Summary: The benefits of knowing and believing God’s promises in His Word.
The Bible: Standing On The Promises
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The last time I spoke, I emphasized the importance of learning God’s Word. Jesus Himself said in John 8:31-32 that only believers who study the Word of God are true disciples, or students of Jesus Christ, which is what the word "disciple" actually means in the original Koine Greek. I also explained that learning the spiritual things in the Bible is a spiritual process, as we’re told in 1 Cor. 2:14, and that it’s not a matter of human abilities or IQ.
Today I’m going to look at the benefits of learning God’s Word, of knowing and believing His promises in the Bible. The Bible is filled with wonderful promises, not only about blessings that we will receive in eternity, but also blessings that are ours while we are here on earth.
The writer of the book of Hebrews speaks about this in chapters 3 and 4. In chapter 3, we are told about the failure of the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, because they did not believe God’s promises. The Exodus generation of Jews knew God’s word, but didn’t believe it, they didn’t trust in it.
These Jews saw the 10 plagues in Egypt, including the killing of the firstborn son in each Egyptian household on the evening of the first Passover meal. They saw God lead them through the desert as the Shekinah glory cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. They saw God part the Red Sea as large walls of water on both sides so that they could cross over, and saw those same waters drown the Egyptian army. The Israelites saw God give them water from a rock, and produce manna for them to eat each day. However, despite seeing these glorious displays of God’s power and protection of them, they still had trouble trusting God when they reached the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.
When the 12 spies went into the Promised Land of Canaan and saw the size and numbers of the people who lived there, 10 of the spies convinced the people of Israel that they should not go in as God had told them to do. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted in God and said that the Israelites should move forward. Because the people sided with the 10 spies, God punished Israel by making them wander in the desert for another 40 years, until all of that generation of adults except Joshua and Caleb died. Then Joshua and Caleb led the next generation of Israelites into the Promised Land.
It is with this background that the writer of Hebrews then says in Hebrews 4, verses 1 and 2:
1 Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it.
2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. (NAS)
In Hebrews 4:1, we are actually told to fear being in a situation where God has made promises to us, and that we may fall short of obtaining those promises. When we look back at the Exodus generation of Israelites, it is easy for us to marvel at their unbelief, to wonder how they could actually lack faith after all they saw.
However, we are no different today. It is human nature to doubt God, the old human sin nature that is still a part of all of us even after we are saved. We can look back at Israel and say that if we were there, we wouldn’t have acted the same way. We can even say that Israel had advantages that we don’t have, because they actually saw and heard God in their midst.
But in fact, it is we believers today, members of the body of Christ called the Church, who have the advantages. We have the entire revelation of God, the Bible, at our fingertips in writing, and Israel didn’t. We have all three members of the Godhead living inside of us, and Israel didn’t. We have prophecies about the future that Israel didn’t have. Still, we all doubt God at times as Israel did.
Hebrews 4, verse 1, also uses the word "rest" to describe the state of believers who take advantage of God’s promises. When we hear God’s word and believe it, God promises us a state of rest. This "rest" is an assurance, a hope, that only Christian believers can have, and the unbelieving world can only look for, as they hopelessly try to find such "rest" in some other way.