Harden not your Hearts
There were several warnings in the book of Hebrews. The first one is the danger of drifting because of neglect which is recorded in Chapter 2: 1-4. Our text today is the second warning which is doubting God’s Word which can result in hardening of hearts.
I. Serious Command (Heb. 3:7-11)
A. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
1.This is a serious warning to all believers in time of writing this letter and to all of us Christians today. It is authoritative for it came from the Holy Spirit. The word to day indicates a sense of urgency.
2. Faith and obedience to God’s Word is involved
a. If ye will hear his voice is a quotation from Ps. 95:7-11, which tells about the Israelites wilderness wandering after delivery from the Egyptian bondage.
God had delivered them from Egypt and supplied all their needs, showing His power in many signs and wonders. Israel saw all the miracles and benefited from it, but it did not bring them closer to God or make them trust Him more. They did not grow spiritually. In fact, just the opposite took place: they hardened their hearts against God, they murmured, and rebelled, even wants to go back to Egypt.
b. The Apostle Paul is drawing an analogy between the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness under Moses and the professing Jewish believers on his own day who is being tempted back into Jewish legalism.
B. Harden not your hearts (Heb. 3: 8 -10)
1. The danger is hardening of the heart, becoming stubbornly insensitive and rebellious against God. The following four things contribute to the hardening of the heart:
a. The heart is hardened when the Word of God is refused or neglected (Heb. 3:7-8).
b. The heart is especially in danger of being hardened during trials and difficulties. It was in the temptation in the wilderness that the Jews. hearts were hardened. It was when they were hungry (Ex. 16:1-2), when they were without water at times (Ex. 17:1-3), when the going was difficult in a great and terrible wilderness (Deut. 1:19), when they did not understand what was happening to them, when the food was not to their liking (Nu. 11:6). It was during these temptations that their hearts were hardened to God and toward their God-given leaders. This earthly life is a wilderness journey for every person, and it is important to guard the heart against becoming hardened against God because of difficult circumstances and things that we do not understand nor agree with. (Barnes)
c. The heart can be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). It has been said that sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and exact a greater price than you want to pay. Sin is deceitful. There is a great deal of deceitfulness in sin; it appears fair, but is filthy; it appears pleasant, but is pernicious; it promises much, but performs nothing. (Matthew Henry).
d. The heart can also be hardened because it does not agree with God s doctrine. Those who turned away from Jesus in John chapter 6 did so because they said His words were hard (Jn. 6:60, 66). They stumbled at His doctrine, because it did not agree with their own thinking. This is a great danger. (D. Cloud).
2. As in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness
a. The Jews provoked God in the wilderness by their unbelief, murmurings, ingratitude, and idolatry.
b. They tempted him there by distrusting his power and goodness so the places in which they murmured against him was called Massah and Meribah, Massah… (Ex. 17:7) can mean Strife, proving, tempting. Ye shall not tempt the Lord Your God, as ye tempted him in Massah (Deut. 6:16). And at… Massah… Ye provoked the Lord to wrath (Deut. 9:22). Meribah (Ex. 17:7) means contention, chiding.
c. Failure to hear and heed God’s word results in the hardening of the heart and a hard heart led to God’s judgment. When God speaks don’t put it off. If we fail to hear the word of God, He will not listen to our prayers and we cannot claim His promises.
d. Because of their unbelief a journey that would have taken just eleven days became forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They had more fear of the enemy than they had fear in God who saved them and showed them great miracles never seen before. They wasted their life in the wilderness
3. Forty years – The whole time during which they were passing from Egypt to the promised land. This may mean, either that they saw his works forty years, or that they tempted him forty years.
It was no coincidence that God gave Israel forty years to repent after Christ’s crucifixion before sending the Roman army under Titus in 70 A.D. to destroy Jerusalem and its temple.
4. The displeasure of God
a. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. (Heb. 3:10). Now notice God’s reaction to unbelief. The word for grieved is “prosochthizo” and carries the idea of “feeling indignant” and being “vexed with something irksome.” The idea is that God was exceedingly angry with Israel’s sin of unbelief. This was an ongoing sin for the Israelites.
b. Generation means race, or men of one age.
Illustration 1/Application: We Can’t Do without Him
There comes a time in the lives of believers and unbelievers alike when God seems expendable. Noting that things are going along quite well, man, including Christian man, feels quite willing to go it alone.
Man, no matter how powerful, can be humbled by the weather.by the falling snow, as Napoleon discovered when he invaded Russia, or by the lack of rain or excess of it, or by an unusually bitter winter.
Whenever natural catastrophe struck, the spiritual leaders of our Pilgrim forebears used the pulpits of New England to remind the people that God was at work behind every catastrophe, and that He still spoke not only by the still, small voice but also by the thunder, the snow, the hail, the absence of rain, and if necessary even by death.
The Pharaoh was given sign after sign by God, and one after the other the signs were ignored. It was not until the tenth sign came that the Pharaoh let God’s people go. Have we, too, hardened our hearts against God’s message? A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.
Illustration 2/Application: How Long Is One Generation?
A Bible generation is usually considered to be 35 years. It is one-half of a life span of 70 years. (Psalm 90:10)
Some believe a Bible generation could be 40 years. They say this because all the adults of the generation that left Egypt (except Caleb and Joshua) died during the 40-year wandering in the wilderness.
We find a strong definition in Job 42:16 “Job lived a hundred and forty years…even four generations.” Divide 140 by 4, and the result is 35. A Bible generation therefore is 35 years.
Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
II. They shall not enter into my rest. (Heb. 3:11)
A. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest. The Israelites grieved the Lord by their continuous disobedience. He is a God of love, but He can also be angry. He will not let sin go unpunished. God is referred to in Scripture as a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; 9:3, Heb. 12:29). Let us never forget that although God is loving, He is also a just and Holy God. Sin will bring God’s judgment. No wonder the Bible says, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:31)
1. Of those over the age of 20 when they departed from Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua entered the promised land
2. The rest, died in the wilderness!
B. The rest of Canaan
1. The earthly rest which God promised to give was life in the land of Canaan.
2. The application of this picture is to an individual’s spiritual rest in the Lord. A saved person should live a Spirit filled life, lived in holiness and truth, marked by joy, peace, victory over sin, etc.
3. While heaven will be the ultimate rest land, Christians are urged to seek Spiritual victory in this present life.
III. Take heed (Heb. 3:12 – 14)
A. We are exhorted to guard against evil heart of unbelief. This is the same as erring heart in Heb. 3:10, and a hardened heart in Heb. 3:8. It is a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
B. Exhort one another daily, encourage one another, to beware of spiritual hardening by sins deceitfulness. We must do it constantly. This is not just the duty of ministers but all members of the church.
C. Stedfast unto the end. Hold fast your first confidence until the end, meaning, persevere. We must continue in the faith, keep listening to God’s voice and to obey. The Lord Jesus Christ has faithfully performed His work as Saviour, so our part as children of God is to believe and keep on believing no matter what happens.
IV. Dangers of Unbelief (Heb. 3:15-19)
A. Psalm 95:7-8 is again mentioned, why? Because of its importance.
B. All those who came out of Egypt were punished (save Joshua and Caleb)! Though led by Moses, they still rebelled!
C. Theirs was the sin of unbelief (verses 12, 18, 19).
D. Their judgment is death. Their carcases fell in the wilderness. They failed to enter the promise land.
E. Refusal to believe God is equivalent to declaring God to be a liar. Unbelief will exclude millions of people from heaven. Unbelief prevents Christians from enjoying what God has for them in Christ. It deprives them of joy, peace, and power. God is not to blame if we miss out on these things; the fault lies on our unbelief.
Illustration 3/Application: Faith and Unbelief
Important lessons are given by this alternation of the two ideas of faith and unbelief, obedience and disobedience. Disobedience is the root of unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of further disobedience. Faith is voluntary submission within a person’s own power. If faith is not exercised, the true cause lies deeper than all intellectual reasons. It lies in the moral aversion of human will and in the pride of independence, which says, who is Lord over us? Why should we have to depend on Jesus Christ? As faith is obedience and submission, so faith breeds obedience, but unbelief leads on to higher-handed rebellion. With dreadful reciprocity of influence, the less one trusts, the more he disobeys; the more he disobeys, the less he trusts. Alexander Maclaren
Sins can never go unpunished. Our God is a God of love but He can also be an angry God. Our duty now as Christians is to obey. We must guard our hearts, exhort one another, and be stedfast on our faith. Let¡¯s avoid the mistake committed by the Exodus generation Israelites who hardened their hearts.