Therefore, (as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where
your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”)
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart
of unbelief in departing from the living God;
the development of the theme in this epistle, the apostle exhorts,
rebukes, warns and encourages. In this portion before us, we have
the second interjected warning, which extends from 3:7 - 4:13.
It is a warning against the sin of unbelief. The first interjected
warning was found in 2:1-4. there the apostle had warned against
the sin of neglect. They had been exhorted to take heed to the
things they had heard lest they drift away from the truth. Here
he exhorts them to take heed lest they harden their hearts in
unbelief. As we look at verses seven to twelve, we notice after
the word 'wherefore' a parenthesis which continues down to the
end of verse eleven. It is marked off in brackets, and is a quotation
from Psalm 95:7-11. The warning given in our text in the epistle
is "Wherefore take heed, brethren, lest thereby in any of
you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
The apostle, in quoting from the Psalm refers to the wandering
of Israel as an example of those who through unbelief lost out
in the promises of God. They tempted God, provoked Him and grieved
Him. (Ex 17:7, Num14:11, Psa 78:40) They had limited the Holy
One of Israel in their rebellion and unbelief. Thus they forfeited
the land of promise and perished in the wilderness, only two of
the vast number who left Egypt entered the land of Canaan.
must not lose sight of the parallel that the apostle uses in his
argument in this third chapter. He had been speaking of Moses,
faithful in all God's house. Then he refers to the wandering of
Israel, who, in spite of the faithfulness of Moses, their leader,
murmured and rebelled, bringing judgment upon themselves. Having
proved that the Son is better than Moses, he now exhorts and warns
his hearers to hold fast their confidence and the rejoicing of
their hope firm unto the end. It is necessary that these Hebrews
continue to embrace their Messiah and the new covenant. To give
up their confidence, manifesting an evil heart of unbelief, is
to depart from the living God. If Israel, in unbelief, rebelled
under the leadership of Moses and died in the wilderness, forfeiting
their earthly inheritance, will not these Hebrews of the early
Christian era, who rebel in unbelief under the leadership of their
Messiah, the Mediator of the new covenant, forfeit their heavenly
apostle quotes Psalm 95:7-11 to give scriptural enforcement of
the warning given in chapter three and verse twelve of the epistle.
Let us look at the Psalm from which the quotation if taken. It
begins with praise
come let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to
the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with
thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with Psalms.
For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of
the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it: and His
hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker for He is our God and
we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand."
These first seven verses of the Psalm are taken up with the Lord
God of Israel. All is glorious. The eye is upon 'the Rock of our
salvation." But how different is the rest of the Psalm. The
Psalmist turns his eyes from the Shepherd to the sheep. He looks
upon Israel and therefore exhorts.
"Today is ye will year His voice harden
not your hearts as tin the provocation, and as in the day of temptation
in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and
saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation,
and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they
have not known my ways: unto whom I sware in my wrath that they
should not enter into my rest."
God had graciously delivered Israel from the cruel hand of proud
Pharaoh. He brought them through the Red Sea on dry land. He graced
them with His presence, dwelling in their midst in Shekinah Glory.
He guided them, protected and provided them with the supply for
every need. Nevertheless, Israel constantly murmured and complained.
They sided with Moses and grieved their God. In unbelief they
lost their inheritance. The Psalmist, looking back over the history
of Israel, rejoiced at the goodness of God; but when he looked
upon Israel he was no longer filled with praise, but uttered a
Throughout the Old Testament period, God had spoken. Israel had
heard His voice in 'times past.' He spoke 'in the prophets.' But
Israel would not hear and they would not heed the voice of God.
Isaiah summed up the situation in a very bold way and said of
God's long suffering with Israel:
"All the day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a
disobedient and gainsaying people." (Romans 12:21) Israel
failed to hear God's voice in the wilderness. They refused to
hear all down through their history. When the Son appeared to
Israel, God spoke from heaven saying, "this is my Son, hear
Him" Now the apostle, writing to the Hebrews in the first
century of Christianity exhorts them to take heed. David made
reference to Israel's wanderings in unbelief when exhorting the
people of his day. Likewise the apostle in the warning in his
epistle, refers to the same incident by quoting the Psalmist.
The apostle does not attribute the Psalm to David but to the Holy
Ghost. " As the Holy Ghost saith' (Heb 3:7) The Holy Ghost
spoke the words but David, the Man, was moved upon the the Spirit
to write them down. If these Hebrews are to hear the voice of
God, they must not harden their hearts. These Hebrews were leaning
back to the old covenant. This was a heart hardening process.
They are warned against unbelief. There is danger of those who
had been brought to the knowledge of new covenant truth to draw
back in unbelief. Therefore the exhortation. "Take heed."
The writer recalls Israel's hardness of heart when there was
no water at Rephidim and they murmured against Moses. (Ex 17:1-7)
This was the provocation Israel caused God in the wilderness.
The word 'temptation ' simply means to 'put to the test.' In time
of adversity and trial, Israel did not trust God but in unbelief
said, "Is the Lord among us or not?" It is the unbeliever
who cries: "We'll see if there is a God" or "We'll
see if God answers prayer." There was no faith, but unbelief.
There was no confidence in God, but unbelief. Like the infidel
today who says: "If there be a God why does He not do such
and such." The unbelief of Israel in their wilderness journey
is clearly brought out in verse nine. "When your fathers
tempted me and proved me, and saw my works.' The word 'tempted'
as the word 'temptation' in the preceding verse, means 'to put
to the test to see what good or evil may be found." The word
'proved' means 'to put to the test for the purpose of approving
should the test be met." In Malachi 3:10 God, speaking through
the prophet, says, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,
that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith,
saith the Lord of hosts." Here the child of God is called
upon 'to prove God.' However, there is a vast difference in proving
God by tempting or putting to the test in unbelief, and proving
God in faith and obedience. God's people, Israel, in their wilderness
wanderings, were full of unbelief. In times of trial Israel said,
"Is the Lord among us or not." (Ex 17:&) Thus Israel
had hardened their hearts toward God. The recipients of the Hebrews
epistle were being persecuted for their professed faith in the
Messiah. I such time of trial they are warned against hardening
their hearts. In spite of trial they are exhorted to continue
in the faith, being confident that God will meet their every need.
How often professed Christians, today, in time of suffering,
trial, or disappointment, question the goodness of the Lord? They
harden their hearts against God, become bitter, and no longer
rejoice in the God of their salvation. May we, believers, in our
trials continue in faith and confidence, committing our way unto
the Lord. Happy is the man whose faith does not waver in the trying
circumstances of life, but whose faith brings glory to God.
In verse ten we see the terrible result of Israel hardening their
hearts. "God was grieved with that generation," literally
was, Wroth" or displeased." It incurred the displeasure
of God. God was displeased because 'they do always err in their
heart." The word 'err' means 'to wander.' The same thought
is brought out in Isaiah 29:24; 35:8. Israel was prone to wander,
to be lead astray. Had Israel submitted to God in their trials
and gained experimental knowledge as they should have done, they
would not have erred.
In His displeasure with Israel, God "sware," that is,
He gave His oath, "They shall not enter into my rest."
The thought is that Jehovah would no longer exist should Israel
enter Canaan rest. So certain was it that Israel should not enter.
Jehovah will never cease to exist. The word "rest' here does
not mean relief from fatigue but 'cessation from work that has
been well done." It refers to a cessation of activity. It
is spoken of as God's rest in that He would give it to His people
It was to be the Canaan rest which would be a contrast to the
slavery of Israel In Egypt. Though a new generation, which was
born in the wilderness wandering, entered Canaan under the leadership
of Joshua, they enjoyed no permanent rest because of their sin
in idolatrous practices.
Having concluded the quotation from Psalm 95, the apostle warns
his hearers against committing the same sin of Unbelief. "Take
Heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief
in departing from the living God. These Hebrews are in danger
of doing the same as Israel did in the wilderness. Their persecution
may, if they do not submit to God, cause them to err or go astray.
There is danger of 'an evil heart of unbelief' being manifested.
We must here distinguish from an evil heart of unbelief and in
the doubting heart of a believer. An evil heart of unbelief is
not found in the child of God but the unbeliever's heart is controlled
by unbelief. He is blind to the truth.
The child of God may doubt and at times fail to exercise faith,
but his heart is not controlled by unbelief. The Hebrew, who hardened
his heart in unbelief because of persecution, would go back from
the new covenant to the old covenant with its Levitical sacrifices.
He would either embrace the new covenant or the old covenant.
The Hebrews are therefore warned to take heed lest there be an
evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. They
were in danger of departing from the Messiah and the new covenant
and going back to the ld covenant with its typical sacrifices
with were done away with at the cross.