unbelieving nation as seen in their failure to believe God when He said He would conquer the peoples before them. The author of Hebrews, 1500 years after those events, quoted Psalm 95 to warn the his audience not to make the same mistake. He said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” The word “today” is not so much a reference to the present 24-hour period but a call of urgency, synonymous with “now!” These professed believers were to learn a lesson from their ancestors who believed in God without truly believing God.
When the Israelites became thirsty on one occasion they came to Moses demanding that God provide them with drinking water. Moses’ response was, “Why do you test the Lord?” (Ex. 17:1-2). These people weren’t trusting God to provide water for them; rather, they were demanding that God provide them water. They had seen God lead them and work for them day after day, yet they had the gall to say, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Ex. 17:7). Obviously they didn’t trust God, so they kept testing Him with no intention of ever believing Him. Now it’s not as if Israel only saw God working once or twice – which would have been sufficient in and of itself. They saw God working every single day over the course of 40 years, yet they still tested Him day after day. And so it is with unbelieving people. The proof given to them is never enough no matter how miraculous it may be. The story Jesus gave in Luke 16:19-31 illustrates people who refuse to believe. Jesus quoted Abraham who said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (v. 31).
What was God’s response to Israel’s unbelief? Verse 10 says that God was “angry with this generation.” Now the term “angry” does not imply sadness or disappointment; rather, it means to be “furious; incensed.” And God’s fury with unbelieving Israel caused Him to reject them and leave them to die in the wilderness over the course of 40 years. He swore that these would not enter His “rest” – the retirement of living in peace in God’s Promised Land.
Food for Thought
One never knows how much time we have left on earth. The day of our death is unknown to us, so the most important decision to make while we still have breath is to trust fully in Christ – today! When our “day” is over it will be too late. There is no tomorrow when our lives come to an end, so while it is still called today we must submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. To put Jesus off is to become hardened and calloused. And this brings God’s wrath causing us to forfeit eternal rest.
Hebrews 3:12-14… Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end…
The Bible is clear throughout that once salvation is granted to a person he can never lose it. But clearly there are people who profess to know Christ who are not really converts to Christ. These are in danger of falling away from the faith (apostatizing). This is why the writer of Hebrews says in v. 12, “Take care brethren that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” Like the Israelites who came out of Egyptian slavery and who chose death instead of life, phony Christians are in danger of the same.
The writer addressed the audience as “brethren” – far different than “holy brethren” in 3:1. He was Jewish, and his audience was Jewish, so they were brethren in that sense but not necessarily in a spiritual sense. The Apostle Paul did the same thing throughout the Book of Acts when he spoke in Jewish synagogues while presenting Jesus as the Christ to unbelievers. The urgency in the author’s tone is seen in his address to “take care” – an insistent exhortation to not fall short of submitting to Jesus as Lord after all they had seen and heard (cf. 2:3-4).
The warning here is to not “fall away” (Greek apostanai) which means “to rebel; to abandon.” And what should they not fall away from? The living God! Turning away from Jesus is to turn away from the living God who gives eternal life. To turn away is to choose death. What causes this kind of apostasy is simply unbelief which is said to come from an evil heart.
Now instead of falling away from God the audience was to “encourage” each other day by day. The word “encourage” (Greek parakaleo) is itself used of the Holy Spirit as One who comes along beside another to help like a lawyer to defend another. The application in v. 13 is that Christians should hold one another accountable while exhorting each other to remain strong in the Lord. Because it’s easy to allow one’s heart to grow cold believers need other believers to keep them sharp, to keep them awake, and to keep them from falling away into unbelief.
Once again in v. 13 Psalm 95 is quoted with special emphasis placed upon “today.” While it is still called today there must be encouragement to other professed Christians to keep them from apostatizing. The writer is not in any way convinced that his audience as a whole is saved, and he did not attempt to put their minds at ease with “once saved, always saved.” He was concerned with the “deceitfulness of sin” and its effects upon people who thought they were saved but who were in fact not at all convinced about Christ. The term “deceitfulness” means “trickery,” and that is what sin is. It causes people to take God lightly and believe error.
Now for those who take sin seriously, who “hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end…” they have “become partakers of Christ.” And partakers are those who are yoked with Christ – brothers of Christ – whose salvation is assured in their perseverance to the end.
Food for Thought
The worst, most dire sin is the sin of unbelief, for it leads to eternal destruction. It is the most offensive sin to God. Most people today do not consciously fight against God or outwardly detest Him; rather, they ignore Him by refusing to commit to Him. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine” (John 8:31). Commitment to Christ as Lord is the difference between mere profession of salvation and true possession of the living God.
Hebrews 3:15-19… While it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.” 16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
The Israelites had lived in Egypt circa 1850-1450 BC. From 1650 to 1450, however, they had been subjected to slavery. In 1446 God brought them out of Egypt through Moses, and Israel observed God’s power in the ten plagues that devastated all of Egypt, including the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. On the way out Israel watched God part the waters of the Red Sea, they watched Him direct them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, they enjoyed daily bread that God miraculously provided, and they saw God provide water from a rock to quench their panging thirsts. In other words, Israel saw God firsthand with proof after proof of His love and provision. But astoudingly they didn’t believe God and were satisfied only temporarily after seeing Him provide for them. The Israelites of that generation illustrate the hard and unbelieving heart. In the face of overwhelming evidence of God’s love they rejected and spurned Him.
Now for the third time the author of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 95:7-11 in order to make his point. The first time he quoted it in 3:7 he used it to illustrate Israel’s disobedience in the wilderness. The second time was a simple reference to “today” in 3:13 to show the urgency of their required commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. Now when the author quotes it again in v. 15 his exposition focuses on rebellion. His point is to encourage the audience to heed the calling of Jesus by emphasizing the dire consequences of disobedience stemming from hardened hearts.
The author emphasized his argument with three rhetorical questions and a conclusion in vv. 16-19. The point of the argument is that the people who failed to enter God’s Promised Land were the same ones who had heard God’s promise about Canaan but who refused to believe God (v. 19). As a result, in His fury God closed the doors of Canaan for that generation of unbelievers (Num. 14:21-35). And the readers of Hebrews were given this illustration because they were in danger of the very same rebellion their ancestors committed 1500 years prior. The conclusion the author comes to in v. 19 is that an unbelieving heart will most certainly forfeit the blessings of God. And those who refuse to believe have only themselves to blame for that.
The rebellion of Israel is described by the author with four different terms. First, v. 16 says that Israel “provoked” God (“to make angry”). Second, v. 17 says that Israel “sinned” (“to miss the mark”). Third, v. 18 says that Israel was “disobedient”(“to refuse to believe”). Fourth, v. 19 says that Israel was characterized by “unbelief” (“to refuse to trust”). Truly, Israel was like wax which is naturally hard but melts when put under heat. But once the heat is removed the hardness returns. Their flesh was weak from the deceitfulness of sin. They needed continued faith to remain soft and the encouragement of other believers, just like all Christians today!
Food for Thought
True faith (salvation) cannot be lost. It is given by God as a gift, and it comes by His grace through our faith in Christ. But we must continue in our faith and endure to the end (Matt. 13:20-21; Acts 11:22-23; 13:43; 14:21-22) in order to prove ourselves God’s true children. Salvation is to be “worked out with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Yes, we are “kept by the power of God,” but how God keeps us is “through faith” (1 Peter 1:5). Our faith must endure.
7 Διό, καθὼς λέγει τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον· σήμερον ἐὰν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ
Therfore, just as he says (PAI) the Spirit the Holy: Today if the sound of Him
ἀκούσητε, 8 μὴ σκληρύνητε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν ὡς ἐν τῷ παραπικρασμῷ κατὰ
you might hear (AAS), do not harden (AAS) your hearts as in the embitterment by
τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ πειρασμοῦ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, 9 οὗ ἐπείρασαν οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἐν
the day of the pressure in the desert, where pressured (AAI) the fathers you in
δοκιμασίᾳ καὶ εἶδον τὰ ἔργα μου 10 τεσσεράκοντα ἔτη· διὸ προσώχθισα τῇ
proving and they saw (AAI) the works of me. Forty years therefore I was vexed (AAI) with
γενεᾷ ταύτῃ καὶ εἶπον· ἀεὶ πλανῶνται τῇ καρδίᾳ, αὐτοὶ δὲ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τὰς
this generation and said (AAI) always they are deceived (PPI) in the heart themselves but not they knew (AAI)
ὁδούς μου, 11 ὡς ὤμοσα ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ μου· εἰ εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν
ways of me. As I swore (AAI) in my wrath “if they will go in (FMI) into the rest
μου. 12 Βλέπετε, ἀδελφοί, μήποτε ἔσται ἔν τινι ὑμῶν καρδία πονηρὰ
of me.” Be care (PAM), brothers, not then there will be (FMI) in some of you an evil heart
ἀπιστίας ἐν τῷ ἀποστῆναι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ζῶντος, 13 ἀλλὰ παρακαλεῖτε
of untrust in which to fall away (AAIn) from the living God, but encourage (PAM)
ἑαυτοὺς καθʼ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν, ἄχρις οὗ τὸ σήμερον καλεῖται, ἵνα μὴ
each other against each day, until which the today it is called (PPI), so that not
σκληρυνθῇ τις ἐξ ὑμῶν ἀπάτῃ τῆς ἁμαρτίας - 14 μέτοχοι γὰρ τοῦ
might be hardened (APS) some from you in deception of sin for sharers of the
Χριστοῦ γεγόναμεν, ἐάνπερ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως μέχρι τέλους
Christ we have become (RAI), if indeed the beginning of the substance until completion
βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν - 15 ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι· σήμερον ἐὰν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ
firm we might hold down (AAS) in the it to be said (PPIn) “today if you the sound of him
ἀκούσητε, μὴ σκληρύνητε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν ὡς ἐν τῷ παραπικρασμῷ.
You might hear (AAS), not harden (AAS) your hearts as in the rebellion
16 τίνες γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν; ἀλλʼ οὐ πάντες οἱ ἐξελθόντες
for some having heard (AAPtcp) were embittered (AAI)? But not all having gone from (AAPtcp)
ἐξ Αἰγύπτου διὰ Μωϋσέως; 17 τίσιν δὲ προσώχθισεν τεσσεράκοντα ἔτη;
from Egypt through Moses? But to whom was he vexed (AAI) for forty years?
οὐχὶ τοῖς ἁμαρτήσασιν, ὧν τὰ κῶλα ἔπεσεν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ; 18 τίσιν δὲ
Not to those having sinned (AAPtcp), whose corpses fell (AAI) in the wilderness? And to whom
ὤμοσεν μὴ εἰσελεύσεσθαι εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ εἰ μὴ τοῖς
he took oath (AAI) no one shall enter (FMIn) into the rest of me if not to the
ἀπειθήσασιν; 19 καὶ βλέπομεν ὅτι οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν εἰσελθεῖν διʼ
having disobeyed (AAPtcp)? And we see (PAI) that not they able (API) to come into (AAIn) because of
Profession of Christ vs. Possession of Salvation
· Intro: The Bible is replete with warning passages meant to encourage belief in God. For God knows the wrath that is coming. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ez. 33:11).
· Open with Ephesians 1:13-14 and John 10:27-29.
Problem: UNBELIEF (7-11)
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, And saw My works for forty years. 10 “Therefore I was angry with this generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they did not know My ways’; 11 As I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
· They had the 1400 years of history to survey after Israel entered Canaan, and they had the coming of Christ and his resurrection!
· Those who want to believe will believe… “help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
· Unbelievers just want to stall and live in their sins.
· Some hear the call for life repeatedly but grow harder and harder.
· “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Ex. 17:7).
· “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be pursuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
Solution: FAITHFULNESS; ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS (12-14)
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
· a deep settled confidence in Christ’s finished work is a growing faith.
· “If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine” (John 8:31).
· Commitment to Christ as Lord is the difference between mere profession of salvation and true possession of the living God.
Ramifications: NO ETERNAL REST (15-19)
while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.” 16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
· But God has said: “My righteous one will live by faith; and if he shrinks back my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Heb. 10:38-39).