that the King of Glory may come in."
4.2 For the good news was preached to us, as well as to them: but the word preached did not profit them, because it was not mixed with faith in those that heard it.
The King James uses the word “gospel” here, but it is not a good translation, because it implies that the people of Israel heard the Gospel as we understand it – the truth that God has provided for the forgiveness of man’s sin by sending the second Person of the Godhead to become man in the person of Jesus Christ and die a substitutionary death on behalf of all mankind. Of course, the people of Israel did not have the privilege of receiving that message. Even the prophets who spoke of the coming of Christ did not fully understand what that coming would mean.
What the Israelites did have preached to them was the good news that there was a place of rest prepared for them by God: a place where they would no longer labor under the bondage that they knew in Egypt, where God would provide for them and establish them.
We have received the same good news, but for us it is about a spiritual place of rest rather than a physical country as in the case of Israel.
Good news on it’s own, however, is not enough. Good news only profits the receiver when it is accepted, believed and acted upon.
Suppose a man received a letter to say that he had inherited a million dollars from a long-lost relative whom he had never even known he had. He reads the letter and says to himself, “This is nonsense. Someone is trying to trick me. I never had an uncle, much less one that was a millionaire.” Then he scrunches the letter up and throws it in the garbage. Will the good news be any profit to him? No, he won’t be one cent richer because of it. He might as well have never received the news in the first place.
What if he reads the letter and says, “I’m not going to accept this. I’m perfectly capable of looking after my family by myself. I don’t need anybody else’s handouts.” He tears the letter up and throws it away. Again, the good news will be no profit to him at all. Even though he believed it, he refused to accept it.
Maybe he reads the letter, believes that the money is really there, and knows that he really could use a million dollars, but then he reads that the solicitor’s office, where he would have to go to collect it, is a long way away. Sadly, he throws the letter away, saying to himself, “It’s just too far to go. I don’t want to travel that far to collect this money.” The good news is still no use to him. He believes it, and he wants what is promised, but he is not prepared to take action to get it.
The writer tells us that the good news preached to the Israelites did not profit them because it was not mixed with faith. Faith is made up of these three elements: we must believe that the promise is true; we must accept that we need what is being promised; and we must take action to claim the promise as our own.
Scholars suggest that the word “mixed” as used here is referring to a process similar to what happens when food is taken into the body: it is mixed with saliva and gastric juices so that it can be absorbed and eventually become part of the body. If we were to somehow take in food without it being mixed with these juices, it would not be digested and would be no use to the body. In fact, it would quite possibly even cause damage to the body rather than helping to build it up.
Faith works the same way with the good news that is preached to us. It enables us to break it down and absorb it into our being, until eventually it becomes part of us.
Israel missed out on God’s best because they heard the good news, but did not believe it, did not accept it, and did not act upon it. They did not exercise the faith to make it their own.
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