3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 1: Hebrews

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

“For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?” – Hebrews 3:16

The last segment (although it will be about 20 sessions long) of this 3:16 Bible Study is Our Response. We have looked at what the Bible says about the state of the Human Condition, how God chose to reveal His plan of redemption and salvation through Scripture, how God worked to bring about the fulfillment of that plan, and now we turn to how we should act in response to these details.

This week we look at Hebrews 3:7-19. I wrote a post about this during my Hebrews study and you can read that here if you wish. The author of Hebrews begins in verses 7-11 by quoting Psalm 95:7-11.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

The author correctly identifies the Holy Spirit as the author of that Psalm, as He is of all of Scripture. The Psalm begins with a song of worship of God and then says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, …” It references, of course, the history of Israel being sentenced to wandering in the desert after continuing to rebel against God’s commands. It’s interesting to me that a psalm of praise turns so quickly to a warning about being disobedient to God’s voice. Yet, I think that simply confirms the fickleness of the human heart. The Israelites were worshipping God with their whole heart at the giving of the ten commandments, and yet in a very few days they had willfully abandoned Moses and returned to idolatry. It is this context that the author of Hebrews now turns.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

The author of Hebrews now turns to the people (Jews) of his day (1st century A.D.). By calling them “brothers”, he identifies his own Jewishness with them. I believe that the book of Hebrews is addressed to Jews who have not yet decided to believe in Jesus as their Messiah and is a treatise meant to call them to belief. The author, in verse 12, is admonishing them not to miss the opportunity of belief and obedience that God has placed before them to obey the new covenant established through Jesus.

Alternatively, if he is admonishing Jewish Christians, he is still warning them against harboring sin in their hearts. As Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says, “Where there are so many snares and dangers it is impossible to be too watchful and circumspect. Satan, as a roaring lion, as a subtle serpent, or in the guise of an angel of light, is momentarily going about seeking whom he may deceive, blind, and devour; and, when it is considered that the human heart, till entirely renewed, is on his side, it is a miracle of mercy that any soul escapes perdition: no man is safe any longer than he maintains the spirit of watchfulness and prayer; and to maintain such a spirit, he has need of all the means of grace. He who neglects any of them which the mercy of God has placed in his power, tempts the devil to tempt him.”

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

The author reminds us that “today” refers to our earthly existence. Christian or not, all humans will die (except those alive at Jesus’ return) and have a limited time on earth. After that death, we all will be held accountable for our choices to obey Jesus, or not. Clarke continues: “As a preventive of backsliding and apostasy, the apostle recommends mutual exhortation. No Christian should live for himself alone; he should consider his fellow Christian as a member of the same body, and feel for him accordingly, and have, succor, and protect him. When this is carefully attended to in religious society, Satan finds it very difficult to make an inroad on the Church; but when coldness, distance, and a want of brotherly love take place, Satan can attack each singly, and, by successive victories over individuals, soon make an easy conquest of the whole.”

Our response to God’s plan is not a one-time deal. We choose every day whether to obey Him or not. The author of Hebrews continues:

For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

The author makes another plea to consider and respond in faith to Christ. He then turns to the 3:16 verse in this passage.

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?

Those in the wilderness had many opportunities to trust God and obey him, but then they rebelled once too often and suffered eternal consequences. He continues on:

And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

It was ultimately their unbelief that was their doom. And that is the first response that God desires from us – BELIEVE! John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God.” To be a child of God means to believe God. That is the first step of obedience. If you are a non-believer, receive the gift of eternal life from Jesus and BELIEVE him when he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)”

If you are already a believer, I encourage you to daily continue making the choice to BELIEVE God. That’s what it means to live by faith. Some days it’s easy, and some days it’s harder. But through it all, consciously affirming to yourself and God that you BELIEVE Him serve to remind you that you are a His child.

But just saying that you BELIEVE assumes that you have something to believe in. This is why continual Bible Study and fellowship with other believers help to bolster your faith. You learn daily what it is you are believing God for and you gain an understanding of what it means to be His child. Don’t shirk your responsibility. Learn what He desires from you. As Psalm 95 said (paraphrased), “Worship the Lord, and then listen to His voice and OBEY”!

Next time we’ll take a look at Ephesians 3:16. See you then!

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