Hebrews 3:7-12

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

      THE UNBELIEF OF SOME ISRAELITES

INTRODUCTION:

 

The writer of Hebrews warns his readers that they need to make certain that they are genuinely saved. He believes they are, but he does not wish to take any chances.

 

Believers should hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. This exhortation was necessary because there may have been some professing believers who had not yet actually placed their faith in Christ.

 

Some of the Israelites repeatedly demonstrated their unbelief when they came out of Egypt and eventually rebelled at Kadesh-barnea.

 

To understand Hebrews 3:7-12 , we need to review what took place in Numbers 13 and 14.

 

Numbers 13:1-3 – And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. 3 And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.

 

Numbers 13:17-3317 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: 18 And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; 19 And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; 20 And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes. 21 So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath. 22 And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. 24 The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. 25 And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. 26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. 30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. 31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. 32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. 33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

 

Numbers 14:1-101 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! [By the way, be careful what you wish for!] 3 And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? 4 And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent [i.e. tore] their clothes: 7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. 10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.

 

Numbers 14:26-3526 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: [Take note that God granted their wish!] 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. 34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. 35 I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.

Let’s begin our study in Hebrews 3:7

We see that –

    I.     THE READERS OF HEBREWS ARE URGED TO LISTEN TO WHAT GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS TO SAY – 3:7

 

Hebrews 3:7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice.

 

Wherefore draws an inference from what has preceded and suggests therefore or for this reason.

 

It is a different word from the one translated wherefore in verse 1, but it is comparable to, yet stronger than, the one used in verse 1. It is used again in verse 10.

 

The reader notices parentheses starting in verse 7 and extending through verse 11. These have been inserted by the translators in order to assist the English reader in realizing that verses 7-11 are a quotation which is taken from Psalms 95:7-11 which refers to events that occurred during Israel’s wilderness wanderings.

 

Wherefore is, therefore, to be connected to take heed in verse 12.

 

As the Holy Ghost saith indicates that the writer of Hebrews views the Holy Spirit as the divine author of Scripture because what the Holy Ghost says here has been written in Psalms 95 .

 

The quotation begins with To day as is indicated by its capitalization: To day if ye will hear his voice.

 

To day modifies harden in verse 8 and indicates time.

 

If ye will hear his voice is a condition which may or may not be met.

 

His voice appears to be the voice of God the Father.

 

The mood of will hear indicates that it is possible that people will hear His voice.

We also see that –

  II.     THE READERS OF HEBREWS ARE URGED NOT TO HARDEN THEIR HEARTS AS THE ISRAELITES DID AT KADESH-BARNEA – 3:8-9

 

Hebrews 3:8-98 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness. 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

 

Verse 8 continues the parenthetical statement begun in verse 7. It continues through verse 11.

 

Harden not indicates that this activity has not yet begun and is forbidden in its very beginning. It is understood in the sense of do not begin to harden or never harden.

 

What they were never even to begin to harden is your hearts. Some may already have begun to harden themselves spiritually with the result that they would ultimately stop listening to God.

 

As the context makes clear, it was not believers who hardened their hearts; it was unbelievers. It was not people who were in danger of losing their salvation; it was people who were in danger of turning away from the salvation which they had not yet received even though they thoroughly understood it. They would be committing the sin of apostasy from which there would be no return.

 

As in the provocation suggests that the Psalmist was writing that the people in his day should not harden their hearts like people had hardened their hearts in the time of the provocation, i.e. in the revolt or in the rebellion. By this statement, the writer of Hebrews is suggesting that people living in his day should not harden their hearts as had been done in the days of the provocation.

 

The provocation refers to Israel’s provoking God to wrath, which culminated in their rebellion against Moses, Aaron, and God at Kadesh-barnea in Numbers 13-14 when the spies brought back the report that there were giants in the land and that Israel should not attempt to enter the land.

 

However, two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, opposed the recommendation of the other ten spies.

 

In Numbers 14:11 the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me . . .? Hence, this event is referred to as the provocation.

 

It was at that time that God swore in His wrath that none of these people would ever enter His rest except the two spies who had brought back a good report and except those children who at that time were under twenty years of age.

 

Whereas the unbelieving Israelites feared that their children would all be put to death if they attempted to enter the land of Canaan, God kept all of the children alive while all but two of the adults died.

 

Consequently, the nation of Israel wandered around in the wilderness for forty years, waiting for these people to die.

 

In the day of temptation is literally in the day of the temptation or in the day of the testing. The occurs before temptation in the Greek text to indicate a particular temptation. It refers to the period of time when God tested the nation of Israel following their exodus from Egypt.

 

In the wilderness is in the desert and indicates the place where God put the nation of Israel to the test.

 

Sadly, nearly all of Israel miserably failed this test.

 

Hebrews 3:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

 

Verse 9 continues the parenthetical statement begun in verse 7. It continues through verse 11.

 

When is literally in which.

 

It may be connected with day in which case it is best understood in the sense of when. On the other hand, it may instead be connected with wilderness and be understood in the sense of where.

 

Your fathers implies your ancestors. Those who died in the wilderness would have been descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and would have come out of Egypt with Moses and the nation of Israel at the time of the exodus from Egypt.

 

Tempted is the verb form of the noun translated temptation in verse 8 and means to tried, made trial of, or put . . . to the test.

 

Me most likely refers to God the Father. It is the same One referred to by his in verse 7.

 

Not only did they tempt God, but they also proved him, suggesting that they put Him to the test or examined Him. When they did this, they hopefully learned that they were wrong in failing to believe God; but it was too late.

 

Furthermore, they saw my works forty years. What they saw was God’s provision in taking care of a multitude of people, which may very well have numbered in the neighborhood of two and one half million, and in taking care of their animals in the middle of nowhere throughout a period of forty years.

 

Their need for food was supplied through the daily provision of manna. Their clothes did not wear out, and their shoes did not wear out. God generally looked after them while waiting for all of these unbelievers to die.

 

They had said that all their children would die in the wilderness, and God had said that not a single one of their children would die in the wilderness. They did not believe it possible that God could take care of them, but God showed them that He could until they all eventually died during the forty years.

 

Forty years indicates extent of time and means throughout forty years. There was never a time during that forty-year period when the Israelites did not see God’s works.

In addition, we see that –

 III.     GOD WAS GRIEVED WITH THE GENERATION OF ISRAELITES AT KADESH-BARNEA – 3:10

 

Hebrews 3:10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

 

Verse 10 continues the parenthetical statement begun in verse 7. It continues through verse 11.

 

Wherefore is the same word used in verse 7 and draws an inference from what has been stated in verses 8 and 9 regarding the provocation in the wilderness when the Israelites provoked God. It is used in the sense of therefore or for this reason.

 

I was grieved with, where I is God, is I was angry with, I was provoked with, or I was offended with.

 

That generation basically suggests the sum total of all those Israelites living at the time of the incident at Kadesh-barnea, i.e. with that entire generation of Israelites.

 

It excluded the ones who were younger than twenty years of age as well as Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and Aaron.

 

It is true that Moses and Aaron were not permitted to enter the promised land, but it was not because of this incident at Kadesh-barnea. It is because later on Moses, in his anger, struck the rock twice after God had told him to speak to the rock.

 

Numbers 20:7-127 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye [Ye is plural and refers to both Moses and Aaron] unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye [i.e. both Moses and Aaron] believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye [i.e. both Moses and Aaron] shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

 

That generation is referring to the same group of people as your fathers in verse 9.

 

As a result of God’s being grieved, He said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

 

They refers to the generation of people living at the time of the wilderness wanderings and is represented by your fathers.

 

Alway is used of a frequently recurring action or situation and means always, continually, or constantly.

 

Err suggests that they are always going astray, they are always being misled, they are always wandering about, or they are always being deluded.

 

In their heart suggests that it was a spiritual problem. Their going away or their erring was a spiritual matter. They were not walking away from God in a physical fashion; they were straying from Him spiritually.

 

And indicates a continuation of the thought. It may also be emphatic suggesting indeed, in fact, or certainly.

 

They refers to the same group of people denoted by that generation and by your fathers.

 

Have not known is did not know, did not come to know, or did not recognize.

 

What they did not recognize was my ways, i.e. God’s ways.

 

Although they had ample opportunity to believe God, they did not believe Him. They were unbelievers. It is not speaking of people who had believed God and had at some later point in time stopped believing Him. The tense of the verb indicates that they never knew His ways, they never came to know His ways, or they never came to recognize His ways.

We furthermore see that –

 IV.     GOD SWORE IN HIS WRATH THAT THE UNBELIEVING GENERATION OF ISRAELITES AT KADESH-BARNEA WOULD NEVER ENTER INTO HIS REST – 3:11

 

Hebrews 3:11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) As indicated by the closing parenthesis at the end of this verse, verse 11 concludes the parenthetical statement begun in verse 7.

 

So suggests so that and indicates that verse 11 is the result of the action of the Israelites in verses 9 and 10.

 

I sware is I swore or I took an oath.

 

In my wrath describes God’s anger with the nation of Israel. It means anger or indignation but not so much an emotion as the outcome of an angry frame of mind.

 

What God swore in His wrath is, They shall not enter into my rest.

 

They refers to that generation which had provoked Him in the wilderness at Kadesh-barnea.

 

Shall not enter is shall certainly not come into or shall certainly not go into, and my rest is my place of rest.

 

Again my is a reference to God.

 

History bears out God’s word. These people did not enter His rest. There was no change; they died in the wilderness. Only those who were under 20 years of age at the time of the temptation, along with Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who had recommended going up at once and taking the land, were permitted to enter the land.

Finally, we see that –

   V.     THE READERS OF HEBREWS ARE URGED TO MAKE CERTAIN THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE EVIL, UNBELIEVING HEARTS WHICH WILL RESULT IN THEIR DEPARTING FROM THE LIVING GOD – 3:12

 

Hebrews 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

 

Wherefore in verse 7, meaning therefore or for this reason, is to be connected with verse 12. The writer turns from quoting Psalms 95 to warning his readers that they should be careful to make sure they are really saved and not following the same pattern of unbelief the Israelites followed in the wilderness.

 

Take heed is watch out, look out, or beware.

 

Brethren indicates that he is addressing this group as Christians. They are fellow believers. However, as with any group of professing fellow believers, there is always the possibility that one or more may be just going along with the group and may never have been genuinely saved. Although the group as a whole is composed of genuine believers, it is possible that some of the individuals in the group may not yet have been genuinely born again.

 

Lest there be indicates a negative purpose, and here it expresses apprehension and suggests in order that . . . not or in order that there not be and means in order that an evil heart of unbelief not be in any of you.

 

In any of you suggests that it is possible that any of the readers could be characterized as unsaved individuals.

 

It is instructive that the writer wrote any of you rather than any of us. The significance of this is that he did not include himself in the group in which there may be an evil, unbelieving heart. If this passage taught that a believer might lose his salvation, he should have included himself in his warning and written any of us rather than any of you. He knew that he did not have an evil, unbelieving heart.

 

An evil heart is a worthless heart, a wicked heart, a bad heart, or a depraved heart.

 

Of unbelief suggests one which is unbelieving, one which lacks belief, or one which does not believe.

 

Thus, an evil heart of unbelief is an evil, unbelieving heart.

 

It is possible that some of these readers were genuinely unsaved people. However, it is not suggesting that they were at one time believing but had now backslidden to the point where they were unbelieving and had departed from Christ. Instead, it is indicating that there may have been some who had never yet believed; and as a result of their lack of belief, these persons would eventually depart if they did not change their minds about Christ.

 

Just as in verse 6, continuing to hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end demonstrates that one is a member of God’s house, so failing to continue to hold fast this confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end and failing to remain with the living God indicates that the individual has never been saved in the first place.

 

In departing from indicates result and should be understood in the sense with the result that (or so that) you depart, go away from, withdraw, fall away from, or become apostate from.

 

This would involve a rebellion against God and a repudiation of the salvation He has provided through Christ’s death on the cross for them. It would constitute an absolute break with God and with salvation by grace through faith in Christ. There would never be any going back to Christianity.

 

The living God is the One from Whom some may have been in danger of departing. It is the God Who lives, the God of the Bible, Whom people reject. This refers to God the Father.

CONCLUSION:

 

Are you absolutely certain that you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior by believing that He died on the cross and paid for your sins and that He was subsequently raised from the dead? Do not take a chance on this. Make certain you have trusted Christ as your personal Savior from sin and its consequences. Failure to trust in Christ will result in your spending eternity in the lake of fire where you will be privileged to pay for your own sins throughout eternity rather than having Christ’s death pay for them.