Hebrew’s Study 7
Don’t you find it difficult to hold onto to Christ? Throughout the week, our faith in Christ becomes forgotten. We become distracted. Sometimes, we doubt Jesus. The author of Hebrews gives you a valuable gift. He teaches you about your enemy–sin.
THE NATURE OF SIN
“Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’” (Hebrews 3:9–10)
“but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Sin provokes, tempts, aggravates, deceives, and hardens your heart unto unbelief (vv.7-10,12-13). The context may be gathered from the use of “The Fathers”–those who sinned in the Wilderness. The historical reference is to Numbers 14:26-30. Yet, the historical example is not quoted here. Psalm 95 is. This is significant. It means that the event in Numbers was codified for the Church in all ages.
From Psalm 95 we learn that the nature of their sin was four-fold.
In verse 9, the sin was tempting or testing. They tried God. Trying God is seen elsewhere in Scripture:
- “Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ”” (Matthew 4:7)
- ““You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
- “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”” (Exodus 17:6–7)
To try, tempt or test God means to express your distrust of God notwithstanding the great demonstrations of power he has showed which certify His resolve and faithfulness.
Psalm 78:41–42 confirms this definition saying, “Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,”
2. Provoking and Aggravating:
The sin of tempting God leads to the provoking and aggravating or anger of God. As verse 10 states, “Therefore I was angry.” The latter part of verse 9 shows us the reasons for His anger.
God was angry because of what the Father’s saw. What did the Father’s see? Psalm 78 gives a detailed list. Here is a partial sample:
- Turned their rivers into blood.
- Send swarms of flies and frogs
- Destroyed their crops by the locust
- Destroyed their vines by hail and frost.
- Cattle destroyed by hail and fire.
- Sent the angel of death to destroy the firstborn
- Parted the sea and destroyed their enemies.
The Fathers saw all this and yet doubted God. This provoked God.
This sin that tempted God and provoked His anger was deceiving. The author points to this in verse 13 warning against the “deceitfulness of sin”. “Deceitfulness” refers to the potential or ability of sin. Companies place warning signs on toys, “Not for 4 or under,” because the certain toys relative to young children have the potential or ability to choke the child. Jesus in Matthew 13:22, says that riches or wealth have the potential or ability to lead astray. Likewise, sin has the ability or potential or aptitude to deceive.
Sin hardens. To harden means to be unable to more and more receive an impression, or to be molded. When cement is wet we often write our initials and date upon it. You can buy craft kits where you take wet cement and have the children put their hands or feet in the wet cement. However, as the cement begins to harden you can make less of an impression. Eventually, the hardening process is complete and no impression can be made.
Likewise with sin. Sin deceives until our minds and hearts are no longer impressionable to the Words of God. The deception of sin works until the person is further and further hardened against the living God and His gospel. God and His gospel becomes implausible.
Now notice the progression. The sinful nature of humans deceives progressively hardening the heart toward God. We distance ourselves from God. Despite all of the great works of God, we tempt Him by expressing our unbelief in complaints and doubts. This tempting provokes God to anger.
Before I leave this point, let me speak to those who have grown up in the Church. That means all of you who grew up going to Church and hearing the message of Jesus Christ. You have heard reports of the power of God in Jesus’ miracles and His resurrection. You have heard the message of salvation–That you can only be reconciled to the Father through Jesus and that you owe all your love to God.
- Is sin deceiving you into thinking that you can just be indifferent to the warnings and mercies that God has shown to you?
- Are you taking your faith seriously?
- Are you poking God with a stick provoking Him with anger?
I am not just speaking to the children in this congregation. Those of you who have grown up in America and have had the privilege of being exposed to the gospel. You may be 80 years old.
- Are you taking God seriously? I am not accusing. I am giving you an opportunity for self -examination.
PERNICIOUS! THAT SOUNDS BAD…
Sin leads to a pernicious punishment (vv.10,11). Pernicious just sounds horrible doesn’t it? Pernicious means harmful, damaging, or destructive. Thus, sin leads to destruction.
The punishment was pernicious because God vowed (v.11).
God did not wish. God decreed or vowed in verse 11, that they will not enter into His rest. They complained and complained and complained. They were hardened and hardened. God never vowed. He kept warning, but then came the day. “I swear!”
The punishment was pernicious, because God acted from wrath (v.11).
The sin of unbelief– The disregard of each hardening moment–The mouthiness and disregard of life. was such a serious sin, God swore in passionate wrath.
Geological theory says that the earth is made of numerous tectonic plates floating on a hot magma core. Where these plates meet are called fault lines. The plates push against each other with enormous force. Because of friction and the rigidity of rocks, they cannot glide or flow past each other easily, and occasionally all movement stops. When this happens, stress builds up in rocks. Imagine the stress build up in those rocks and you begin to get a picture of the meaning of ‘wrath.’
The punishment was pernicious, because they were refused entrance into His rest.
This wrath is, then, expressed, in the pernicious punishment itself, “They shall not enter my rest.” For this group of people the meaning was two-fold. They literally could not enter into the promised land.
The younger generation will cross the Jordan, but the Father’s died in the wilderness. But, the rest of God is greater than geographical benefits. His rest is entrance into His presence.
This is brought out by reminding ourselves of the larger argument here. Sin was seeking to deceive these Hebrews. They were being tempted to doubt God fulfilling His promise in Jesus the Christ.
Was Jesus the Messiah? Should we continue to follow Him. If he is the Messiah why are we suffering so much. I am tired of suffering.
The author warns them with the examples of the Father’s. You like the Fathers have seen and heard of the wonders of God in Jesus Christ. You have heard the will of God. Do not harden your hearts in unbelief against Jesus the Christ. If you do, you cannot be in my presence. You cannot be reconciled with Father except through the Son. ““He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
AM I MY BRETHREN’S KEEPER?
God uses our gospel obedience to remedy the hardening of sin in the lives of others. It is a command. It is a command to everyone in the Church “Brethren.” God promises to use you as a means to stop the hardening. You must be a part of each other’s lives.
Are you exhorting your children or are you just letting them harden? If they are indifferent to the things of God how are you comforted? Have you been deceived? Are you exhorting those around you? Are you positioning yourself to be able to speak into the lives of your Church members? Do you have them over for dinner, take them out to lunch? Do you attend small group? Evening service? Have you isolated yourself to where it is impossible to fulfill this command?
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12–13)
- Defining the nature of sin is a lost art. What other attributes does sin have?
- Is sin deceiving someone in your life? How can you help? Maybe you should call them right now? If you feel no obligation to help others, then consider these “one another” verses.
- How does sin deceive you? Make a list of sins deceptive devices.
- John Owen wrote a famous treatise, The Mortification of Sin. Consider reading it. It is tough going, but well worth the effort. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor edited a recent version with introductory essays and explanatory notes.
- Many Christians today teach that we don’t need to think of our sin, because we live in an age of grace. Is this true? Explain. Sinclair Ferguson wrote two great books on this topic. Consider buying Devoted to God and The Whole Christ.
- Super Challenge!–If the Holy Spirit is the person responsible for your growth in holiness, then why should you beware of and help other’s with sin’s deceitfulness. Here is a 9 part mp3 lecture series on the topic. Enjoy!!