Hebrews 3: 12 – 19
The Israelites had a fundamental problem in their relationship with God. We saw that they hardened their hearts so many times when God spoke to them: He brought them out from Egypt with a strong hand; they experienced and saw the ten plagues unleashed against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The whole idea after leaving Egypt from God’s perspective was to take them to Canaan, the Promised Land. The Promised Land was another name for entering into the “REST”. This was the place where the Israelites would settle after wandering in the wilderness, meaning they still had to fulfill God’s plan and mandate.
God vowed because of His children’s attitude and behavior – that they would not enter into that REST. This is the reason why the writer in this epistle wrote to warn his hearers, so that they can learn from history and not become like their forefathers. His words were, “brothers, take care in case there is a wicked, unbelieving heart in any of you, moving you to apostatize from the living God.” Their issue was that, they hardened their hearts or they chose to remain in unbelief even when they saw all the acts of God.
The writer advised that the proof that one is saved is shown in how we continue in that which we have believed in. We have become partakers of Christ because if anyone draws back from believing the Gospel, it means that the person was never part of Him in the first place. The Bible paints the scenario as follows, “they went out from us, but they were never really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”
The warning and the appeal came again a second time not to harden our hearts when we hear the Gospel – the idea of not hardening our heart is reflected in our response to the message heard. Our reaction is reflected in listening to the message and also obeying what we heard positively. But our fathers in the wilderness had provoked God to the extent that God swore that they would never enter into the Promised Land because He knew they would never retort to His ways.
This warning was for the Jewish Christians who had not made a commitment to what they had heard and hoping that by the time they hear the message, they would respond. His exhortation was for them to avoid the same repetition or replay of events. Unbelief is likened to hardening ones heart, it is disbelief, and it is disobedience to the Word of God. Unbelief forfeits the blessings of God and further opens one to His judgement.
To respond to the Gospel, is to obey and respond to its message about what Jesus came to do – the message about the death, burial and resurrection and its impact on the life of anyone who responds positively. To believe and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is to enter into “REST”. Without believing in that message of the Gospel when it is heard, the invitation, instruction and even the story of Jesus becomes worthless to an individual. Jesus said that those who believe in Him would not perish but have life eternal.
The Israelites in the wilderness only had to believe God at His Word but the contrary was the case; they only came across a challenge (called the time of temptation) after they had departed from Egypt and instead of trusting God, they turned a deaf ear to whatever He had to say. They were the same Israelites who wandered for forty years in the wilderness because of their attitude. It was the same Israelites who sinned in the wilderness and whose carcass fell in the wilderness. They never got there because they never listened not to talk of believing in Him.
To his audience (the Jews who heard and have not committed) listening to him, it was time to make a commitment at that very moment because listening and knowing the message does not save anyone. Responding positively as in obeying the contents of the message is sufficient for salvation. The writer would then add that they ought to respond “today”, signifying that the moment the message is heard, is the moment one should respond by obeying the contents of the message.
“It seems to me that an angel, looking down upon a sinner who has rejected Christ, will think of him as some sevenfold atrocity of nature. If a man can do without God, it is certain that God can do without him, and the day will come when God will do without him, according to his word, “I will ease me of mine adversaries.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon.