7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 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. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked 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 unable to enter because of unbelief. (ESV)
Prepare Your Heart; Know His Ways (Hebrews 3, Part 3)
As Israel left Egypt, God showed his mighty saving power. He was for them, and could save them. The people needed to trust him and obey. As the sea crashed in over Pharaoh’s army, they saw his power again. Those who “left Egypt led by Moses” had seen mighty things (3:16b).
God’s expectation was that the Israelites, having observed these things, should use their mental faculties to reflect and wonder and therefore in the future be able to trust God. But it seems they didn’t, at least not to any depth. Instead we hear the commentary: “they always go astray in their hearts, they have not known my ways.”
When times got tough, instead of having hearts prepared through sober reflection to understand and trust, they had hearts primed to question and doubt and disobey. Why? Because despite having seen God’s gracious saving power, “they have not known my ways.”
Their experience is held up for us as an example. “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion …”. We too will experience difficulty and pain. When we do, we will need to trust him. We need to “know his ways.”
This is massively, eternally, important. The Israelite’s complacency cost them dearly. “… they have not known my ways. As I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.” (3:10c-11) We are to take responsibility for the state of our hearts and minds (3:12). God expected it from them and held them accountable, and so he does with us.
This does not mean perfection or self-sufficiency. No, we deeply need God’s daily mercy and help (4:15-16), and we need the mutual encouragement of brothers and sisters (3:12-13). But it does demand our attention and care, which may feel unusual in our culture so inclined towards comfort and entertainment. Consider also: Prov 1:20-33; 2 Tim 2:7.
If you are complacent about the state of your heart, be earnestly warned: complacency did not end well for Israel (2:2, 3:11).
(This was originally posted on the Biblearc blog by Robert Elphick on June 18, 2015.)
Take Care, Brothers and Sisters (Hebrews 3, Part 4)
The letter to the Hebrews was written to people who had believed the gospel (3:1).
They now needed to persevere, to remain confident in Christ (3:6, 14). In this context the experience of Israel in the wilderness is held up as a sobering case study: many who saw God’s powerful works subsequently hardened their hearts.
The author gives two instructions, as inferences from the need to persevere with confidence. Firstly, ‘do not harden your hearts’ (v7, 15b). This is an instruction for which we must each, in the first instance, take individual responsibility. That is, we who have come to trust in Christ are responsible as individuals for the state of our own hearts: I must not harden my own heart, and to this end I must know and remind myself of God’s ways (3:10c), and of what he has done ultimately in Christ. Recall that God has spoken (1:1) through his Son (1:2), who became a man and suffered for me. Is my heart, I might ask, still gripped by the great salvation (2:3) won by him who is risen and at God’s right hand (1:3), and will soon have his enemies under his feet (1:13)?
Additionally we each have a corporate responsibility. We are to take care in a corporate sense, amongst our brothers and sisters, in order that the unbelief that undermined the Israelite’s salvation from slavery doesn’t undermine ours. We are to exhort (summon, entreat, admonish, comfort) one another to trust that what God has said is true, so as not to be led astray by the deceptive promises of sin.
God has brought us into communion and fellowship with him. This is a current reality for those who hold fast to hope in Christ. Therefore each of us should remind ourselves of the truth, and the overflow of that should be the exhortation of one another, to move on from the deceit of sin, and trust in God to the end.
(This was originally posted on the Biblearc blog by Robert Elphick on June 25, 2015.)