Hebrews 3:7-4:13

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.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

Although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Observation

  • Holy Spirit said the word of the Psalm.
  • If we have heard Christ’s voice we are not to harden our hearts.
  • We are not to harden our hearts to the voice of Christ as was done in the rebellion.
  • The rebellion was in the wilderness during the wondering by Israel
  • The Hebrew fathers put God to the test.
  • As a result of putting God to the test they witnessed God’s wrath for 40 years.
  • God was provoked with the generation of Israelites when they rebelled in the wilderness.
  • God said they always rebelled in their hearts.
  • They did not know God’s ways.
  • God swore that, that generation would not enter God’s rest.
  • God swore in His wrath.
  • We are to be careful that there is no evil in us.
  • We are to be careful that we do not have an unbelieving heart.
  • An unbelieving heart will lead us from God.
  • We are to encourage each other every day.
  • We are to encourage so that we are not hardened by sin
  • Sin is deceitful.
  • We share in Christ if we remain confident and firm to the end.
  • The Israelites rebelled even though they heard God’s voice.
  • The Israelites rebelled even though they participated in the exodus from Egypt.
  • The Israelites rebelled even under the leadership of Moses.
  • God was provoked for 40 years, with those who rebelled against Him.
  • Those who rebelled against God died in the wilderness.
  • God swore that those who were disobedient would not enter His rest.
  • Those who did not enter God’s rest, did not enter because they did not believe.
  • The promise or entering Gods rest still stands.
  • It is possible that we may not reach God’s rest.
  • We should fear not reaching God’s rest.
  • Good news comes to us just as it came to the Israelites in the wilderness.
  • The good news did not benefit the Israelites in the wilderness.
  • The reason the good news did not benefit the Israelites was they were not united in faith with those who listened to the good news.
  • If we believe the good news we enter God’s rest.
  • The Israelites did not enter God’s rest because of their unbelief, even though God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world.
  • God rested on the seventh day from all his works.
  • Some are still waiting to enter God’s rest.
  • Those have received the good news and still disobeyed and failed to enter God’s rest.
  • God has appointed today as the day to be obedient and not harden your heart to the good news.
  • Joshua did not give the Israelites God’s rest
  • There is still a Sabbath rest for God’s people.
  • Whoever enters God rest rests from his work as God did on the seventh day.
  • We are to strive to enter God’s rest.
  • We are to strive so we do not fall because of disobedience.
  • God’s word is living.
  • God’s word is active
  • God’s word sharper than a very sharp sword.
  • God’s word pierces and divides soul and spirit.
  • God’s word pierces and divides joint and marrow.
  • God’s word discerns between thought and intent.
  • Nothing is hidden for God’s sight.
  • We are completely naked and expose before God.
  • We must give an account of ourselves to God.

Interpretation

The writer uses the example of the children of Israel’s not being allowed to enter Canaan because of their disobedience to illustrate that it is unbelief that keeps us from God’s rest. He quotes David in Psalm 95:7-11 but by the way he introduces the quote he reminds us that scripture is actually inspired and ultimately written the Holy Spirit, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,…”

The phrase, “if you hear His voice.” is not to be understood that, only some will hear God’s voice, or that you need to work at it or even it is possible to not “hear God’s voice.” No, in context with the rest of the Psalm, it is understood as, “If you will hear God’s voice.” It can be compared to the words of Christ when he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11: 15, 13:9, 13:43, Mark 4:9, 4:23, Luke 8:8, 14:35) There is a difference between actually hearing and simply letting the sound waves making your ear drums vibrate. So when you hear God’s voice actually hear it what He says, do not harden your hearts.

The writer to the Hebrews’ purpose in this passage is to declare that there is a rest for us and to cause us to desire it. We should fear being shut out because of unbelief. Additionally, he is teaching that the rest is now open to us today and is far more valuable than the land of Canaan.

The hardening of our hearts is a choice on our part. We willfully rebel against God. The Hebrew readers were guilty of imitating on their fathers. We too imitate the vices of others as if they were virtues. When our sins are pointed out, we defend ourselves by pointing out we are not the only ones with bad behavior. Our defense, “How could it be bad if so many others do it?”

God had provided and cared for the children of Israel. Yet, they forgot that, and continually asked for more. This raised the wrath of God. God swore that, that generation of the Israelites who hardened their hearts and not listened to His voice, would not enter His rest. This is a truth that applies to us today as well. We are to love God with all of our heart (Matt,. 22: 37). If we love God with all our heart there is no room for loving ourselves. Loving ourselves is the opposite of the great commandment. Why would we think we would be any less condemned than the Israelites when we focus on our selfish wants and desires rather than on His word? We too stand condemned when we refuse to hear God’s voice.

But God is gracious. Knowing our weakness, God has given us brothers and sisters in Christ. He has given us those who can help us when we stumble, because we will. That is our nature. We will sin. But praise God not only has He died for the forgiveness of our sins, He has also given us a community of believers to help us in our weaknesses. A true church will strengthen us when we are weak. And correct us when we are wrong. So too, we are to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ when they stumble. Our job is to preach the law, which condemns, to those who are not remorseful to bring them back to Christ. We are to preach the gospel, which gives hope, to those who are remorseful to give them the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness. Many forget that and preach the law all the time.

The writer says to encourage (preach the Gospel) and admonish (preach the Law) today and do it as long as it is today. It is always today. It is never tomorrow. In other words, the writer to the Hebrews, when he is saying do it as long as it is called “today,” is saying to encourage and admonish all the time. Waiting until tomorrow mean never doing it because tomorrow never comes. Delaying allows us to harden our hearts. I thank God for my Christian brothers who care about me enough to correct me when I deceive myself, and I do often. And they also assure me of God’s grace.

The writer goes on to say that, “We all come to share in Christ, if we indeed hold our original confidence firm to the end.” The writer cautions against what is commonly referred to as cheap grace. It is a fallacious idea to think that since God is only loving and forgiving, it does not matter how we live, we are covered God’s grace. Those who live in such a manner have only tasted the gospel. Part of the admonishing and encouraging is to aid others in their progress, and knowledge of God, so they do not stop running the middle of the race.

Who rebelled in the wilderness? It was those who had been under the grace of God. They experienced firsthand how God had delivered them out of Egypt. They saw and followed the cloud and pillar of fire through the desert. They had eaten the manna sent from heaven. They, none-the-less, only heard with their ears and saw with their eyes but their hearts were hardened. They were unable to enter into God’s rest because of unbelief. We too are unbelieving. We are unsatisfied with God’s mercy and grace. We ask for a signs and miracles. We say, if God would only give us a sign, we would have the confidence to believe. We would believe, trust and obey. We just need to know for sure. We have His word. God’s very own words in scripture. As the writer said, “As the Holy Spirit says…” Yet, God own words are not enough for us. We want to be sure. Is it any wonder that Jesus calls us “An evil and adulterous generation” (Matthew 12:39) seeking after signs.

We still have the promise of entering God’s rest. So the writer says, while the promise still stands let us fear. We should fear for each other as well as for ourselves. Divine judgment should inspire fear. We are being judged by a wholly holy and righteous judge. We should fear judgment because we are guilty. But the good news is Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. Christ has taken our punishment. This message, only in future form, came to those in the wilderness but they did not believe, so it did them no good.

There remains a rest for us. The land of Canaan was not the rest for the children of Israel. If it were God would not have promised rest on another day, a Sabbath rest to rest from work and toil, a rest which is in God’s presence. This is the rest that is promised to us, a rest in God’s presence.

When the writer says “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest,” he is not to be understood that we are to work harder or be better or do more works. Rather the writer is talking about denying ourselves. Man is happiest when he is denies himself for a greater cause or purpose. There is nothing greater than God. The writer speaks of a godly and holy life where we are dead to ourselves and God lives in us, a life where we abstain from our own works and give a place to God to work. We are to strive so we do not fall. Falling means to perish. To put it clearly “to fall” is not to sin but is the punishment for sin. So now it becomes clear why we must hold fast to our belief in Christ atoning work on the cross even in our sin.

God’s word both condemns and blesses. It is active and pierces dividing the spirit and the soul. It divides joints and marrow. Paul says in Philippians 2:17, the faithful are offered as a sacrifice to God. God sees us for who we are. We cannot justify ourselves to him. We can argue with ourselves and others that we are good. But God see us for who we are. His words slays us and our nature so that we may obey.

It is God and God alone who works in us and changes us. We cannot change ourselves.

Application

God swore that the generation of the children of Israel who had hardened their hearts and not listened to His voice would not enter His rest. Why would we think that we would be any less condemned when we focus on our selfish wants and desires and rather than on His word

How do we hear God’s voice? We do not hear it by some mystical navel gazing. We hear God by listening when He speaks. And He speaks through His word. God speaks via the scripture. Anything or anyone who says anything contrary to scripture is not speaking the words of God. So to hear God’s voice we listen when He speaks. And He speaks through the scripture.

Often we will ask God to speak to us by some miracle or omen or sign. That is not Christianity. That is mysticism. Christianity is much easier and clearer than that. All you need to do to hear God speak is open a Bible and read it.

Let us recognize what God has done for us and be content with His bounty rather than be as the children of Israel, who continually grumbled and asked for more. Christ has entered into His rest and His peace. Christ has died for our sins and been raised for our justification. All who repent of their sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, can rejoice and be glad and give glory to the Lord who has taken away all of your sins. You can enter His rest.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Get Free Weekly Bible Studies

Go Deeper into the study of God's word. Receive FREE weekly Bible studies.