STUDY Hebrews 3:7-19
(click here for notes)
So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the timed or testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 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.' So I declared on oath in my anger,
They shall never enter my rest.'
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said:
"Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest, if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (NIV)
Warning against Hard Hearts
The writer has just demonstrated that Jesus is greater than Moses. Moses was "faithful as a servant in all God's house," but "Christ is faithful as a son over God's house." (v.5,6) Jesus is greater than Moses, the author says, in the way "the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself." (v.3) In light of this truth about Jesus, the writer continues in verse 7, we need to heed the Holy Spirit's instruction to the psalmist found in Psalm 95:7-11.
1. This passage in Hebrews (v. 7-11) refers to three periods of time in Israel's history: the wandering in the desert, the time of the psalmist, and the time of the very early church. To what/whom had the Israelites in the desert hardened their hearts, and how did God discipline them? (Numbers 14:1-4, 26-35)
2. Why would the psalmist remind the nation of Israel of their forefathers' disobedience and of their being denied entering their promised rest? (see Psalm 95)
3. The author of Hebrews is writing to Israelites who have become Christians, and he has just established the supremacy of Christ over Moses. If these new Christians "harden" their hearts, what are they actually rejecting, and how is their situation similar to but different from that of ancient Israel? (see Numbers 14:20; Joshua 1:13,15; Exodus 33:14; Deut. 12:10; 25:19; Hebrews 3:15; 4:3-5; 8-10)
4. If these Hebrew Christians harden their hearts, how is their apostasy more serious than the Israelites? (Hebrews 2:2,3; Hebrews 10:28,29)
Encourage To Stay Faithful
The phrase "turn away from the living God" (v.12) literally means "to become apostate".
1. Why is it significant that the author follows his warning "that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God" with the admonition to "encourage one another daily"? (see Hebrews 10:24,25; Titus 2:15)
2. How is it possible to be "hardened by sin's deceitfulness", and how is encouraging one another an antidote to such deception? (see Jer. 17:9; Eph. 4:22; Titus 2:3-8; 11-15; 3:1,2)
3. What is "Today" in v. 13, and why does the author suggest an end to Today by telling the Hebrews to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today"? (see Hebrews 4:7)
Hold Onto Your Confidence
"We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first," the author declares.
1. What is "the confidence we had at first"? (see Eph. 3:12; 2 Cor. 3:3-6; Hebrews 4:15-16; 10:19-22; 35; 1 John 2:28; 3:18-22; 1 John 4:16,17)
2. A hardened heart and losing our confidence don't seem at first to be related, but verses 14 & 15 suggest they are. How is a hardened heart the antithesis of not holding firmly to "the confidence we had at first"?
3. What does it mean "to share in Christ", and why does the author say we "share in Christ" if "we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first"? (see v. 6; Romans 11:22)
The Cause of Not Entering Rest
The author closes this section warning against rebellion and unbelief by asking the Hebrews to remember how and why their forebears had failed to enter God's rest.
1. Why did the ancient Israelites fail to enter their promised rest? (Numbers 14:29; Psalm 106:24-27; 1 Cor. 10:5; Hebrews 3:9,16,17,18,19)
2. What was the rest they failed to enter? (Numbers 14:20-24; Deut. 1:34,35)
3. If the ancient Israelites lost their rest because of unbelief, how were the first-century Hebrew Christians in danger of losing their promised rest, and what was their promised rest? (Hebrews 4:8-11)
1. Are you living in God's rest?
2. How does this warning not to harden your hearts and not to miss entering God's rest apply to you?
3. Does Israel's apostasy seem different to you from the apostasy the Church faces today? How or how not?
4. How have you been "hardened by sin's deceitfulness"?
5. Have you experienced encouragement from a fellow believer that has protected you from sin's deception? Explain.
1. What confusion or doubt do you need to lay before Jesus, asking him to make the truth clear?
2. What is keeping you from holding firmly to the confidence you had at first?
3. In what area[s] of your life do you feel you are being disobedient or are hardening your heart?
4. In what areas of your life and experience with Christ do you fear deception?
5. Honestly bring your fear and rebellion to Jesus. Ask him to take them
from you and to fill the place they held in your heart with his Spirit of
truth and righteousness. Ask Jesus to give you his strength to "hold
firmly till the end the confidence [you] had at first".
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised November 26, 2000.