“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 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. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’ Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” Hebrews 3:12-19
The author of Hebrews presses his message home with compelling earnestness. He is in reality saying take care because that same evil of an unbelieving heart which you despised in the ancient Israelites can also be in any of you. Paul is reminding his listeners that in times of persecution and hardship it becomes easier to fall away from God and rebel against Him than they might think.
Look at the grim description of our condition without grace. Our hearts become sinful, unbelieving, deceitful, rebellious, evil, faithless, hardened and disobedient.
The question is how can these early Christian believers avoid a fate similar to the rebellious Hebrews during the time of Moses? The text gives us four directives for keeping close to God in our Christian walk.
“Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts” (v. 15) is the key to spiritual growth. We hear God’s voice through our Bible reading, study, prayers, listening to the word of God preached and the work of the Holy Spirit. Raymond Brown in his book Christ Above All states, “The Christian who doesn’t make a special point of setting aside in each day a particular time for cultivation of his spiritual life is not likely to make significant progress in spiritual maturity.” p. 86 Even a few minutes a day is a wonderful start on hearing the word of God in your life.
It is not only important that we hear the word but we need to believe the word. “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief (v. 19). The children of Israel came right to the gates of the Promised land but in their rebellion and unbelief the entire generation missed their opportunity of experiencing freedom. By refusing to take God at His word they would wander another 40 years in the desert and endure needless hardships and discouragement.
We as Christians must put our unwavering faith in the promises of God and accept, by faith, that the rule of God in our life will never fail us or forsake us. By faith we believe the righteousness of Jesus is accredited to us and we are given the free gift of salvation and reconciliation by Jesus death on Calvary’s cross. All of us struggle with faith and fail to exercise our faith like we could but that is not what Paul is talking about in this passage of Scripture. He is talking about persistent unbelief and stubborn refusal to trust God in our daily lives.
The word must not only be heard but also obeyed. “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not to those who disobeyed” (v. 18 See also 4:6). We obey the word by allowing it to settle deep into our hearts and transform our walk with God. Obeying God is not about keeping a series of rules, laws and regulations as anyone can do that who has enough determination. Obeying God is listening for His word, reflecting upon the Spirit’s calling in our lives and then responding to God’s will in accordance with His leading. When we are convicted by the Spirit of what action we should take, we need to follow in faith that God has our best interest at heart and will never fail us.
“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” (v. 13, 14). Once we have heard the word, believed the word and obeyed the word, we must share the word.
We all can use encouragement and it is so important to our spiritual journey that we are to encourage each other daily. Encouragement is the antidote to the power of sin’s deceitfulness and the hardening of our hearts. Paul understands how easy it is to become discouraged especially if you are alone and that discouragement can draw us away from our relationship with Jesus. It is not good enough to have once believed, we are to hold onto our faith and trust in God until the very end.
Life becomes difficult and hard to bear at times but God is always there encouraging and strengthening our resolve to stand firm for Him in spite of the problems that swirl around us. No matter how difficult the storm we must never give up and throw in the towel like the children of Israel as they stood looking into the Promised Land. Let the word permeate the soul and the Holy Spirit reach deep into our hearts that we may have the strength and assurance to trust Jesus in all that we do, say and are.
* Please remember to pray for the thousands of Christians who are standing firm for Christ resulting in relentless persecution , for many even unto death – they need our constant prayers. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for some of their stories.