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Past Events and Present Danger
The Writer has declared Jesus' glory to be greater than Moses' glory by just so much as the builder of the house is greater than the house. Moses was the greatest prophet and leader that the children of Israel had ever had to that point. If the stature of the Moses, who saw God face to face, is as a house, how much greater must the Son who built it!
The Writer takes little comfort from this. His ancestors, who saw the power and strength of God displayed through Moses, balked at a critical point--and the Writer sees that his people, the children of Israel in his day, are balking as well--and he is filled with dismay. As I have written previously, this is an important backdrop of this book. So the Writer looks back to the former failure:
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, And saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, And said, "They always go astray in their heart, And they did not know My ways" As I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest."
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, (Hebrews 3:4-14, NASB 95)
The Writer quotes from Psalm 95:7-11. In this case, he takes the meaning of the Psalmist in the P"SHAT or simple meaning sense.
The Psalm in turn, refers to this incident, recorded in Exodus:
Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.
Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink."
And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?"
But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, "Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"
So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, "What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me."
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at 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. He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us, or not?" (Exodus 17:1-7)
In the wilderness, the children of Israel had seen the plagues of Egypt. They had seen the Red Sea part and had walked across on dry land. Now they grumbled. According to Psalm 95, that first generation out of Egypt continued to grumble and doubt for 40 years until they had died out.
The problem for those ancient Israelites, and the Writer's contemporary brethren, and for many of us today is an unbelieving heart. A heart that contains no faith or trust. The Writer calls such a heart "evil." That is because it is such a heart that causes this falling away from God until He gets to the point of announcing, "They shall not enter my rest." An unbelieving heart causes a "falling away" from the living God.
When the Writer refers to "falling away," he is not referring to believers, but rather to those who have heard and experienced the message and fall away. These are ones who have seen enough to make faith possible--and have hardened their hearts against the truth. When he says "brethren," he is referring to his people and not fellow believers. This is an important point to remember as you continue this study. There are many places where the Writer will seem to declare that one can lose a gained salvation. I will tell you in advance, that, although the warning is serious, he will always exclude those who have faith. Each warning against falling away is paired with an assurance to those who have faith.
With these verses, the Writer begins a major section in his letter. He is going to spend some time with these verses from Psalm 95 and he is going to draw some amazing conclusions.
Test everything. Cling to what is good.