The Wilderness That Calls for the Service of Christ

Hebrews 3:7-19  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
EB 3:7-19{Hebrews 3:7-197Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7‑19). The allusion to Moses and the tabernacle very naturally leads to the wilderness journey of God’s people. If the tabernacle is a type of the people of God, the wilderness journey of Israel is typical of the journey of God’s people through this present world with all its dangers. This wilderness journey becomes the occasion that calls for this priestly grace.
Moreover, in the wilderness, the reality of our profession is put to the test by the dangers we have to meet. These Hebrews had made a public profession of Christianity. With profession there is always the possibility of unreality, and hence the “ifs” come in. So the writer says that we are the House of God “if indeed we hold fast the boldness and the boast of hope firm to the end.” This is not a warning against being too confident in Christ and the eternal security that He obtains for the believer for, it has been truly said, “There is no ‘if’ either as to Christ’s work or as to glad tidings of God’s grace. There all is unconditional grace to faith.” The warning supposes that those addressed have this assurance, and they are warned against giving it up. That the true believer will hold fast, or rather that God will hold him fast through the priestly grace of Christ to the end, in spite of many a failure, is certain. The believer’s reality is proved by his enduring to the end. The wilderness that tests the true believer exposes the unreality of the mere professor.
EB 3:7-11{Hebrews 3:7-117Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) (Hebrews 3:7‑11). To encourage us to hold fast, we are reminded by a quotation from Psalm 95:7-117For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest. (Psalm 95:7‑11) of the warnings given by the Spirit of God to Israel in view of the coming of Christ into the world in glory and power to bring the nation into rest. Today is a day of grace and salvation in view of sharing the glory of Christ in the world to come. In such a day of blessing they are warned against acting as their fathers in the wilderness. Israel made the profession of leaving Egypt and following Jehovah through a wilderness scene which abounded with dangers, and in which confidence in God could alone support them to the end. For forty years they saw God’s works of power and mercy providing for their needs and preserving them from every danger. Yet, in spite of every token of His presence, they tempted and put God to the test by saying, “Is Jehovah among us, or not?” They thus proved the hardness of hearts untouched by God’s goodness. Seeking only their own lusts, and ignorant of God’s ways, they clearly showed that, whatever profession they had made, they had no real confidence in God. Of such God said, “They shall not enter into My rest.”
EB 3:12-13{Hebrews 3:12-1312Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12‑13). In these verses, the warnings of Psalm 95 are applied to professing Christians. We are to “take heed” lest, through an evil heart of unbelief we turn away from the living God to put once again our confidence in dead forms, thus showing that, whatever profession may have been made, the soul has no confidence in Christ and the grace that, through His finished work, secures to the believer salvation and forgiveness. However, what is contemplated is hardly the adding of Jewish forms to the Christian life, bad as this is, but the giving up of Christ altogether and turning back to Judaism, which is apostasy.
Further, we are not only exhorted to take heed to ourselves but to “exhort one another” each day, while it is still a day of grace and salvation, lest any be hardened by the deceitfulness of doing one’s own will. Here it is not the deceitfulness of committing sins, solemn as this is, for one sin leads to another: it is the principle of sin of which the writer speaks, which is lawlessness. We little think how we harden our hearts by doing our own will. We are thus to take heed to ourselves and care for one another. Love should not be indifferent to a brother slipping away by doing his own will.
EB 3:14-19{Hebrews 3:14-1914For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:14‑19). Believers are not only the House of God, but are also the companions of Christ. Here again it is not the body of Christ, and the members of His body as united to the Head by the Holy Spirit, in which nothing unreal can come. Profession is still in view, assumed to be real, but leaving room for unreality. Therefore it is again said, “if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” This is not assurance founded on anything in ourselves, which would only be self-righteousness. The assurance insisted upon is grounded upon the Lord Jesus, His propitiatory sacrifice, and the accepted efficacy of His work. Such assurance we are not blamed for having: on the contrary, we are exhorted to hold it fast.
Then referring again to Israel in the wilderness, the writer asks three searching questions to bring out the hardness, sin and unbelief of Israel. First, who was it that, when they heard the Word of God speaking of a rest to come, did provoke? Was it only a few of the people? Alas! it was the great mass, “all that came out of Egypt.” Second, with whom was God grieved forty years? It was with those who, by reason of the hardness of their hearts, chose their own sins. Third, to whom did God swear that they should not enter into His rest? It was to those who believed not. Thus we learn the root sin was unbelief. The unbelief left them exposed to their sins, and sins hardened their hearts.