12 “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
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.
14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
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 perished in the wilderness?
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.” Hebrews 3:12-19
In these verses the writer of Hebrews continues with his warning (see 3:1-11) to the persecuted church not to become like Israel in the wilderness where they started off well but ended up dying in the wilderness because of a lack of faith or trust. Again let me say, sin as actions are not the root of our problem, it is our sinful hearts. Sin flows from within an “unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
What does it mean to have an unbelieving heart? Well, first of all it is a heart that turns away from the living God and in order to do that we must have once been looking towards or at Him. Secondly, he calls them brothers and sisters so they are part of the local church fellowship. Thirdly, the call is for “none” of them to have a sinful heart.
The root of all our trouble is simply to stop looking to Jesus and to lose our faith and trust in His leading. The children of Israel were an interesting bunch; they came through ten plagues in Egypt without a scratch while the entire nation descended into chaos. By the way, the point of the plagues was without God un-creation was happening to the Egyptians. Their entire world was losing its order and strength and returning to a world that was void and without form. Only the children of Israel remained in the garden, so to speak, while chaos swirled around them.
The point is, they experienced the plagues, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, the crossing of the Red Sea, the Mana in the wilderness, water spouting from rocks by Moses simply talking to the stone and yet, when they came to the gates of the Promised Land they lost their trust in God. Makes us think of Elijah on Mount Carmel defeating the priests of Baal by calling fire down out of Heaven onto a soaking wet altar and then fleeing from Jezebel as if she had power over him.
Most of us know what it is like to have fear and be unsure of our future or the direction we should take even when we remember back to how God has led in our past. But, maybe that is a problem, in that we don’t always remember how God has looked after us and instead just allow the present crises to overwhelm us. Take a few moments to remember all the ways you can remember how God looked after you and supported you in your past.
Verses 13-14 should be the mantra of all Christians, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” Sin above all is deceitful and deceit leads to a hardened heart unless we hold our original conviction “firmly to the very end.”
I believe Christianity would thrive if we practiced encouragement instead of condemnation. In Galatians 6 we are encouraged to “carry one another’s burdens” as a tribute to the Lord. I know from response to this blog how many of you were beaten up in the name of religion instead of loved, encouraged, and cared for in the name of Jesus Christ. The problem is straight forward and it is the reality that no matter how much we say “God loves you” those words are always trumped by our actions towards that person.
Verse 15 is a quote from Psalm 95:8-11 that is based on the Israelites testing God at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness. Psalm 95:10 is especially interesting, “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.’” What is interesting about that generation is they never entered into the rest of the Promised Land because of their disobedience (v. 18) but verse 19 tells us what the disobedience is, “so we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” Disobedience is unbelief.
So, let’s summarize this passage before this blog becomes too long. The plea is for the persecuted Christians that the writer of Hebrews is addressing, not to harden their hearts and become like the Israelites who turned their backs on the leading of God and died as rebellious, unbelieving people.
Instead the call is to strengthen the church by encouraging each other in the face of opposition and hold their original convictions without wavering. If we wish to enter into the rest of God’s grace it can only come through obedience to the faith that God has poured out upon us.
Finally, let’s be clear this is not talking about a “day of rest” like a certain day of the week, but rest that comes from faith in Jesus and putting our trust in His leading and our willingness to follow. And the time to put that trust in Jesus so none of us end up with a hardened heart is today. Remember, sin is rebellion (v .13) against the love of God revealed through the miracle of your life. We enter into rest when “we come to share in Christ,” by holding our original convictions to the end. Simply put—trust Jesus.