6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Hebrews 3


A man who dined regularly in his favorite restaurant complained about the bread. It wasn’t fair, he emphasized, that other restaurants served lots of bread. But here he gets only one piece. So the next time he came in, they served him four pieces. He still complained it wasn’t enough.

On his next visit his server brought him a dozen pieces of bread. The man still complained.

For his next visit they put a large basket of bread on the table. But still he complained. “The other restaurants give all the bread you can eat.”

They decided to be ready for him the next day. They had an enormous loaf of bread prepared. It was six feet long and two feet wide. Four people carried the loaf to his table. They plopped it down in front of him. It took up half the table and hung over both sides. The chef stood back, pleased with himself, to see how the customer would react.

He looked over the loaf and commented, “So, we’re back to one piece again, are we?”

The early church believers were rattled, worried, and unsettled by many things, none more threatening than execution for their faith and exclusion from the Jewish community. The book of Hebrews reveals that Timothy was just released from prison (13:23). The word “prison” or “bonds” occurs twice in the book (Heb 10:34, 13:3), rivaling Ephesians and Philemon for the most occurrences in the Bible. The purpose of the book was to cheer the believers who were constantly pressured, persecuted and punished.

What are believers to do in the face of death and destitution for their faith? How did the church survive the odds? Why did the church eventually triumph in history?

Examine Your Heart

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'“ (Heb 3:7-11)

Two students of the Talmud came to their rabbi and wailed: “Rabbi, we’ve committed a sin!” “What have you done?” “We looked with lust upon a woman!” “God preserve you!” cried the rabbi. “You’ve committed a terrible sin!” “We wish to do penance, Rabbi!” “In that case, I order you to put peas into your shoes and walk about that way for a week. Then perhaps you’ll remember not to commit such a sin again.

The two penitents went away and did as the rabbi told them. Several days later they met on the street. One was hobbling painfully and looked haggard, but the other one was calm and smiling. So the hobbler said to his fried reproachfully, “Is this the way you do penance? I see you haven’t followed the rabbi’s orders. You didn’t put peas in your shoes!” “Of course I did!” insisted the other. “But I cooked them first!”

Today is repeated three times (vv 7, 13, 15) and a contrast with forty years (vv 9, 17). It is to stress that today’s behavior must be completely different and a total break from the past. What happened for forty years in the wilderness? The “not” or “never” (me) in verse 7 is most impressive, strategic and well- placed and best positioned because it does not occur in the book until now. The writer of Hebrews did not use it previously to maximize its impact currently. The book uses 62 times the normal “not” (ouk) but 25 times “never” (me). No New Testament book uses this “not” so late from chapter three on. Only five books uses this from chapter two on – Mark 2:4, John 2:16, 2 Cor. 2:1, Eph. 2:12 and 1 John 2:4.

“Harden” occurs six times only in the New Testament (Acts 19:9, Rom 9:18, Heb 3:8, 3:13, 3:15, 4:7), four of which are in Hebrews, three alone in this chapter (Heb 3:8, 3:13, 3:15), so the writer couldn’t push his point or press his position more pointedly and painfully. All three times the Greek “me” (never) admonition is placed first before “harden.”

The verb “harden” (skleruno) is derived from the word “skleros” and “skelos,” with the nearest English equivalent of “skeleton.” It’s been said, “Adult human bones are very strong. Their tensile strength is as strong as stainless steel. It is about 20 times more difficult to smash a human femur (upper leg) bone than it is to break a equal weight piece of concrete. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080629021032AAiW2Lh

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