DO NOT TURN BACK
Hebrews 3:7-19 (NIV)
There is a song that is sung in many churches in America entitled “Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad.” It tells the story of how the engineer must be brave and constantly on the alert for the many dangers he will face must be alert as he make to as he journeys through the treacherous mountains.
It pictures the life of Christians as they will face many obstacles as they travel from the cradle to the grave.
There are many dangers on this road through life where we make mistakes, fall into pitfalls and experience many heartaches, but the greatest danger of all is to miss the call of God.
The writer has given evidence that Jesus is superior to all the Prophets; superior to the Angels; and superior to Moses.
He gathers his evidence from the OT and warns his readers to not harden their hearts to this precious truth.
The Following verses (7-11) are the writer’s quotation of Psalm 95:7-11.
7. Today, if you hear his voice,
8. do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert,
9. where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and
they have not known my ways.”
11. So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.
The reason the writer quotes from Psalm 95 is for the purpose of warning his readers that they are in danger of doing the same thing their ancestors did in the wilderness.
They spent forty years in the wilderness because of unfaithfulness and unbelief.
Verses 7-11 are background and scriptural enforcement for the warning of verse 12.
I think the writer wants his readers to understand that if they refuse to hear and obey God that they are placing themselves in the same danger of missing God’s rest or God’s blessings as their forefathers did.
Let’s consider the Hebrews in the wilderness.
God put them there to test them and they failed. (Read Numbers 14)
The Jews did not lose their way because they lost their map – they lost their way because they let their heart become hardened to God.
Verse 8 – “do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,
Verse 9 – “where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.
Many times in the wilderness they were put to the test and they failed to pass each time. (Read Exodus 17:1-7)
This was a test of thirst. It was an internal test. This was the nation’s opportunity to prove that God would provide for them.
Then God tested them again: (Read Numbers 13:25-33)
This test came from the outside. The Israelites failed the test because they saw the Giants
a. Giants cause unbelief and they keep us from seeing God.
b. Giants cause us to see only the obstacles.
c. Giants blur our spiritual vision, and cause unbelief.
They make us see ourselves as grasshoppers rather than children of the Living God.
They cause us to reduce God to the level of a grasshopper in our hearts,
The only cure for unbelief is Faith.
It is only by faith that we can see the living God
a. The writer reminded his readers that their ancestor’s defection was because of unbelief.
b. Now he warns his readers that they are in danger of committing a similar sin.
The Jews are going through difficult times and the writer wants them, by faith, to look through and beyond their obstacles and see the Living God. If you have trouble praising God with a song in your heart as you serve Him, it may be that your focus is not on God, but on your circumstances.
“If you have trouble praising God with a song in your heart as you serve Him, it may be that your focus is not on God, but on your circumstances.” (From Experiencing God Day by Day)
Verse 12, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
The author speaks of turning away from or rebelling against “the living God.”
a. The rebellion he warns against consists of departing from a living, dynamic person – not from some misunderstood doctrine.
b. The Jews might reply that they served the same God as the Christians, so they would not be departing from God if they went back to Judaism.
But the writer wants them to understand that to reject Jesus Christ is to reject God, for Jesus Christ is God. (See John 1:1-3, 14; John 10:30-33; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet.1:1 Heb.1-8)
J. Gresham Machen explains the deity of Christ: “So when the Christian says that Jesus Christ is God, or when he says that he believes in the deity of Christ, he means that that same person who is known to history as Jesus of Nazareth existed, before He became man, from all eternity as infinite, eternal and unchangeable God, the second person of the holy Trinity.”
Jesus Christ is God’s highest revelation ever to be revealed by God to mankind.
c. The writer says to the people to see that “none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
The KJV reads: “An evil heart of unbelief” which speaks of an active opposition – not a mere passive neglect.
Dr. Wuest (Greek Scholar) says: “We must be careful to discriminate here between a heart which unbelief is present, and an unbelieving heart.”
*The first may be true of a Christian, but not the second.
*The latter expression refers to a heart solely and entirely controlled by unbelief, in which there is no faith whatever.”
d. “in departing from the living God” – the literal meaning of “departing” is standing off from or standing aloof from the living God.
Our word “Apostasy” is derived from a form of this word. A brief description of Apostasy according to New Unger’s Bible Dictionary: “The grave nature of apostasy is shown by such passages as Hebrews 10:26-29, 2 Peter 2:15-21, and John 15:22. Apostasy as the act of a professed Christian, who knowingly and deliberately rejects revealed truth regarding the deity of Christ (1 John 4:1-3) and redemption through His atoning sacrifice (Phil. 3:18; 2 Peter 2:1) is different from error, which may be the result of ignorance (Acts 19:1-6).”
Now it was decision time. What is it going to be?
Is it going to be the Levitical sacrifices or the crucified Christ.
a. To make a profession of faith in the crucified Christ and then return to dependence upon the Levitical sacrifices would be committing the sin of apostasy.
b. These readers must understand that all apostasy originated from “an evil heart of unbelief.”
Verses 13 – “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
As Christians it is our duty to comfort and encourage one another because our hearts can become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Therefore, we need to lift one another up before the Lord for daily strength to carry on. (See Heb. 10:23-25)
Verse 14: We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
We “come to share in Christ.” (The NKJV reads: “…become partakers of Christ…”)
We see that we are not mere spectators of the work of Christ, but are to exhort one another and encouraging faith and obedience “if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”
The NLT reads: “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.”
THE URGENCY. 15 – 19
15. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
16. Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?
17. And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?
18. And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?
19. So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
The Bible reads, “Today.” Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today “if you will hear His voice.”
When God calls or speaks to the human heart there is always an urgency and He expects us to respond today.
In 2 Cor. 6:2, we read “now is the day of salvation.”
God never says, “I have something that I want you to do. You think about it for a few days and then let me know what you think.”
The same truth is repeated in Heb. 3:7, and in Heb. 4:7.
When God called Abraham He said, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1)
a. Abraham could have disobeyed God and remained where he was at –but if he had look at the blessing he would have missed.
When God called Noah He said, “Noah I want you to get busy right now and build a huge boat because I am going to send rain for forty days and forty nights and flood the whole world.” (Gen. 6:13-14)
b. Noah could have said, “Lord, that’s foolish. I have never seen rain in my whole life and I don’t even know what a boat is.”
Noah could have disobeyed, but if he had look at the blessing he would have missed.
c. When Jesus called Paul on the road to Damascus and said, “Paul I want you to be my servant unto the Gentiles and bring many people into my Kingdom.”
Paul could have said, “Lord, I didn’t come all this way to make Christians – I came to kill them.”
Paul could have disobeyed, but look at the blessing he would have missed.
Whether today or 2000 years ago, the greatest moment in one’s life is to respond to God’s call.
d. Then the writer continues: “If you will hear his voice.” (16)
The emphasis is not on hearing, but on “if you will hear.”
What the writer wants to get across to his readers, and to us today is this: If God has afforded you the privilege and golden opportunity to hear His voice – don’t pass it up.
I think the message is clear that if God speaks to us today, take heed because He may not speak again.
When God speaks it is our responsibility to hear and to respond.
The writer urges all to “Harden not your hearts.” (15)
a. “Harden” refers to something that is parched or dried up and becomes hardened.
We are to not let our hearts be set against God.
b. The more we turn away from God, the more our hearts will become callused and hard.
c. God wants us to hear His voice because His voice will not harden, but soften our hearts.
His voice will make our hearts tender.
d. Because of their unbelief in God’s provision, protection, and power their forefathers failed to trust God to conquer the giants in the Promised Land, and look at the blessing they missed. They missed going into the Promised Land.
e. The Word of God comes to us afresh each day, but so does the opportunity to harden our hearts against God and His Word.
Where does this hardness of heart evidence itself?
Not when we are riding high on the crest of some victorious experience – but when we are walking on a treadmill through the wilderness.
The writer, using this OT example teaches us that if we harden our hearts and deliberately refuse to hear God we will reach a point when we will so disbelieve God that we will rebel against Him.
The Children of Israel would not believe (it was their choice) – therefore they could not enter into God’s rest, His place of blessing.
Charles Swindol says: “Unbelief has serious consequences both for the non-Christian and for the Christian. For the former, unbelief bars the entrance to heaven; for the latter, it shuts the gate to green pastures and still waters of His rest.”
Then he continues: “This is not the arbitrary penalty imposed on helpless humanity by some peeved deity. This is the natural, inevitable consequence of sustained unbelief. Just as hardening of the arteries is terminal if not treated, so is hardening of the heart.”