Hebrews 3:7-11

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 19, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“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 time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; 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.’’” -Hebrews 3:7-11

The previous section of chapter 3 discussed Jesus as compared to Moses, and it ended with the phrase: “And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (verse 6). This section ties into that firm foundation, with an Old Testament Scriptural quotation.

The section of Hebrews is basically all a quote from Psalm 95:7-11. For more on the context of Psalm 95, check out this post. While that post focuses more on the first 6 verses of this psalm, here I’ll focus on the last half, which is quoted here by the author of Hebrews. This quote is referring to the time in the nation of Israel’s life when they did not walk in fellowship with God but were disobedient to Him.

This quotation is attributed to the Holy Spirit at this location; later, in Hebrews 4:7, the author of Hebrews mentions it again and attributes it to David. The psalm itself does not have an author’s name attached to it, but considering David wrote so many of the psalms, his authorship is very plausible. Attributing this quote to the Spirit also shows the divine authorship of all of Scripture; human hands wrote the words, but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The quotation from Psalm 95 starts with the word “today” in verse 7, which is important. The content of this passage is applicable a few thousand years ago when the psalm was written, in the first century when the book of Hebrews was written, and every single day this passage is read. Immediate action is necessary - we must hear God’s voice each and every day!

We must also not harden our hearts. A person having a hardened heart means they are not following God. They are acting in disobedience to Him and following their own ways and desires, just like what Israel did in the wilderness. They rebelled against God often, but this reference in verse 8 is likely a specific reference to the incident in Exodus 17:1-7 where they tested God by demanding water in the wilderness.

The idea of testing God in the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness continues in verse 9. Israel should have trusted God’s works that they could see, including His deliverance of them out of slavery in Egypt. God is always faithful no matter what, but the Israelites rejected Him for 40 years for that time period. At the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews, it was likely about 40 years since many of the descendants of those first Israelites rejected Jesus when He came to earth as their Messiah.

We often tend to think of God as simply loving, but it is clear from verse 10 that God does get angry. He does not just passively let us sin and become indifferent to it; because His nature is completely opposed to all types of sin, He must get angry at it. In this case, the passage specifically calls out His anger toward the generation of Israelites that was wandering in the wilderness. Their hearts were constantly going astray. The use of “heart” here refers to the whole inner being, the person’s thoughts, feelings, and will. If they really knew God’s ways and really understood His faithfulness and care for them, they would not have acted in such rebellion toward God.

Because of all of that, we see God’s judgment on them in verse 11. The reference to an oath here refers to when the spies returned from their survey into the Promised Land (Numbers 14). It is significant that the Psalmist brings together an incident from early in the wilderness period and one from late in that period. The Israelites rebelled and caused God to be angry at the beginning of the exodus, at the end of the exodus, and often in between.

God made a binding oath out of His wrath at their sin that they should “never enter my rest.” God actively opposes their sin, so He has to do something about it. The word used here is a stronger one than simply saying anger or even wrath, but we don’t really have a stronger word in English for that kind of anger. God is that passionately opposed to sins against Him.

But what does it mean that they should never enter God’s rest? The idea of rest here is a place of blessing where there is no more struggle; there is only relaxation in God’s presence and there is no fear about anything. Some believe this rest in the psalm refers to a physical place, such as entering the Promised Land, or the idea of living under the rule of the Messiah - as Israel had often thought would be political. But, it is more likely that the author intends this rest to refer to a spiritual sense - being in complete peace with God as we will be able to spend eternity.

These words of Psalm 95 were written many centuries before even Jesus walked the earth, but they were still true in the first century and they are still true today. We are commanded to not harden our hearts and rebel against God, but to hear God’s voice. We can look back to Israel’s history and see how their disobedience worked out for them; we are urged not to follow their disobedient example. We are to instead know God’s ways and strive to follow Him with all our hearts.

What are you doing in your life to help you follow the ways of God instead of falling into rebellion against Him? Are you surrounding yourself with people that will encourage you in this struggle that we all face? Or are you giving in to rebellion and letting sin run your life? I encourage you to examine your life this week and determine if you’re listening to God’s voice or hardening your heart to Him.

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