Biblical Warning: Round 2

Hebrews 3

1And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are bound for heaven, think about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s Messenger and High Priest. 2For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully and was entrusted with God’s entire house. 3But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a fine house deserves more praise than the house itself. 4For every house has a builder, but God is the one who made everything.

5Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. 6But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God’s household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. 7That is why the Holy Spirit says,

“Today you must listen to his voice.

8Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested God’s patience in the wilderness.

9There your ancestors tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years.

10So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

11So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

12Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14For 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. 15But never forget the warning:

“Today you must listen to his voice. Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled.”

16And who were those people who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Weren’t they the ones Moses led out of Egypt? 17And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom was God speaking when he vowed that they would never enter his place of rest? He was speaking to those who disobeyed him. 19So we see that they were not allowed to enter his rest because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:1-19, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few days ago, I wrote my thoughts about a warning that was included in Psalm 95. You can read my thoughts here.

Just two days later, I came to this passage in Hebrews 3, in which the author quotes the very text I had read from Psalm 95 and highlights the same warning that I mentioned a few days ago.

Coincidence?

Actually, these kinds of random biblical cross-references happen more often than you might think when you’re following the Grant Horner Bible reading plan.

So what is happening in this passage and why is the author referencing Psalm 95 to issue this warning?

The theme of the letter to the Hebrews could be labeled as “Jesus is Better than…”

The audience, as the name of the letter implies, is Hebrew Christians. These believers were in danger of reverting back to their Jewish rituals and customs as a means of appeasing God and gaining His favor.

So the author erects an outline, detailing in point by point fashion that Jesus is better than everything associated with the Old Testament religious system.

In chapter 1, the author demonstrates that Jesus is better than the angels, and now in this chapter, the author takes on the greatest icon within the Jewish religious system, Moses himself.

The author states that Jesus is better than Moses in the same way a builder of a house is better than the house.

The author then develops their argument by stating that Moses was faithful in God’s house but only as a servant. Jesus, on the other hand, is in charge of the household because he is a son, not a servant. I wrote about the implications of slaves/servants as opposed to sons here, in a blog post which referenced a passage from Galatians.

The point is that in the household of God, Moses was a servant. Yes, he was important and he played a key role and he was faithful in his duties. But Jesus is a SON in the household and therefore deserves more glory because as a son, He is the heir to the household. He is the owner!

The author then says that we (people) ARE God’s household. Our choice is that we can follow Moses who is a servant in God’s household, or we can follow Jesus, who is a son in God’s household. Which person makes more sense to follow?

It’s at this point that the author references the warnings from Psalm 95.

The warning can be paraphrased as follows:

    • We must listen to God’s voice today
    • Don’t harden your hearts as the Israelites did when they rebelled (see the Psalm 95 blog post here to read about the incident in which the Israelites rebelled against God)
    • The consequence for their rebellion was that they were not allowed to enter into God’s rest – they were not allowed to enter the promised land.

Starting in verse 12, the author of Hebrews begins to unpack the warning of Psalm 95 a bit more, demonstrating the implications of how the warning applies to his readers.

Remember, the recipients of this letter were being tempted to forsake Jesus as the object of their faith and trust for salvation and revert back to the Old Testament legal system, with its many rules and regulations as a means of achieving a righteous standing before God.

The author then elaborates on the warning, saying:

    • Make sure your hearts are not evil and unbelieving
    • This results in turning away from God
    • You must warn each other so that you won’t be deceived by sin and hardened against God
    • This hardening results in a lack of trust in God (unbelief)
    • Unbelief is characterized by disobedience

So the pattern is as follows: sin, hardening (lack of openness to God), distrust, disobedience.

When this pattern fully develops into disobedience, we will no longer experience the benefits of God’s rest. All of the benefits Jesus wants us to experience now as His beloved children and followers will fail to materialize.

How do we avoid the hardening, distrust, disobedience cycle?

It starts with listening to His voice, a command the author reiterates again in verse 15.  When we listen to His voice, we learn who He is and we learn to trust Him. We also learn what He wants from us and we learn how to follow Him.

When we don’t listen to His voice, it means that we’re listening to another voice, whether it’s our own or that of the culture or someone else. At that point, we’re no longer following God but we’re following ourselves.

How then do we listen to God’s voice?

It’s possible God may audibly speak to you but I would say that is not typical. The primary way in which God speaks to us today is through His word, the Scriptures. If you want to listen to God’s voice, to know Him and understand what He expects, then read the Scriptures. It’s through God’s word that we understand what is sin and what isn’t. It’s through His word that we understand who He is and who He isn’t.

If we fail to appeal to God’s word as our means of listening to His voice, it is quite likely we will be deceived by sin. We will begin to follow our own ideas about what we think is right and wrong. We may even attribute our new moral values to God Himself. Indeed, it’s quite common today for people to reject certain moral standards from the bible and replace them with more updated, contemporary values that speak to today’s cultural norms.

It is also common for these same people to claim to be God worshipers and Christ-followers. But if they are creating their own morality while rejecting what God explicitly says, they are in effect, creating their own version of God. This is the modern day equivalent of idol worship. I wrote about this in a previous post here.

This is deception, which leads to a hardening of the heart, which is characterized by not listening to God. This results in unbelief which is characterized by disobedience.

This cycle is alluring and it’s easy to fall into, which is why the author exhorts the audience to “warn each other every day”.

We are ALL susceptible to deceiving ourselves and falling into this religious trap.

Hence, the author says again in verse 15, “Never forget the warning”!

Reflection

In what ways are you tempted to harden your heart towards God?

What are some examples in today’s culture where you see people forsaking biblical moral values and substituting them for something that seems to fit our current culture better?

The author says that those who reject God because of their unbelief will not enter God’s rest? What do you think that means? What would it look like to not enter God’s rest?

What are some ways you could heed the author’s warning and ensure that you are listening to His voice today?

What can you do to ensure that you don’t harden your heart towards God?

 

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

 

A Psalm With a Timely Warning!

Psalm 95

1Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation!

2Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise.

3For the LORD is a great God, the great King above all gods.

4He owns the depths of the earth, and even the mightiest mountains are his.

5The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

6Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,

7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!

8The LORD says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.

9For there your ancestors tried my patience; they courted my wrath though they had seen my many miracles.

10For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’

11So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
(Psalm 95:1-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

If you read through the Psalms regularly, you no doubt have certain psalms that become your favorites. Psalm 95 is one of my favorites because it praises God for who He is and what He’s done.

Here is a simple list of items to recognize about God from this psalm:

    • He is the ROCK of our salvation
    • He is a GREAT God
    • He is the KING above all gods
    • He owns the depths of the earth
    • He owns the mightiest mountains
    • The sea belongs to Him because He created it
    • He also created the land
    • The Lord made US as well
    • The Lord is OUR God
    • He watches over us, His sheep

Though there are plenty of reasons to praise God, this psalm also comes with a command and a caution.

The command is to “listen to His voice today!”

The caution is that we not harden our hearts as the Israelites did at Meribah.

The reference here is to a situation that occurred in Exodus 17. The Israelites had been miraculously delivered from the Egyptians but found themselves wandering in the desert and doubting God’s motives and ability to provide. In the previous chapter they had complained about having a lack of food so God miraculously provided quail and manna for them to eat.

In Exodus 17, they found themselves thirsty with no visible source of water. Again, they complained to Moses and to God despite all of the miracles God had already performed to demonstrate His ability and desire to provide for His people.

In this psalm, the Lord gives the caution that we should heed as well. Despite the Lord’s miracles that we’ve seen in our own lives, we are all susceptible to a hardening of our hearts. This hardening will often come in times of distress or struggle, when things are not going the way we want. In those times, it’s easy to question whether God is there or whether He cares!

These words are especially timely, given all that’s happened this last year. It’s a reminder that God is still great. He’s still the king of all gods. He’s still the rock of our salvation. And He’s still the creator of all that we see, including US!

Therefore, God deserves our praise, even if our own personal circumstances aren’t what we would hope or desire.

Reflection

What are some times in your life where you’ve been tempted to harden your heart and question God or even doubt His existence? What were the circumstances?

What are some practical things you can do to avoid a hardening of your heart?

Besides the list from this psalm, what are some of God’s other attributes and actions that make Him worthy of our praise?

God’s command in this passage is to “listen to His voice today!” What are some ways you are able to listen to God’s voice? How do you typically hear the Lord’s voice?

 

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash