The author of Hebrews uses the example of the Exodus to warn believers who are wavering in their commitment to Jesus. He notes that most of the people who were freed from Egypt did not finally enter the promised land. They died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (He 3:19). And when we turn back and read the story of the Exodus we find there is no mystery as to what type of unbelief it was: every time a problem arose they refused to trust God. They doubted His love for them, His plans for them and His faithfulness to do what He promised. So as the journey progressed they grew increasingly bitter. In their minds God became their enemy. Every time He put them in a situation where they would need a miracle their response was to grow angry rather than pray. Apparently they expected to be marched straight to the land and to have it handed to them with no opposition. Therefore when difficulties did arise they saw each obstacle as Gods failure to care for them. In time they became so suspicious of Him they concluded He hated them and wanted to kill them. And it is this sad generation of people that the author holds up in front of us as a warning. The unmistakable reason he does so is because it must be possible for Christians to do the same thing. We too can harden our hearts along the way and not enter the promised land. This is why we need to again take a careful look at this passage.
A. Israels Example (Ps 95:7-11)
1) (v 7) Today: in this season of grace (Lk 4:18-21; Isa 61:1, 2); while you still have the capacity to hear My voice (Mt 13:13-16)
2) (v 8) Dont harden: dont silence the inner voice of the Holy Spirit whos calling you to repent
3) (v 8) Dont respond to trials like Israel did: angry and accusing
4) (v 9) Dont forget the miracles Ive done for you
5) (v 10) Its possible to so harden yourself that you cross a threshold: they always go astray in their hearts (the flame is extinguished; Mt 25:8)
6) (v 11) This happens to people who refuse to learn Gods ways by walking in faith
7) (v 11) If you dont keep resting in Christ, you wont enter Gods eternal rest
B. Overview of Reasons People Harden their Hearts
Over the course of the book of Hebrews at least six reasons are given. People are:
1) Unwilling to suffer persecution
2) Unwilling to walk in faith when trouble arises
3) Unwilling to rest in Christ: returning to earning salvation through works
4) Unwilling to trust in the power of Christs blood: shame causes me to withdraw from God
5) Unwilling to feed: neglecting spiritual nurture
6) Unwilling to submit to the teaching of Christs apostles: deceived by false teachers
C. The Root of Unbelief
The Exodus was particularly an example of people who were unwilling to walk in faith when trouble arises (see #2 above), so this is the warning we will look at today.
1) Doubting the goodness of God
This is the main goal of the devil. If he can sour our attitude toward God he has us on the road to rebellion.
I take control of my life because I dont trust God
Sin is trying to steal the good things God is trying to give us.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
2) Doubting the faithfulness of God
Will He do what He promised?
Notice: God tests us and acts on what we do, not His divine knowledge of our hearts.
So, when God spoke to Israel it was not united by faith in those who heard (Heb 4:2). The seed did not penetrate into their hearts and grow (Mt 13:19).
God not only points out the problem in Israels heart, He also explains why their hearts had become like this. He says simply.
they did not know My ways (v 10). What was it that Israel didnt know and why didnt they know it? Apparently, that generation expected a promised land to drop in their lap. The didnt expect:
1) To have to be changed personally (from slaves to warriors)
2) To step out in obedience before seeing Gods miracles
3) To face many opponents determined to prevent them from receiving Gods promise
They had not learned by experience the faithfulness of God.
Faith is not learned overnight. It is built by innumerable steps of obedience and then by observing Gods answer.
It is built over time by many small steps of faith: each obedience increases our capacity to take a bigger step. Each disobedience increases our fear and deafens our spiritual ears.
1) The life of faith is not optional, it is required for all who wish to know His ways and maintain a tender heart.
Hebrews 11:6 without faith
2) Hearing Gods word brings a danger: it produces either obedience or disobedience, softening of the heart or hardening.
This is why Jesus taught the crowds in parables: to prevent the further hardening of hard hearts (Mt 13:10-13; Lk 8:10).
3) Every step of faith opens new potential: you stand on a new level looking at a new assignment which is tougher than your previous assignment.
The reward for faithfulness is a greater challenge.
God calls every believer into the wilderness which is the season between Egypt (slavery) and the promised land (heaven). To successfully move from point A to point B we must walk in faith, otherwise the difficulties we face will harden us to God until we doubt the very essentials of our salvation. Clearly its possible to die in the wilderness without reaching the promised land, but its not easy. It takes a stubborn, willful refusal to obey God while allowing a hostile mistrust to grow.
What do you and I do when:
1) A crisis occurs: pray? accuse?
2) God speaks: obey? delay?
3) God is silent: seek? continue?
Name a time when you had to step out and obey God before you saw His answer. Was this hard to do? What effect did it have on you?