Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Holiness: Today - Harden Not Your Hearts!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Holiness: Today - Harden Not Your Hearts!

7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:7-19).

The book of Hebrews was written specifically to Jewish Christians who were about to go back to the Temple to continue in the sacrificial system intermixing the Old (Mosaic) Covenant practices with New Covenant faith. Its application for today’s Christianity is directed to anyone who makes a religious ritual or ceremony necessary to salvation or maintaining a holy relationship with God. Legalism focuses on the letter of the law and applies it externally rather than focusing on the spirit of the Law and yielding inwardly to the will of God. Today’s Christian seems to struggle with either legalism or libertarianism. They either think themselves spiritual because they keep a set of rules or they ignore God’s commandments and take all kinds of carnal liberties.

Up to this point in the book of Hebrews God has shown the complete superiority of the New Covenant in Christ and the total inferiority and abrogation of the Old (Mosaic) Covenant. Now He begins to give some very hard and serious warnings to these individuals and to anyone refusing to completely abandon Old Covenant types, rituals and practices. God equates what they are considering doing, what they are doing or what they might have done with some historical instances every individual familiar with the wilderness wanderings should be familiar with as well as the consequences of their failures.

These Jewish Christians were being careless about their beliefs. That in itself is a dangerous thing to do. What “the Holy Ghost” is trying to convince them of (Hebrews 3:7) is that if they in any way abandon the New Covenant for the Old Covenant they also abandon salvation itself showing their profession to be false.

The first thing we want to notice is the repetitive use of the term “today”. It is used in v.7, v.13, v.15 and twice in 4:7. The word “today” brings us out of the past and into the present. To God, obedience is always a “today” thing. Today is the only day of which we can be sure. Anything else presumes on a future that is unsure. The seriousness of the “today” admonition lies in the warning against abandoning a practical New Covenant faith for some externalistic form of Christianity. To do so constitutes apostasy and manifests a false profession of salvation.

These Hebrew believers were under enormous peer pressure and persecution by Apostate Israel to return to the Apostate beliefs and practices. They could believe in this Jesus if they wanted, just keep tithing to the Temple and keep offering sacrifices. This persecution and the threat of it, the loss of life, family and confiscation of all possessions was taking its toll. However, Scripture emphasizes that the kind of faith that saves is like gold when tried by fire. Trials only purify a real Christian.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6-7).

There is always a temptation to compromise. Compromising truth may be backsliding, but it also may be a simple revelation that your faith is not able to stand the test of trial by fire and that it isn’t real.

1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (II Corinthians 6:1-10).

The “harden not your hearts” admonition of Hebrews 3:8-9 is a serious warning to the professing Christian who refuses to acknowledge the reality of the God of the Bible and His involvement in their lives. This admonition tells those professing Christians to “today. . . hear his voice” (3:7). There is an urgency in it all. God’s patience is not without end. When a professing child of God compromises his Father’s commandments, he is walking on dangerous ground. When a professing child of God is willing to compromise with this world to avoid temporal persecution in exchange for present comfort, he may just find out that he will end up with eternal misery.

Have you ever known anyone who refused to stand apart from the world because he did not want to be ridiculed or socially ostracized for identifying with this radical Bible believing Christianity? They are everywhere. The question and warning of Scripture challenges the reality of their faith.

How does this type of professing Christian manifest his unbelief? He hardens his hearts like a flint against what he deems to be radicalism or fanaticism. Having to read his Bible all the time, praying before meals (even in public) and talking about Jesus all the time, my goodness that’s just too much to ask. God does not ask a person to do those things to be saved, but He expects it of those who say they are! God says we had better not harden our hearts to that. We had better listen to what the Spirit of God has to say to us today.

“When (in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness, v.8) your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years” Hebrews 3:8-9). This account is found in Exodus 17:1-7

1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? 3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? 4 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. 5 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not (Exodus 17:1-7)?

Because there was no water where Moses had led them, they were dying of thirst. They came and chided (complained) with Moses. They were angry, complaining and, according to v.4, they were ready to kill Moses. Moses (v.2) rightfully equated their complaining with tempting the Lord. Why? Because in their unbelief they (v.3) were accusing God (by accusing Moses). They said the only reason God brought them out of Egypt in the first place was to annihilate them with thirst.

Therefore, Moses renamed the place Maccah (Mas-saw'), which means temping or proving and M@riybah (Mer-ee-baw'), which means strife and contention. The heart that is harden against God often does foolish things. The heart that is hardened against God is not sensitive to the purposes of the trials He brings into our lives to test our willingness to trust Him and come to Him with our needs. The hardened heart sees God’s trials and commandments as interferences with our own personal goals in life or our own pursuit after the ambiguity of something called happiness.

God viewed this hardness to His working in their lives as trying Him. Real faith does not test God. Real faith trusts God. God wanted to see if they had real faith. Their actions revealed they did not. Their question, “Is the LORD among us or not ?” (v 7) revealed their lack of faith. Instead of appealing to God‘s grace in prayer and living in dependence on His will, they seek to manipulate God.

Their lives were more important to them than their relationship with God. That fact reveals just how temporal and earth bound their thinking was. Real faith takes our thinking outside the boundaries of this life. Real faith sees every trial and difficulty in life as another stepping-stone to eternity each bringing us one-step closer to God. When we cling to this life with whited knuckles, it only reveals how little faith we have in the eternity that is ours in Christ Jesus.

The warning of Hebrews 3:8-9 is that if you decide to try God by proving Him, you better be prepared to see His works. That generation did. God proved Himself and they saw His works for the next forty years as they continued to wander in that wilderness. For forty years God proved Who He was to them. Everything they could have had by continuing in faith was just across the river Jordan, but instead they wanted God to prove Himself. That was not faith that was unbelief.

Hebrews 3:10 tell us that God “was grieved with that generation.” The Hebrew word for grieving (this verse is quoted from Psalm 95:10, quwt [koot]) means to have a sense of loathing because of what they did. They disgusted God. It was at this point that God determined that this generation would not enter into His promised land.

Hebrews 3:12 continues the warning to every professing believer in all generations. The key word again is “departing.” It is from the Greek word aphistemi (af-is'-tay-mee). It means to withdraw yourself, to move away from or to be standoffish. Doing such a thing to God does not show faith, but rather “an evil heart of unbelief.” God is not talking about moral delinquency but spiritual rebellion. Why is it that some people just never get on board and live for Christ? Why is it that some people always walk on the edge? Why is it that some people think they can pick and choose which Scriptures they are willing to obey and which Scriptures they think are just too old fashioned? The answer is simple. They have “an evil heart of unbelief”!

18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:18-19).

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