Hebrews 3:7-19 Warning: Unbelieving Hearts WC McCarter
Chapter three begins by showing the supreme example of faithfulness, Jesus Christ, but in verses 7-19 it quickly turns to show a negative example of unfaithfulness/disobedience (Bateman, 44). Both of these passages are linked. Remember that last week we were told that we are Christ’s house if we hold fast. I think that we all want to be Christ’s house. So, in this next passage we are told to not be like the Exodus generation that rebelled against almighty God. They fell away into unbelief and did not enter God’s resting place for them, Canaan. Let’s take a look at their story from Numbers 13-14. Remember, the people of Israel had just seen the great Exodus event. They saw the ten plagues, and they saw the Red Sea parted. They also saw great things at Mt. Sinai. Now Moses has led them to the border of the Promised Land to go in and take it. He sends in ten spies to consider the military challenge, eight come back with a terrible report while only two report that the land can be conquered. The people want to stone Caleb and Joshua. Because of their unbelief, God says that He will not allow them into the land.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Do Not Harden Your Hearts (7-11)
This warning passage uses Psalm 95 (94 in LXX), a psalm of ascent sung by pilgrims going to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. The psalm has a warning to worshippers to not harden their hearts and miss out on entering into God’s rest (namely, the temple). They negative example that is used is that wilderness generation. They were not allowed to enter into the resting place.
Thus, the unbelief of Israel influenced the psalmist to write Psalm 95 and the author of Hebrews to write chapter three. Although men wrote those two passages, Hebrews tells us that the Holy Spirit was the true author. As Christians, that is exactly what we believe. We believe that the Holy Spirit is the true author of all Scripture. All 66 books of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, were uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit and can be said to be breathed out by God.
There is not a lot to explain in verses 7-11. This is the story that we have just read from the Old Testament record. What are some of the things that we can initially hear from these first few verses? (1) Today is the day with which we must be most concerned. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day that we must hear God’s voice (in the Scriptures). If you want to hear God, read the Bible. If you want to hear God audibly, read the Bible out loud. (2) A person can harden their heart. To harden your heart is to form an attitude of indifference to the things of God. It is to completely doubt and no longer trust God as you once did. (3) To not know God’s ways means to not have a true understanding of God’s revelation. Many people have a simple familiarity with the standards of the Bible, but most people do not know His ways. They have never taken His ways as their own. They have never come to a thorough knowledge of the truth of His ways. They have never really submitted to Him as Lord and committed their full allegiance to Him. To harden your heart is to be in a state of disobedience. (4) God cannot overlook sin forever, and God cannot allow sin to go unpunished. He is righteous and holy in all His ways. (5) We will talk about it more in a few minutes, but let me go ahead and say that God expects us to finish well. The Promised Land, not the wilderness, is our destination. Continue on!
Beware and Exhort (12-15)
There are two exhortations given in the next paragraph, “see to it . . . that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart” and “encourage one another daily.” There is a real danger for believers (Bateman, 48). There is something you can do for yourself, and there is something you can do for those around you. First of all, you must consider your own heart. You must avoid at all costs an unbelieving heart (Hagner, 65). There are things that contribute to the hardening of a heart; steer clear of those things. There are situations that you can put yourself in that will not help your faith; do not go there. It is this kind of heart that leads you astray. It may lead you to turn away from the living God. Why is God referred to in this way? He is not a god made by human hands as if we can manipulate Him. He is the living God to who we must all answer. He will judge the world in righteousness. We cannot escape His wrath if we depart from Him.
The second exhortation given here is something you can do for others, encourage one another daily while it is still called “Today.” Remember, today is the day with which we must be most concerned. Today is when we must hear His voice, not yesterday or tomorrow. Hear His voice today so that you may be saved. You have to encourage others to hear His voice. Yet, we spend most of our time discouraging others, don’t we? We get in the way of others coming to a thorough knowledge of God’s ways. We discourage others with our words, attitudes, actions whether any of them be direct or indirect. You are called to exhort and encourage one another. Do not harden your heart, and do not contribute to the hardening of someone else’s heart. There is nothing worse! What can happen if we do not encourage one another? We may be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. What is the greatest sin? What sin is it with which Hebrews is most concerned? The sin of unbelief. That is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That is the unforgiveable sin. Do you wake up one day and no longer believe? Is that how it works? No, but you can contribute to the overall attitude of your soul in many ways. It takes time to turn away from the living God. It is a slow drift. Remember 2:1-4. Before you know it though, you have turned away from your first love, you have departed from the living God who is the One who must judge your sinfulness and who is the One who has provided the only way to be saved from that judgment. There will come a day when it is too late to believe. “Today” will not last forever.
“Even as Christ became a sharer in our humanity, Christians have come to share in Christ. . .” (Hagner, 65). “Once saved always saved” doctrine does not hold up under the warnings of the book of Hebrews. Look at verse fourteen. You have your share in Christ if you “hold the beginning of [your] confidence steadfast to the end.” The Israelites started out well. They were full of confidence as they saw the plagues ravage the land of Egypt. They were jumping for joy when they received all of the jewelry they did from the Egyptians. They praised the Lord when the Red Sea was parted and they crossed on dry ground. But that attitude did not carry them to the end of their journey. They died in the wilderness because of their ultimate unbelief.
They Could Not Enter His Rest (16-19)
The ones who rebelled against God were the same ones who had heard God’s voice. Astonishingly, they were the ones who came out of Egypt with Moses. The people who saw the mighty acts of God in Egypt were the same ones who rebelled against Him. God was angry with that generation because of their unbelief. They had seen His mighty hand in Egypt and experienced His provision in the wilderness, yet they still did not trust Him. Verse nineteen is the summary of the passage, they could not enter because of unbelief. What about you?
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) The one point of chapter three is that you must be faithful. Follow the positive example of Moses and the One who is far greater than Moses, Christ Jesus, and do not follow the negative example of the children of Israel who turned away from the Lord. We are all going to be followers in one way or another. The question is, who will you follow?
(2) This passage in Hebrews 3, and really the entire book of Hebrews, is written to say, You must finish well. Starting out well is not enough. Let’s also be clear that we do not mean that you finish well by religious performance. That is not what earns you salvation. You finish the same exact way you started, by faith. You come into salvation by faith in the work of Christ, and you finish the Christian life by faith in the accomplishments of the Lord. Thus, the Apostle says in Romans 1 that God’s righteousness is shown from faith to faith (faith in the beginning and faith in the end, faith and nothing but faith from start to finish). Therefore, when I say that we must finish well, I am saying that we must continue in faith until we die or the Lord returns.
(3) "Today" = while you are hearing God's voice (v. 7), while you are seeing what he has been doing (v. 9), while you are still having the opportunity to know his ways (v. 10), while none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (v. 12), while you still have a share in Christ, and are indeed holding firmly till the end your original conviction (v. 14).