Hebrews Study 8
Young men desire danger. If you tell most young men that black widow spiders reside in dry places like garden sheds and cinderblock piles, then do you know where you will find that young man? At the garden shed and at the cinderblocks.
However, when young men either get bit or watch someone else get bit or their frontal cortex develops, they cautiously enter garden sheds and they wear gloves when working with cinder blocks.
It is entirely reasonable and emotionally mature to find black widows dangerous and to stay clear of them.
Are you a cautious person? Is it ever wise to be cautious? What should give you caution?
The author of Hebrews told us a cautionary example of those in the wilderness. In that example, we learned about the nature of sin and its hardening effects and about the pernicious punishment of the sin of unbelief. The author continues with the topic of unbelief. Unbelief is dangerous. Don’t play with the black widow of unbelief.
“While it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?
The author of Hebrews proceeds by a method of interrogation. This method was a well known rhetorical technique. It was especially used by lawyers. The lawyer would ask a question and answer the question with a question. Parents do this all the time: “Where is your bike? Did you leave it in the rain?
Here the questions make us consider the example from the wilderness rebellion. “For who, having heard rebelled?” [If you have the KJV, then it says “some.”] The author dramatically answers, “Was is not all who came out of Egypt,”
Do you notice the significance of this statement? We can miss it, because we view this example from the wilderness as some archaic relic with no relevancy to us. Let me ask you, who are the first Christians? Adam and Eve, although in rudimentary form, had the gospel preached to them and they accepted by faith. Lets jump ahead to Israel in Egypt. God allowed slavery for 400 years. God, then, raised up Moses to gather the people. God is their God and they are His people.
Let’s ask the author’s question again. Who rebelled? Who came out of Egypt? Our answer has to be, the Church. Now, follow the text to the second question: With whom was God angry forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? If you combine the first truth with the second, then you realize that it was the Church that rebelled and whose corpses fell in the wilderness.In other words, the Church was not able to enter the rest of God.
Actually, we need to be specific. Those who were under the age of twenty and Caleb and Joshua– possibly the Tribe of Levi. All members of the Church except those mentioned rebelled and their carcasses fell in the wilderness.
Apply the same statistics to your Church. If you are under 20 + 2 more. The rest of you will not enter into the rest of the the Father.
Listen, they were just like us. Notice the first question again. “Led by Moses” What does that mean? He obviously means they physically followed him through the Red Sea. However, what are the other ways that Moses led? Did he not deliver God’s Word to them? In other words, were not these people under good preaching for 40 years? Did Moses deliver to them how to worship? Were they not regular attenders? Despite all the signs, and miracles, and the good preaching, this Church rebelled and their carcasses fell in the wilderness. Given the number of the Israelites, in order for the cursed generation to die off in forty years, scholars estimate 90 people a day died.
You can see that I am simply showing you what this passage says. However, do you have room for this kind of argument in your life? You probably don’t. You are probably saying, how can unbelievers be a part of the Church?
Some members are external members and some are internal members. Some share in all the externals. They are baptized. They take the sacraments. They fellowship with the believers. Others share in the externals, but also have been internally indwelt by the Holy Spirit and regenerated. We can discuss the nature of the Church another time.
Interestingly, the author of Hebrews does not have unbelievers in mind when he reminds them of this startling example. Do you find it startling? Remember Chapter 3:1. The author addresses this congregation as holy brethren and partakers of the heavenly calling. He is not questioning their salvation! In other words, he believes he is talking to internal members, real and true members of the Church. So, then how does this fit?
The author is waking them up from their complacency. Complacency is a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.Instead, conduct your Christian life in fear. [We will talk about the place of fear in the Christian life next sermon] For now, let me give you an example: Noah knew that he was an internal member of the Church. He was the preacher of righteousness. Yet, when God told Him of the flood to come, Noah was “ moved with godly fear. He prepared an ark for the saving of his household.” (Hebrews 11:7)Believing the severe judgement of God, Noah’s was full of fear which then motivated Him to use those means that would lead to His preservation.
Now, we are sobered by this example. This hits close to home. But what did all this damage? What was the sin of the Church that led to so much death?]
And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
The Root of all sin and misery is unbelief (v.18,19). The author continues the interrogation: “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18–19) You will see two words in verses 18 and 19. v.18= did not obey–v.19=unbelief –They are both the same word. If you do a word study, then you will conclude that whenever the greek word is used in relation to God’s commands, then it should be translated, did not obey. Whenever the greek word is used in relation to God’s promises, then it should be translated unbelief.
There is a cause and effect relationship between the two words. If you do not believe the promise, then you will disobey God’s commands. For example, consider the rebellion in the Wilderness. “But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”” (Numbers 13:31)
This is the expression of fear. The fear arose because they did not believe in God’s promise to give them the promised land. They doubted Yahweh’s power and faithfulness to them–not in general, but as promised to them.
Consider any other example and at the root of the sin you will always find unbelief in the promises of God.
The design of this passage is to wake up the members of the Church. If you are complacent and you take your gospel privileges for granted, then sober up. How do we sober up?
Start treating unbelief in the promises like a black widow spider. Unbelief is not a toy it is the root of all sin and misery. Imagine a daycare with toddlers crawling on the floor. Now imagine that a black widow spider is spotted among the children in the play area. Are you going to say, “Oh, what a specimen! How beautiful and thrilling!” You response should be to crush it. The same with any unbelief. However, some unbelief is more dangerous than others.
The unbelief of those in the wilderness, was against the precise way in which God was trying to reveal Himself during that age. He was revealing Himself as Yahweh–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This meant that God wanted to reveal his faithfulness in bringing His people into the promised land and allowing them to flourish like the stars in the sky. That rebel generation demonstrated unbelief against the exact way that God was revealing Himself at that time. Now, with that in mind, what is the way in which God the Father is revealing Himself today?
He is revealing Himself as love. Jesus Christ is the gift of love from the Father. Through Jesus Christ God loves and takes care of His people. Do you believe that promise? If you do, then why are you so anxious? If you do, then why are you frantically ambitious?Anxiety is a sign of unbelief. [not talking about chemical nervousness.]Do you believe in the kingly, prophetic and priestly care of Jesus? Or, is his care not enough for you? Be very careful here. You doubt Jesus and think that is no big deal, but doubt is the black widow of unbelief.
Let me warn you further. Students, I watch you play with the black widow–The entertainment, The music, The social media–You are primarily taking in forms of unbelief from a culture of unbelief. Do you ever notice that when you go camping your clothes smell like the campfire? The world is like that. If you sit around the campfire of the world, then you will go home smelling like it. In some way that you may not even recognize, some sort of seed of unbelief will be planted.
What is a part of your life right now that is chipping away at your belief in God’s promises to you? What could you put in your life that would support belief in the promises? Remember, they could not enter in because of unbelief.
- The question of avoiding unbelief cannot avoid a much larger question, How should the Church interact with the culture? Without any research, what is your philosophy of cultural interaction?
- Niebuhr wrote, Christ and Culture. He classifies 5 ways different approaches to culture. D.A. Carson sought to improve on Niebuhr’s classic with, Christ and Culture Revisited. Here is an article discussing the one and the other.
- Now that you are versed in the major options of cultural engagement, which category best describes you? Are you a mix of several? How will this change the way you interact with the culture from this day forward?