Reference: Hebrews 3 & 4:13
The Torah or the laws were given to Israel at a time when they were a wandering nation, struggling to cope with their newfound freedom. These laws steered every action of the people of God by giving them guidelines on offerings and sacrifices and laws that helped them survive in the desert for forty years. These laws helped the people reach the promised land but they continued to abide by them even after the formation of their very own kingdom.
Similarly, the Jewish believers were on the cusp of another promised land and the author wanted to remind them that they had been given something greater than the laws during the last days. The coming of Jesus ushered in the works of the Spirit of God in new and profound ways. However, even after witnessing the mighty hand of God actively working in the church, many of the Jewish converts wanted to return to their old ways. Though they did not desire to go back to Egypt like their ancestors, they wished to be conformed to their laws and traditions without holding on to their convictions.
The Promised Land
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.Hebrews 3:1-3 (NIV)
Just like the builder of the house is greater than the house he has built, similarly, the foundation of the law is superior to the law itself. While Moses was a conduit who introduced the nation of Israel to the laws, Jesus was the very foundation on which those laws were built. Moses prophesied about things to come, like the Prophet who would be the Saviour of Israel but Christ is the fulfilment of those prophecies and not another medium.
Moses was faithful in the tabernacle that he built, however, only Jesus can reside in our hearts. Moses was only the caretaker of Israel, while Jesus is the heir to God’s kingdom. Through His ultimate sacrificial death on the cross (something that no man can even dare to emulate), Jesus has given all of us the opportunity to enter the promised land.
But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.Hebrews 3:6-7 (NIV)
The readers had all accepted Christ as their Messiah, but many were not backing down from their earlier beliefs and were constantly returning to the law for support. The word of God, just like the parable of the sower, has been planted in different types of hearts. There were some who just hear His word at a superficial level while the deeper meaning of the words is not rooted in their hearts. The laws cannot make us clean and righteous but it is the continuous belief in Christ even during our testing periods that brings us closer to Him.
The Hardening of Our Hearts
In the wilderness, the Israelites constantly grumbled about everything. When God provided them with an abundant flow of manna from heaven, they started storing it and incurred his wrath. When manna was not enough for them they started grumbling again and God provided them quail so that they could eat according to their heart’s desire.
After feasting on the meat of the quails they started feeling nostalgic towards the vegetables that were available to them in Egypt. Their hearts were turned in an instant against God when they created an image of a calf to replace Him. They revolted several times against both God and their leader Moses. Time and time again they tested God’s patience but He never forsaked them through it all.
… encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)
Some folks point to the scripture where it is written that God hardened the people’s hearts. While some feel that they are in control of their actions and emotions and are thereby hardening their hearts themselves. Whereas, it is sin’s deceitful ways that fool us into hardening our hearts. It is our sinful desires that make us self-seeking and harden our hearts to God’s words.
Again going back to the parable of the sower, the people who harden their heart’s to God’s words can be compared to the seed that fell on the rock. There is no room for God’s word to grow in our hearts and we reject the chance to bear His fruits in our lives. Like the Israelites were nostalgic for their days of slavery in Egypt, similarly, sin deceives us into rejecting our freedom in Christ in exchange for being slaves to this world.
We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.Hebrews 3:14 (NIV)
We all remember our initial conviction to invite Christ into our lives. It was a new experience for us, something that we cherished at the beginning but gradually we forgo our conviction for the mundane traditions of our religion. The Israelites cherished the beginning stages of their relationship with God but as time went on, rather than growing in Christ they grew in complacency.
Our convictions will feel stale unless we renew them every day. We need to talk to God regularly in order to keep our relationship with Him. It is not human fellowships but fellowship with our Maker that will convict us to come back to Him. Human fellowship will only point out our wrongs without a desire for change but only having true communion with God will mend our broken relationships with Him. Adam and Eve used to commune with God every evening in the Garden but when they sinned, their guilt made them cut off God completely from their lives.
It is our human nature to be drawn towards the tangible rewards that are available to us in the present. In this process of being preoccupied with the things of this world, we tend to forget even our salvation. Then there is satan who seizes on our vulnerability and tortures us when we are down by claiming that we don’t deserve the salvation that God gave us freely. He will keep God’s people busy by giving them so-called spiritual tasks or liturgy to satiate their desire to have a meaningful relationship with their Creator.
Many end up falling into his trap and abandon their convictions for the temporary comfort and security of this world. The Israelites had forgotten their initial conviction that led to their exodus from Egypt in a mighty way. The readers of this letter had forgotten their initial conviction and the mighty works of the Spirit in their lives. Let us not forget our initial conviction and commune with God every day.
So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.Hebrews 3:19 (NIV)
The author talks about an everlasting rest by comparing all the forms of rest that God had given to His people. The Israelites were promised rest from their nomadic existence in the form of a land flowing with milk and honey. Their unbelief led to disobedience as many of those who came out of Egypt could not enter rest during their lifetime.
God rested on the seventh day after creating everything in this world. This rest should not be confused with the one that was on offer for the Hebrews. This rest simply means that God ceased His creation and is now presiding over everything that He has created. Remember that we are still on the seventh day of creation as the scriptures do not mention an end to the rest day of God.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;Hebrews 4:9 (NIV)
The author talks about a Sabbath-rest or a rest-day rest that is kept for the people of God. Though Joshua led the people of Israel into the promised land, he was not able to give them, a Sabbath rest. An everlasting rest, rest from the toils of this world and having the peace of God in knowing that we have become His children. A rest where we will no longer have to hide behind the facade but can be our true selves with our Maker as we will no longer be orphans but children of God resting in His presence.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
- 3:3 – How is the author proving Jesus’s supremacy over Moses, the absolute favourite of the traditional Jews?
- 3:6 – And we are his house if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory, what does the author mean here?
- 3:13 – Some scriptures point to God hardening people’s hearts. How do our hearts harden?
- 3:14 – Why do people forget their initial conviction?
- 4:12 – How can the word of God separate Spirit and Soul?