Contributor: Okwudili Prince-Isaac
The backdrop centres around the rest promised by God to His people, and the dangers/consequences of disobedience and apostasy (the falling off from the faith), as cited from what God had declared through King David in Ps.95:7-11. We are encouraged to lovingly and caringly exhort each other daily and to take special care against “an evil heart of unbelief” so that sinning in whatever form will not harden our hearts. Because it is so easy to become like those people of old and repeat their mistakes, we must hold firmly onto the faith that we started out with.
SUB-THEMES (Verses 7-9)
“7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.” (NIV)
In the verse preceding our Text (verse 6), the writer strongly admonished the Hebrews (Us) to “hold fast the confidence …firm unto the end”. The apostle proceeds in pressing upon them serious counsels and cautions; and he recites a passage out of Ps. 95:7 as an anchor for his exhortation.
3) REFERENCED EXAMPLES
4) GOD’S RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT
5) BE ON YOUR GUARD/WATCH OUT
1. COUNSEL: What he counsels them to do— be prompt and give present attention to the call of Christ. "Hear his voice, assent to, approve of, and consider, what God in Christ speaks unto you; apply it to yourselves with appropriate affections and single-mindedness. We ought to set about it in the present (i.e. this very day), for to-morrow it may be too late.’’
2. CAUTION: We are cautioned against—hardening our hearts, turning the deaf ear to the calls and counsels of Christ: "When he tells you of the evil of sin, the excellency of holiness, the necessity of receiving him by faith as your Saviour, do not shut your ear and heart against such a voice as this.’’ Take note that in this case, the hardening of our hearts give impetus to all our other sins.
3. REFERENCED EXAMPLES: Reference is made to that remarkable encounter at Massah Meribah, (Ex. 17:2-7) —that of the Israelites fathers in the wilderness. This incidence is commonly referred to as the Provocation and Day of Temptation. Take note:
a) Days of temptation are often days of provocation.
b) To provoke God, when he is trying us, and letting us see that we entirely depend andlive immediately upon him, is a provocation with a witness. Deut. 8:2-3
c) The sins of others (sins and punishments), especially our relations, should be awarning to us, to deter us from following their evil examples.
Pertinent observations on the experience of the Israelite believers;
1. Their state of transition should have restrained them from sinning seeing that theywere brought of bondage but (still) in the wilderness i.e. not yet in Canaan.
2. Their sin? They tempted and provoked God because they distrusted Him, wenton to murmured against Moses. Simply, they rejected the voice of God.
3. Their miraculous deliverance out of Egypt, and their day-to-day support and supplyin the wilderness stood to testify of God goodness: but notwithstanding, theysinned in the wilderness, and continued so for forty years.
4. The source and spring of such aggravated sins, were,
a. Error: heart-errors manifested on their lips and actions.
b. Ignorance: Even though He walked before them, God’s ways, his providenceand precepts remained unknown to them.
4. GOD’S RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT (Verses 10-11)
“10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (NIV)
All sin, especially sin committed by God’s professing privileged people, does not only anger and affront God, but it grieves him.
a. Although the Lord greatly resented their sins, yet He exercised great patiencetowards them (v.10).
b. God is reluctant to destroy his people in or for their sin, he waits long to begracious to them.
c. God keeps an exact account sins and the ensuing grieves; ultimately, if thesesins continue to grieve the Spirit of God, these sins shall be made grievous to the sinner’s own spirits.
God passed an irreversible doom passed upon them at last. He swore in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest, (either of an earthly or of a heavenly Canaan).
a. Prolonged sinful behaviour will kindle the divine wrath, which will flame outagainst sinners.
b.God will swear in His wrath, (not rashly, but righteously). This wrath will be a righteous resolution to destroy the impenitent. No rest can be found under the wrath of God.
5. BE ON YOUR GUARD/WATCH OUT (Verses 12-13)
“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.” (NIV)
We are given serious caution on verse. 12, verse. 13, etc.
a. Be circumspect! Take heed. "Be upon your guard against enemies both withinand without; You see what kept many of your forefathers out of Canaan, andmade their carcasses fall in the wilderness; take heed lest you fall into the samesin and snare and dreadful sentence”. We are reminded that in as much as Christis head of the church, (a much greater person than Moses) our contempt of him
must be a greater sin than the Israelite’ contempt of Moses.
b. The predicament of the Israelites should be a warning to us who came afterthem; and should serve as an example (1 Co. 10:11 ).
c. Again, take heed! "Brethren, not only in the flesh, but in the Lord; brethren whom I love, and for whose welfare I labour and long.’’ Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. We note here that (i) unbelief is evil and a great sin, it mars the heart of man. (ii) an evil heart of unbelief is at the bottom of all our sinful departures from God; it is a leading step to apostasy (iii) if once we allow ourselves to distrust God, we may soon desert him. (iv) Christians that ‘think they stand firm’ should take heed lest they fall.
d. A helpful remedy (in addition to the cautions): against this evil heart of unbelief— is to exhort one another daily, while it is called today, v. 13.
We must maximize ‘today’ and exhort one another daily, against the dangers of being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. The time is short and uncertain, since to-morrow is not guaranteed. There is a great deal of deceitfulness in sin; it appears fair, but is filthy; it appears pleasant, but is evil; it promises much, but performs nothing. It can so harden the soul that one sin allowed prepares way for another; every act of sin confirms the habit leading to searing of the conscience. Let us beware.