1. The section of Hebrews which served as last week's text passage concluded with a declaration of the great faithfulness expressed in the lives of both Moses and Jesus Christ.
HEBREWS 3:1-6 [ NIV ]
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 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. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boost.
2. His examination of such great lives of faith seems to have reminded the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews of the weak and wavering faith of those to whom his letter is addressed.
a. Remember, it appears that some of his letter's recipients have expressed an intention to abandon Christianity in favour of a return to the traditional Judaism of their families and friends. Their faith, it seems, was not strong enough to allow them to overcome the difficulties and disappointments of their lives.
b. Their faith had come under attack by two debilitating forces:
(1) the cultural traditions and familiar comfort of the Jewish faith they had abandoned for the cause of Christ, and
(2) the increasing pressures being set against the young church by the Roman-ruled world.
3. "Dr. E.M. Blaiklock, a longtime professor of classics at the University of New Zealand and a noted biblical historian, made the startling statement: 'Of all the centuries, the twentieth is most like the first.' If that is true, it is evident that twentieth-century Christians should thoroughly understand first-century Christianity. All the New Testament books help us in this regard, but perhaps none so practically as Acts and Hebrews. Preeminently in these two books appear flesh-and-blood believers struggling to overcome the stranglehold of past traditions and adjust to the fresh movements of God in their fast-changing world. Readers of Hebrews in the twentieth century will identify with the first recipients of this letter when they see how they struggled to hold on to their faith in Jesus in the midst of growing world chaos and powerful cultural pressures to return to a more comfortable past." - Ray C. Stedman: Hebrews ( Volume 15, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series )
4. It is our writer's desire in this morning's text passage to encourage all those disciples whose "soft spots" in their Christian walk are being exploited by the Evil One. He will do this by means of three commands.
a. "Do not h __ __ __ __ __ your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness...." ( 3:8 );
b. Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of u __ __ __ __ __ __ __ in departing from the living God... ( 3:12 );
c. E __ __ __ __ __ one another daily, while it is called "T __ __ __ __," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. ( 3:13 ).
B. TEXT: Hebrews 3:7 - 4:11
a. The words in v.8 rendered in some translations as "rebellion" and "day of trial" are in the original Greek text the two names given by Moses to the place in the wilderness where the ungrateful and short-sighted children of Israel first grumbled against Jehovah and Moses for taking them out of bondage in Egypt.
ref: Exodus 17:1-7
(1) The word translated as "rebellion" is Meribah, which means "rebellion" or "strife."
(2) The word translated as "trial" is Massah, which means "testing" or "proof."
b. It is believed by most scholars that the writer of Hebrews had in mind not only the specific event of the miracle of water gushing from a rock in the desert but the entire forty years of wandering in the wilderness which was God's punishment for His people in response to their refusal to take the Promised Land which He gave them.
ref: Numbers 13-14
c. He was not the first writer of Scripture to remind God's people of the consequences of hardening their heart toward Yahweh.
DEUTERONOMY 6:16-17 [ NLT ]
Do not test the Lord your God as you did when you complained at Massah. You must diligently obey the commands of the Lord your God -- all the stipulations and laws he has given you.