No More.

Bible, Christian Living, Christianity, Hebrews

“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14

No More Sacrifices (vv.11-13)

The author opens this passage by presenting us with a description of the high priests. We are told the priests are standing in the tabernacle every day, performing the same sacrifices again and again. The reason for this repetition is simple: the animal sacrifices that the priests offered were not enough to fix our sinful natures. Because of this, the priests’ work never ended. They had to continually stand and offer sacrifices that would act as temporary fixes for our sins.

All of this changes with Christ. After Jesus offered Himself as the perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice, He proved definitively that the work of atonement was completed by sitting down. Christ sat down to show no more work had to be done, or sacrifices to be made, to accomplish our salvation. The author reminds us that Christ sat down at God’s right hand, and it is there where He sits today, advocating on our behalf before the Father.

No More Sinful Natures (14-16)

God promised the prophet Jeremiah that there would come a day when He would make a new covenant with His people and give them new hearts. God said that He would write His law upon these new hearts and remember the sins of His people no more. The author of Hebrews has made it quite clear that Christ’s death was the beginning of this new covenant, and that His sacrifice has allowed us to obtain these new hearts. By being the perfect sacrifice, Christ removed our sinful natures, and He covers us in His righteousness so that we can be justified before God. The author is quick to remind us, though, that while the work of our salvation has been completed, the work of making us holy (sanctification) is an ongoing process. Sanctification is a process that we will be going through for the rest of our lives, but it is a necessary part of Christian life. It is through this daily process that we become more and more molded and conformed to the will of Christ, and better able to live as His people.

No More Shame (17-18)

The most wonderful news the author presents to us in this passage is the news that we have no more shame. Earlier in chapter 10, we read that the old covenant sacrifices served to continually remind the people of their sins and shame. This was intentional, for God wanted to point us toward the new covenant that was coming. The author of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah 31 to remind us of the glorious news that we have no more shame under the new covenant. Once we have been saved and our sins are forgiven, God remembers our transgressions no more. Christ bore all of our sins and our shame upon the cross. He took those things away from us to free us from the feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness that shame gives us. Now, as believers, we have a new identity in Christ, one that has been made spotless and pure by His blood. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are no longer defined by our shame; we are instead defined by His righteousness.

The news presented by the author to us is incredible, but it is also demanding. Christ has done so much for us: He has taken away our sin and shame, He has justified us, and He has begun sanctifying us. As such, we must live differently. We must be conformed every day to His will. The sanctification process assures us of our salvation. With that in mind, we must evaluate our lives and be sure that the life we are leading is a life that is being molded to Christ’s will.

Artwork: “Jesus, Man of Sorrows,” Peter Howson, 2006

Christ’s Obedience, Our Salvation.

Bible, Christianity, Religion

“He then says, ‘See, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first to establish the second. By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.” Hebrews 10:9-10 

In Hebrews 10, we see the author of Hebrews continuing to discuss the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice to those of the old covenant. In this passage, the author tells us that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take our sins away. The inferiority of the old sacrifices was demonstrated by the fact that they had to be renewed each year. Had these sacrifices been able to cure us of our sin, the author tells us that there would have been no need for them to be renewed again and again. Repeating the sacrifices each year served only to remind the people of their sins and their need for a savior.

To further support this point, the author quotes Psalm 40, in which the Messiah is speaking to God. In that passage, the Messiah says, “You did not want sacrifice and offering…You did not delight in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings,” ( 5-6). This means that God takes no pleasure in the ritualism and methods of our worship; there is something more meaningful to God that He takes pleasure in. What is it, then, that God prefers more than our rituals? It is our obedience. This is demonstrated by Christ; He came into this world with one purpose: to do God’s will. Christ never strayed from doing God’s will, even when doing so required Christ to die on the cross. Christ was perfectly obedient, and His commitment to obedience allowed the new covenant to be enacted. Christ’s obedience saved us and freed us from the cycle of sin and shame that we were stuck in under the Law.

What does this mean for us? It means that our lives must be committed to obeying God. If we profess to be followers of Christ, then we must be like Christ, and we cannot begin to be like Christ if we are not obeying God in every area of our lives. As Christians, our sole motivation and purpose must be to obey God and live as He has called us to live. Obedience is the hallmark of an authentic follower. We must make sure that our actions, thoughts, views, and interactions reflect our obedience to Christ. Our actions reveal our hearts, and nothing will expose the inauthentic follower than a lack of obedience. God doesn’t desire our sacrifices, songs, or good works–He wants our hearts and obedience. Are we giving that to Him?

Artwork: “Christ’s Entry in Jerusalem,” Hippolyte Flandrin, c. 1842

Outwardly Clean, Spiritually Dead.

Bible, Christianity, Hebrews

“But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.  The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing.  This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience. They are physical regulations and only deal with food, drink, and various washings imposed until the time of restoration.” Hebrews 9:7-10

In the outset of Hebrews 9, we find the author discussing the differences between the old and new covenants. To help us recognize and better understand these differences, the author goes into a detailed discussion of the tabernacle structure and the ancient Israelite worship regulations. This might seem to be an unusual approach, but the author does so to prove to us two crucial points. First, the author wants us to understand that, under the old covenant, we had no direct access to God. Secondly, the author wants us to realize that the old covenant’s regulations were never enough to give us salvation.
In verses 1-8, the author describes the tabernacle’s layout, the items inside the tabernacle, and the high priests’ duties on the Day of Atonement. The author explains these things to show us why we need a new covenant with God. Under the regulations of the old covenant, we had no direct access to God. There was always a barrier between Him and us, and this is illustrated by the veil within the tabernacle. The veil separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the tabernacle. Though the tabernacle represented God’s presence with Israel, His space was isolated and cut-off from the people. No one could enter into the Holy of Holies on their own terms and approach God’s presence. Even the high priest was prohibited from going into God’s space other than on the Day of Atonement. There was no way for humanity to approach God other than the ways God prescribed.
Under the terms of the old covenant, we were separated from God. This is not because God was uncaring or aloof; instead, it was for our protection. Humanity needed this separation and needed these worship regulations so that we would not haphazardly approach God. We are sinful beings, and God cannot be in the presence of sin. His nature is so perfectly holy that His presence would kill us if we were to approach Him while still infected with sin. But because God loves us, and because He wants to draw us near to Him, He showed us how we could have a relationship with Him. He gave Israel the Law to show them how they could appropriately worship Him and live accordingly as His people. The Law provided a path to follow so that Israel could survive with God in their midst.
But there was a problem with the Law, and the author of Hebrews points this out to us. The Law only dealt with external things; it did nothing to change our hearts or change our sinful nature. The offerings and regulations of the Law could not give us clean hearts or clear consciences. Something better had to come; a better sacrifice and a better covenant had to be given so that our hearts would be changed. Something had to change so that we could have direct access to God. All of these things would be achieved in Christ.
Christ has done away with the divide between God and us. Christ has gone behind the veil and given us direct access to the Father. Christ has given us His righteousness so that we can freely and boldly approach the Father whenever we need to do so. Now, when we approach the Father, God no longer sees sinners deserving of condemnation and wrath. Because of Christ, the Father now sees us as His children, who have been redeemed and bought by Christ’s blood.
Christ gives us the direct access to God that we needed. Christ changes us so that we may approach the Father with reverence, but without fear. Most importantly, Christ enables us to live as the people of God. No Law could ever do that; none of our works could ever achieve this. Only Christ and His blood could do this for us. Because of this, we must stop trusting in things other than Christ, and we must put the entirety of our hope and faith in Christ alone.

Artwork: skeleton image by Adreas Veselius from his “Fabric of the Human Body,” 1543.

Blueprint of a Better Covenant.

Bible, Christianity, Hebrews

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” Hebrews‬ ‭8:1-2‬ ‭

In Hebrews 8, we see the author’s focus shift toward discussing the new covenant that Christ enacted for us. The author tells us that Christ is qualified to be the high priest of this new covenant because He serves in the true tabernacle in heaven, and not in the earthly tabernacle which is only a “sketch and a shadow” of its heavenly counterpart. The earthly tabernacle serves only to give us a glimpse of what we will see when we are in God’s presence in heaven.

In this same fashion, God’s old covenant with Israel is but a sketch, or a blueprint, of the covenant that He would make with us through Christ. To support this position, the author quotes Jeremiah 31, a passage in which God explains the new covenant’s coming. But before we can understand the new covenant, we must first understand the old covenant that preceded it.

After God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, He led them to Mt. Sinai. At Sinai, God gave Israel the Law, and He told them that He had called them to be His people and that He would be their God. Israel would show their commitment to keeping the covenant by keeping God’s commandments. But this proved to be a problem, for Israel could never live up to these terms. They were never able to live according to God’s standard. As soon as they settled in the Promised Land, there arose a generation who did not know the Lord. From there, the situation only became worse. With each generation, Israel strayed further and further from the Lord. By the prophet Jeremiah’s time, God had decided it was time to make a new covenant.

In Jeremiah 31, the passage that the author of Hebrews quotes from, God tells Jeremiah that this new covenant would not be like the previous one, it would be better. God ensured that the new covenant would be better by vowing to fix the old covenant’s major flaw—us. Israel could never keep the law and keep the covenant because of their fallen nature. They were sinful beings, just the same as we are today. They couldn’t keep the law because their sinful nature made them incapable of doing so.

But God would do something different in the new covenant; He would change us. To ensure the success of the new covenant, God would change our human nature. He would give us new hearts upon which He has written His law. He would fill us with His spirit, and He would make us capable of living up to His standard and being His people. When God brings us to Himself through Christ, He makes us new creatures who seek only Him.

Living as the people of God requires us to be incredibly honest about what is in our hearts. We cannot be God’s people if we are still holding on to things from our old lives and from our old, sinful hearts. We must thoroughly examine our hearts, and if we see that we are holding on to sin, we must humbly go before God and ask for His forgiveness. We must pray that He remove that sin from us, and we must ask that He give us the strength we need to live as He calls us to live.

Guaranteed To Be Better.

Bible, Christianity, Hebrews

“So Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.”  Hebrews 7:22.

There are so very few guarantees in life. In this world, things break, become obsolete, or fail to live up to our expectations. Because of this, we often demand quality guarantees, money-back guarantees, repairs guaranteed, or even satisfaction guarantees. We recognize just how temporary things are in this life, and we are constantly looking for reassurance and peace of mind that things will be repaired or corrected when everything in our lives begin to fall apart. Try as we might, we cannot find in this world anything that will give us the hope and comfort that we are searching for. We can find nothing that comes close to the sort of guarantee we so desperately crave.

Or can we?

At the end of Hebrews 7, the author reveals to us that there is a guarantee that will give us hope, comfort, confidence, and peace of mind. It is the salvation guarantee that God gives us through Jesus. 

The author has been building to this point throughout Hebrews, and especially in chapter seven. We have seen how Christ is superior to the priests of Levi and Aaron. We have seen how the Law and the priesthood were designed to make us understand how dependent we are upon God’s mercy, and how these things point us to the Gospel and to Christ. We have seen that we are under a new Law–the Law of Grace–and that we now have a new priesthood with a new high priest, who is none other than Christ. 

At the end of chapter seven, the author reveals to us why God has enacted all these new things; the author finally tells us what this is all building up to. The author tells us that God has created a new covenant, and that this new covenant would be the one through which He redeems the world and brings humanity back to Himself.

To prove that this new covenant was superior to the old covenant, God sent us Christ. Jesus is the guarantee that this covenant is the final covenant, the perfect covenant. By shedding His blood to atone for us, Christ sealed this guarantee. God gave us His word that this covenant would bring us back to Him, and Christ delivered upon this guarantee by giving His life for us. 

God has given us the only guarantee that we will ever need. He has guaranteed our salvation, but this guarantee is only valid for those who place their faith and trust in Christ. Jesus is the only one through whom people can come to God. With this guarantee from God, we have all the hope and comfort we could ever desire. Why would we dare seek guarantees anywhere else?

Artwork: “Suffering of Jesus,” Vladomir Stevanoic

Promises, Promises.

Christianity, Hebrews, Religion
Gravestone St. Domitilla catacomb in Rome depicting two fish anchored to the anchor of hope. Courtesy of https://earlychurchhistory.org/

“Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure.” Hebrews 6:17-19

In Hebrews 6, we read some of the author’s most reassuring words. These words of hope and comfort come in the middle of a discussion of the eternal and unchanging nature of God’s promises. Here, we see the author demonstrate how faithful God is to keep His promises by using Abraham’s example. We are reminded of how God kept His promise to bless Abraham with many descendants. This stands as a reminder to us that God will also keep His promises to us.

What are the promises that God is going to keep to us? They are His promises to redeem us from sin, to offer us forgiveness, to make us His people. They include Christ’s promises to never leave us nor forsake us, to be with us each and every day until the end of time, and to return for us to take us to be with Him in heaven. These are the promises that will be kept to us. The author reminds us that these promises give us hope and that they anchor our souls.

The imagery of an anchor is especially important in this passage. Think about what an anchor is used for–they used to keep a boat from being blown off course or blown into danger during a storm. When the seas rage and the storms overwhelm the boat, the anchor holds the boat steady. This is what Christ does for us; He holds us steady during life’s trials and troubles. He is with us in the midst of the storms. Our anchor is securely fastened to His throne of mercy, and He secured it there when He blazed a trail through the heaven. Regardless of what we might encounter in this life, our anchor will hold firmly.

It is important to point out that Christ did not promise us smooth sailing, nor did He promises is a comfortable life. Christ did not promise us health, wealth, or prosperity. Christ did not promise us happiness. Many people started believing these things along the way, but these are not promises that Christ ever made. These are lies that were fabricated by false teachers.

The promises that Christ made are more important and more incredible than comfortable living, health, wealth, prosperity, and happiness. He promised to be with us and to hold us amid life’s storms. He called upon us to be willing to give up our health, wealth, and prosperity for His sake, and in return, He promised to sustain us and provide for us each and every day. Christ has promised to bring us peace and comfort during the times when we have no happiness, when we are surrounded by pain and sorrow, and when our tears are drowning us. He has promised to give us a joy that endures even the darkest days. Christ promised to anchor us throughout everything we endure, and this promise will never be broken.

Milk and Maturity.

Christianity, Hebrews, Religion

” We have a great deal to say about this, and it’s difficult to explain, since you have become too lazy to understand.  Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food.  Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity…” Hebrews 5:11-6:1.

In chapters 5 and 6, the author of Hebrews takes a brief pause from discussing the topic of Jesus being our high priest. This break comes because the author is worried about the people receiving this letter. The author feels that the people have stopped growing spiritually and that they are not ready to hear this vital lesson. 

The author believes that it is in the best interest of the people to make them aware of their spiritual apathy and to encourage them to seek growth. The people are told to stop being content with spiritual “milk” because such things are for “infants” or new believers. Instead, these believers have been following Christ long enough that they should have progressed on to “meat,” or to more profound and more meaningful spiritual lessons. The author goes as far as to let the Hebrew believers know that many of them should have become teachers by now, but they haven’t because they’ve chosen to stop growing. These believers have refused to graduate from the spiritual nursery instead of growing deeper spiritually and helping to train the next generation of Christ-followers.

This is a trend that the author of Hebrews desperately wishes to correct. The author does so by giving a clear call to grow up. The author tells the believers to “leave the elementary things,” or the basic things, behind and to move on to maturity. The Greek word for “move on” is phero, and this word means “to be carried, as by a boat.” Phero is where we get the English word “ferry” from, and this conveys an important point to us. We do not press on to maturity under our own strength or power. Instead, we are ferried to maturity by Christ and the Holy Spirit. 

We cannot make ourselves grow; only Christ can. The only thing we can do is to get in the boat with Him and allow Him to steer us toward maturity. Once we get in the boat, He will enable us to grow, and then we will be ready to do the work before us. When we begin growing toward maturity, and when we start seeking meat instead of milk, we can start teaching others how they might do so. But we can do none of this if we do not first leave the nursery and get in the boat.

Artwork: “Glass of Milk,” by Verrier.

High Priests.

Christianity, Hebrews, Religion

“After He was perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him,” Hebrews 5:9.

Starting in Hebrews 5, the author spends a lot of time explaining how Christ is our high priest. Though the concept of a high priest is somewhat foreign today, it was the most sacred and holy position within the Hebrew religious system. This one person, the high priest, acted as the mediator–the go-between–between God and the people. This seems worlds away from us today, and in many ways it is, and it is easy to wonder why this is important; it is easy to wonder why we need a high priest in the first place. But, if we take the time to understand why we need a high priest, we better understand the work that Christ did for us, and we develop a better understanding of the Gospel.

We need a high priest because of sin. Due to the fall in the garden, we are not good, we are not just, we are not righteous. We are all fallen. Our fundamental nature is to seek sin instead of seeking God, and because of this, we are separated from God. Due to sin and this separation, we are deserving of God’s wrath, and we are awaiting the penalty of death. As if this wasn’t bad enough already–not only are we separated from God, but we are also unable to approach God because of our sins. This means that, even if we were somehow to desire to begin pursuing God, we would not be able to come near Him because He is holy and we are not. Even simply entering into His holy presence in our sinful state would destroy us. Furthermore, we are incapable of cleansing ourselves of our sins.

So we need someone righteous, we need someone who is just to speak on our behalf to God. We need a mediator who can bridge the divide between God and us, and we need someone who can cleanse our sins for us because there is no way that we can do this on our own.

Here’s the beautiful thing, here’s the thing that defies all the logic of this world: even though we have chosen to turn away from God, even though we actively rebel against Him and we chose sin at every opportunity, God still gave us that mediator. He gave us a way to have our sins cleansed and forgiven and removed from us.

God first did this when He called Israel to be His people. He called for them to be a nation of priests that would show other people how to live. God then gave Israel the Law. The Law was the standard that clearly defined what He says is right and wrong. God gave Israel the Law so that humankind would know what is good and what is evil. No more would humanity be choosing for ourselves what is good and what isn’t. No more would we be doing what we began doing in the garden. With the Law, we would know once and for all what is right and what is wrong.

Along with the Law, God gave Israel the sacrificial system. He did so because He knew that regardless of how hard we might try, we humans can’t stop sinning. This is important, because we can’t stop sinning, and the penalty for sin remains death.

 As foreign and old-fashioned as it sounds, as barbaric as it seems, the sacrificial system is a sign of God’s mercy. It is a show of God’s compassion. He allows us to keep our lives despite our sins. God allowed our sins to be transferred to another creature, to a tiny lamb without blemish, and the lamb’s blood would cover the price of our sins. We have to remember that sin requires death, and though our sins require our lives to be taken, God allowed the life of the slain lamb to satisfy our debt. Within this system, who was it that was in charge of making these sacrifices? Who was it who did the dirty work of killing the lamb? Whose hands would be the ones to get blood? Who would be the one to go into God’s presence on our behalf to offer atonement for us? It was the high priest.

The high priest’s sole duty was to be righteous so that he could offer sacrifices to atone for our lack of righteousness.

But here’s the catch–the high priest was from among the people. He was one of the people, which meant that he, too, was not able to always be righteous. He, too, would struggle and succumb to sin. Because of the priest’s flawed human nature, the atonement he offered wasn’t final–it wasn’t perfect, it had to be continually reapplied.

The atonement that the earthly high priest offered was the same as suffering from a terminal disease and being treated only with band-aids. It did nothing to get to the root of the problem; it was only a most temporary fix.

When we start to understand it that way, we realize that the earthly high priest and the sacrificial system were never intended to be the solution. Instead, they were designed to point us to the solution. These things were to lead us to the Messiah, to the Priestly King, who was the son of God. The high priest pointed us to the one who could make perfect the work of salvation. It led us to the one who could offer eternal and everlasting atonement, to the one who could cure us of our sinful nature.

The high priest and the sacrificial system pointed us to one who could be the truly righteous mediator between God and us. The high priest’s purpose was to point us to the greater high priest who was to come, to the one who could offer eternal atonement and salvation.

Christ did just this. He accomplished this very thing: He is the superior high priest, the eternally righteous priest who could make atonement for us. He made this ultimate atonement. He paid the price that our sins required, not by offering sacrifices of unblemished lambs, but by living an unblemished life. He did so by never straying from God’s standard of good and evil, by being completely and totally obedient to God, by never sinning, and by dying in our place. Our sins required our lives, but Christ gave His life in our place. By giving his life for us, Christ bridged the divide between God and us. He became the perfect mediator that we needed.

When He rose from the grave, He proved that death and sin had finally been defeated and He showed that all who listen and submit to Him can have eternal forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

So, the answer to our question is this: we need a high priest because we could never have done any of this for ourselves. We could never have accomplished this for ourselves. Because of this fact, we must trust in the high priest who accomplished salvation and atonement for us.

Artwork: “Aaron and the Seven-Branched Candlestick from Exodus, Marc Chagall, 1966.

Work Hard for the Rest.

Christian Living, Christianity, Hebrews, Religion
“Rest” 1956 Reginald Brill

“Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us fear that none of you should miss it. For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith.” Hebrews 4:1-2

In Hebrews 4, we see the author continue using the example of Israel’s failure in the wilderness to underscore the importance of being steadfast in our belief. Just like Israel, we have also had the “good news” of God’s rest promised to us, but the author tells us that Israel’s failure was that they did not have faith in what they heard. This lesson is an important one for us to learn: hearing the good news preached is useless if we do not believe what we hear. The author of Hebrews wants us to understand that we must have both belief and faith.  While this sounds simple enough, what does it mean?

Today we use the words “belief” and “faith” in ways that are very different from the way we see them used in the Bible. We might use either term to describe something that we think might happen or what we want to happen. Still, neither of these uses reflects Biblical belief or faith. In the Bible, to believe in something means that you put the entirety of your hope, trust, and confidence in that thing. It means you believe in that thing with the fullness of your being. When we say we believe in Christ, what we are honestly saying is that we have put all of our hope, confidence, and trust for our salvation in Him. Faith is related to this; faith is the living out of the belief we profess. Biblical faith involves living a life that reflects the things we believe. It means living in a way that shows we truly do mean what we say we believe. Faith is putting our belief into practice; it means we walk the walk, and we talk the talk. As we all know, if you want to know what a person truly thinks or believes, you watch how they act. The same is true for us as well; if you want to see if a person truly believes in Christ, you see if their actions reflect that belief.

The author of Hebrews calls on us to work hard to enter the rest that God has prepared for us. We must be diligent in living out the belief we profess to have. We must commit every day to live by faith so that we do not develop evil hearts and fall into unbelief as Israel did. 

The author also reminds us that God’s word is living and active, and is sharper than a double-edged sword. When we hear God’s word, when we read the Bible, those words are acting on us. They are piercing us to our souls and searching the thoughts and motives of our hearts. God knows if our talk matches our walk; we cannot hide anything from Him. If we are hiding things in our hearts, if we are holding on to things that we should not be holding on to, God will use His word to convict us. We cannot ignore this conviction. We must not harden our hearts to it. God does not convict us so that He can shame us or belittle us; He convicts us so that we can let go of the things that are leading us away from Him and so we can repent of those things. The conviction we feel from God is how He helps us stay on the path that leads to the rest that He wants us to have.

Loved Ones, we must honestly look at ourselves and be sure that our walk matches our talk. We must acknowledge and listen to the conviction we might feel when confronted with God’s word. We must examine our hearts and allow God to rid them of the things that will lead us away from Him. We must work hard each day to faithfully live out our belief in Christ. If we do this, we will one day enjoy the rest that God has prepared for us.

The Cost of Unbelief.

Christianity, Hebrews, Religion

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭3:12‬ ‭

In Hebrews 3:1-6, we read how the author of Hebrews argued for Jesus’ superiority to Moses. Beginning in verse 7, however, we see a shift in the author’s focus. The author takes a detour from discussing Israel’s greatest leader, Moses, and instead discusses Israel’s greatest failure. This shift is intentional. The author uses the cautionary tale of Israel’s sin in the wilderness to highlight the importance of holding fast to our belief in Christ.

Once again, we see the author of Hebrews dig deeply into the Old Testament to present scripture to support the importance of belief. In verses 7-11, the author quotes from Psalm 95. This particular psalm is a re-telling of the story of Israel’s rebellion and refusal to enter the Promised Land. We find this story first presented in Numbers 14. To understand the message of Psalm 95, we must understand the events of Numbers 14. So let’s take a moment to discuss those events.

In Numbers 14, we find the Israelites and Moses on the border of the Promised Land. They had come through the Exodus. They spent a year at Sinai. Now, they are on the threshold of entering into the land that God reserved for them. Moses sent twelve spies into the land to check it out, and the spies returned to Moses after forty days. Ten of the spies did not think that Israel could take the land. They did not believe that God would keep His promise to give them the land, even though He had already repeatedly told Israel that He would. These ten evil spies convinced the rest of Israel not to go into the Promised Land, and Israel rebelled against God and Moses. Israel rebelled and fell into unbelief, and they fell away from God. The results of this rebellion were disastrous for Israel. They would not be allowed to go into the Promised Land. They would have to wander in the desert for 40 years until the rebellious generation died. This is the story we see re-told in Psalm 95, and this is the story that the author of Hebrews uses to drive home the importance of belief.

The author introduces the quote from Psalm 95 in an interesting way, saying that the psalm’s words are the words of the Holy Spirit. The author of Hebrews says that the Holy Spirit is currently speaking these words today through the Scriptures. When we read the Bible, we hear God’s Spirit speaking to us. What is it that the Spirit is saying to us in Psalm 95? It is an urgent plea to learn from the tragic mistake of Israel’s rebellion and to not fall into the same trap. The Spirit tells us to listen to God’s voice today and not to harden our hearts as Israel did. 

In verse 12, the author adds another plea, one that calls upon us not to beware of having evil hearts. The word used there for “evil” can mean “bad” or “wicked,” but it can also mean “full of toil, labor, or annoyance.” We learn from this that the first step in falling into unbelief and rebelling against God is having a heart that is full of ingratitude. To combat developing such evil hearts, the author calls upon believers to encourage and exhort one another every day. The Greek word the author uses is parakaleo, which means “to encourage or admonish.” We are to encourage and, if need be, admonish our brothers and sisters every day so that they might not develop evil hearts. We are to keep each other focused upon God and not upon the toil and strife of this world.

The author presents the story of Israel’s rebellion against God to highlight to us the importance of holding on to our belief in Christ. Israel broke their covenant agreement with God and forfeited their right to enter the Promised Land as the result of that rebellion. If their rebellion against God and Moses was so severe, how much more would the punishment be for those who rebel against the one who is greater than Moses–Christ? If they lost their right to enter the Promised Land, what might we lose if we fall away into unbelief? 

We must learn from this cautionary tale, and we must hold tightly to the belief that we have placed in Christ. We cannot be distracted by the toil of this world, nor can we become ungrateful. We must focus on the spiritual health of our hearts, and we must be committed to encouraging our brothers and sisters to do the same thing. Though we are in the wilderness today, the Promised Land is just before us. We must be wholly devoted to following Christ so that we might enter into that special place that He has prepared for us.

Artwork: “Wanderer in the storm,” by Julius von Leypold, 1835