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Warning Against Unbelief March 27, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Hebrews 3:7-19.

Summary: The author begins with the following inference from the fact that Jesus is worthy of greater honor than Moses – his readers should obey all of His commands. He supports this point by quoting from Psalm 95:7-11, where God tells them that:

  • it is their duty to yield to Him as He works on their souls
  • the people who came out of Egypt with Moses provoked and grieved Him – especially at Meribah – even though He had revealed Himself to them through His deeds
  • the people who came out of Egypt with Moses often judged that sin was better for them than obedience, and so they did not know His ways
  • thus, the people who came out of Egypt with Moses did not enter the Promised Land.

The author then affectionately exhorts his readers – in light of God’s words in Psalm 95:7-11 – to take heed that their souls are not full of evil and wickedness, as that would lead them to commit apostasy; moreover, God is able to punish and avenge apostasy for all eternity. They must have a constant inclination toward mutual exhortation and consolation, as that will enable them to guard against the deception of sin; that deception could prevent them from yielding to God as He works on their souls. Indeed, if they remain in Christ, then they will maintain their interest in Him and obtain the benefits that they expect from Him. He reiterates Psalm 95:7-8 to drive home this point.

Now the author poses a series of questions designed to further compel his readers to remain in Christ. These questions remind them that:

  • some of the people who came out of Egypt with Moses heard God’s voice – yet they chose to provoke Him
  • God was displeased with those who chose to provoke Him, and so their bodies were cast out and abhorred by those who viewed them
  • God did not allow those who chose to provoke Him to enter the Promised Land, as they did not obey His command in that regard.

The author concludes by stating that those who chose to provoke God lost their right to enter the Promised Land, as they ignored His promise in that regard.

Thoughts: In this passage, the author reminds the Hebrews that their fathers failed to enter the Promised Land because of their disobedience – in spite of the fact that God had revealed Himself to them. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 9:

Some of these deeds were works of power, as when he divided the sea; some of these deeds were majestic and terrifying, such as the frightening appearances in thunder, lightning, fire, smoke, and earthquake, when the law was given; some of these deeds showed God’s favor toward his people and his love and care for them.

Sometimes I wonder how the Israelites failed to obey God despite the fact that He had performed numerous mighty deeds in their sight. At those times I speculate, “well, if God had 1) appeared before me in a pillar of fire, 2) parted the Red Sea so that I could escape from the Egyptians, and 3) provided manna for me to eat in the desert, wouldn’t I have enthusiastically obeyed Him when He commanded me to enter the Promised Land?” Of course, I then remind myself that the prospect of attacking and conquering the inhabitants of the Promised Land is rather unpleasant; while I have never served in the military, I have read accounts where soldiers have discussed the difficulty of overcoming their natural tendency to avoid killing another human being. Moreover, if the inhabitants of the Promised Land were twice my height, then my natural instinct for self-preservation would battle against my obligation to honor God. Overall, I doubt that I would have been more obedient than the average Israelite if God had commanded me to enter the Promised Land.

In verses 13 and 14, the author exhorts his readers to engage in mutual exhortation and consolation, as this will enable them to obtain the benefits of remaining in Christ. Now since I have attended several churches and participated in several fellowship groups, I have had many opportunities to both exhort others and benefit from their exhortations. In my previous small group, I made an effort to approach each meeting with the mindset of encouraging the other members through my words and deeds. While I am unsure as to whether my words and deeds had a positive impact on the other small group members, I can say that praying before each meeting helped me approach it with the proper intentions. I have also found that mutual exhortation becomes more challenging as we move past the initial stage of our Christian walk; some sins are more difficult to remove than others, and without the appropriate stimuli, those sins will continue to hinder our spiritual growth. We should have the desire to push each other out of our comfort zones, as that is a critical impetus for genuine spiritual growth.

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