that the King of Glory may come in."
3:15. While it is said, Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the provocation.
Again the writer emphasizes the point made in verses 7 and 8. It is vital that his readers understand that what was true for Israel under the Old Covenant could be just as true for them under the New. God is still speaking to His people, both corporately and individually. We have the same obligation to listen and obey as Israel did. The fact that we are, as stated in the previous verse, “made partakers of Christ” only makes in more incumbent upon us that we respond to Him and live according to both His written Word and His direct word to us.
verse 16. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. (17) But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? (18) and to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to them that believed not?
We find it hard to understand when a whole group of people suffers punishment because of just some of their number. I think of instances in the Old Testament when just one person sinned, and the whole of his family was killed as a result. One example that comes to mind is Achan in Joshua chapter 7. No-one in his family was even asked if they agreed with or approved of Achan’s actions – because of their association with him, they shared his fate.
In the same way, when the people of Israel chose to believe the bad report of the ten spies instead of the good report of Joshua and Caleb, not everyone in the nation agreed with that choice. Some probably looked at each other, shook their heads and said, “I can’t believe that our leaders could be that stupid!” Yet they were part of the nation as a whole, and as such had to share in the fate of the nation as a whole. In fact, even Joshua and Caleb had to wander through the wilderness with the nation of Israel for the next forty years, even though they had urged the people to faith and obedience. Those forty years could not have been easy for these two men of God. I can imagine they often looking longingly across Jordan and thinking, “If it weren’t for this lot, I’d be there now!”
The point is, our choices and our actions affect more than ourselves. Those around us will also be drawn along with us, and even if they don’t agree with our choices they may well end up sharing our fate. When we choose to disbelieve and disobey God, we set up forces that can end in tragedy for our families, our communities, and even our nations.
verse 19. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Unbelief is never a light thing. When God says something, we can either choose to believe it or call God a liar. If we choose to believe, then that belief will produce action in our lives – action that is in accordance with our belief, and that results in obedience to what God requires. If the people of Israel had really believed that God was giving them the land of Canaan, they would have entered in and conquered the land.
Unbelief, on the other hand, will also produce action – action that is in accordance with our unbelief (or our negative belief.) Because the people of Israel believed that God could not or would not do what He had promised, they were left with the question of whether they could do it themselves. Their answer was a resounding “no”, and the result was their disobedience to God.
Note that the writer does not just say that they “would not” enter because of their unbelief, but that they “could not.” When we choose to disbelieve what God says, we make obedience absolutely impossible for ourselves. Not only that, but when we disbelieve God’s promises He can withdraw those promises and make them unavailable to us.
We need to be sure that we always choose to believe what God says, and that we do not lock ourselves out of anything He promises by our unbelief and resultant disobedience.
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