DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEART
Hebrews 3:7-19 23 JULY 2023
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
I recently heard a story of a man standing on a busy street corner, next to a jewelry store that buys gold and silver.
He was trying to give away something to people as they walked by. He approached the people one at a time and offered to give them either a $20 bill or a one-ounce gold coin. It was their choice.
Every one of them took the $20 bill. It was so strange. Possibly, they didn’t think the gold was real. He tried to get them to go to the jewelry store to confirm it was a real gold coin.
The man was trying to give away a gold coin worth about $1,600.
But no one wanted it. Every one of them was skeptical.
The coin was real, but nobody believed him. They wouldn’t trust him. So, they settled for something worth much less.
If only they would have believed…they would have gained so much!
When it comes to our belief in God, that is actually the message we need to hear today: we need to believe. Not that a coin is real and valuable - but that God is real; that God is powerful, and that God loves us.
“Warning against unbelief”
That is actually the message we need to hear today: - we need to believe- not that a coin is real and valuable- but that God is real, powerful, and loves us.
WE need to put our full confidence in God.
Today we will be in Hebrews 3:7-19 - READ
This passage is a warning.
It is a warning against unbelief.
It is a warning to obey.
It is a warning against hardening your heart.
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.” Hebrews 3:8-9 (NIV)
1. A warning against unbelief and an expectation of immediate action. The word TODAY appears in those verses no less than three times. That should make our ears perk up and hear what is being said.
- it means immediately- it means now- it means don’t delay or put it off
Today MEANS NOW…
But many think they’ll trust God later. No rush. Got plenty of time.
The message found here in Hebrews is not just an evangelistic message aimed at unbelievers. It is meant for those who call themselves Christians. In fact, this book is actually written to Christians, not to unbelievers.
I think we can all agree that belief is essential for salvation- but that is not a one-time belief. We are to continue in our belief- throughout our lives.
The text also references hardened hearts: And specifically, it says not to harden your heart, as others have done, meaning that they actually and purposefully made a decision to harden their hearts.
Here is the condition of a person whose heart has been hardened:
A hardened heart does not listen for God. And therefore, they do not hear God, and their lives don’t reflect that they know God.
A physical heart that becomes hard indicates that the body which owns the heart is dead.
We must not become dead to God. We must make the choice to have hearts soft and pliable to God. It is through that pliable heart that we can understand these warnings and the situation.
We have to think back to the Old Testament for some valuable teaching, looking back to the rebellion of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament as they left Egypt for the Promised Land.
Let’s look at the time and setting: We remember that the Israelites had spent 430 years in Egyptian bondage.
Through miracles provided by God and by the leadership of Moses, the nation of Israel was delivered from Egyptian pain and slavery and into the promised land.
But wait a minute. There was a problem here. They didn’t go directly into the promised land, did they? They didn’t get to enter into this land of milk and honey- because they were rebellious.
Let’s take a minute and remember that we and the Hebrew Christians have been delivered from slavery and bondage to sin - that we have been saved from something and saved for something.
We can see parallels between us, the Hebrew Christians, and those Hebrews who just came out of Egyptian slavery.
1. Each of us has been saved from the fire, so to speak, but we haven’t reached our final destination.
2. Belief and faithfulness are requirements to enter God’s rest.
The writer of the Hebrews letter says in verses 10 and 11 (NIV): “That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
We will see in the text and remember from our own studies: - that these people and that generation- that Moses led out of Egypt never made it to the promised land.
They died in the desert.
Why? Or, How?
Specifically, because of their lack of belief or faith in God’s promise.
They did not trust God to deliver them into the promised land.
They were called rebels of God and caused God to be angry.
Let’s remember what they had seen God do for them.
They had just been rescued from 400 years of slavery.
They had walked through the Red Sea and had watched the entire Egyptian army drown.
They had been miraculously guided through the wilderness.
They had been brought to a land flowing with milk and honey.
Miracle after miracle. Blessings after blessings.
All they had to do was trust and obey God. But they failed to do that.
God gave them His Law and His promises, and the children of Israel arrived at the border of the Promised Land.
Moses and Aaron chose 12 men: the top leaders out of hundreds of thousands to explore the land and see if God was telling the truth.
After 40 days they returned with evidence.
"We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit" (Numbers 13:27).
Of the 12 spies, 10 were bad and 2 were good. They all saw the same land. They saw the good land, and they also saw the opposition.
And, they came to completely different conclusions:
Joshua and Caleb leaned on their faith in God. The other 10 spies fell to fear. 2 trusted God, 10 did not.
Joshua and Caleb saw scary things and trusted God, encouraging the Israelites to believe in God's promises.
"Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome them." Numbers 13:30
The other 10 spies saw scary things and doubted God.
Numbers 13:31-33: "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we." They said they saw giants "and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight."
That lack of faith spread like an infection through the entire congregation of Israelites, who promptly forgot all the miracles they had seen and doubted the nature and ability of God.
Belief in God means trusting in God. 10 spies saw a problem they could not solve- 2 of them saw a problem that they knew God is able to solve.
The lesson in Hebrews 3 is simple: don’t be like those unbelievers- have real faith- place your whole trust IN GOD.
The short version of this warning against unbelief:
- is that there are 2 choices:
- the blessing of God’s rest, Jesus as our Savior, and heaven, or
- we can choose punishment that follows unbelief and rebellion.
I believe God is drawing a line between those who call themselves His people and those who actually put their hope and trust in Him.
Unbelief is a threat to our salvation: for all of us.
- NOTICE what these OT people have been through.
- How God miraculously blessed them over and over, and they still managed to be DISOBEDIENT and UNBELIEVING.
God’s people are always to be about:
- Trusting in Him with all their hearts.
- To not lean on their own understanding.
- To stand out from the crowd, not to blend in with the masses.
That connects to Matthew 7:13 where Jesus teaches us: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
The warning here is clear, and it goes against the grain of society.
Some people believe that, in the end, God will save every person who ever lived. After all, if He is such a loving God how could He allow anyone to go to Hell? Everyone is not going to be SAVED; not because God can’t save them, but because some won’t believe IN HIM, all allow Him to save them.
Notice the consequences of an unbelieving heart that rejects God.
Verse 12: “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
Verse19: So, we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” Hebrews 3:12,19 (NIV)
In the desert: An entire Hebrew generation did not enter into the Promised Land. A whole generation died in the wilderness because they did not believe God could conquer their enemy, the giants who were already living in the Promised Land.
Only Caleb and Joshua believed and only they entered the promised land. The rest died over a period of 40 years, never entering the promised “rest” of the Promised Land.
The rebellion in the desert came with a harsh punishment that was firmly remembered in the minds of the people.
The lesson to be learned: from the Exodus is to trust God, to believe in God – no matter how bleak the situations before you appear to be. God can handle it!
Hebrews 3 is quoting Psalm 95: 7-11: “Today, if only you would hear His voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known My ways.’ So, I declared on oath in My anger, ‘They shall never enter My rest.’”
That message from Psalm 95 would resonate with the Jewish Christians. As Jews the Hebrews knew well the history of their nation.
The Hebrew people were warned not to fall into unbelief, or they will suffer the loss of the promised rest.
This should be a warning for us today as well.
The Hebrew Christians were headed down the same wrong path: The message comes now with the same error of unbelief…comes the same loss of the promised “rest” for Christians.
Jesus is our rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
The “rest” for the Christian has to be Jesus and heaven: What other rest is the Christian promised?
What rest can be taken away? Only the promised rest of heaven.
The greatest danger we Christians face is forsaking our faith in God and then drifting away from our faith unintentionally,
This is a warning against intentional rebellion and unbelief.
The difference between believing God is real and putting our TRUST in the real God.
The difference is where you spend eternity.
The Bible says even the demons believe God is real: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” James 2:19
The kind of belief that God is looking for is trust: and it’s a difficult thing to do; it is kind of like believing a parachute will open. That is one thing --- but jumping out of a plane with it on your back is another. Trust.
Turning away from God is the same danger each Christian faces.
It is the danger of trusting ourselves and what we think we can do without Him.
The danger is in trusting our own understanding and forgetting to trust in God’s wisdom and forgetting that God’s foolishness is still greater than mankind's wisdom.
We have to see belief from God’s perspective. Belief is not, and cannot be, a one-time event. Belief is a continuous and ongoing living reality in our daily living.
What good is belief if it folds when:
the doctor says you have cancer,
you don’t have what you need at the moment,
you are hopeless, depressed, and anxious,
Belief is knowing that God is good and faithful even when we face oppression and suffering; even when the world is dark, and the walls are closing in.
Belief is saying like the Psalmist: “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2
Belief is accepting that mean, cruel, awful things happen-
that we will have trouble-
but that God will right all the wrongs one day-
that He is in charge, even when things go sour.
Belief in God means trusting in God:
Remember the 12 spies? 10 saw a problem they could not solve; 2 saw a problem God would solve.
BELIEF is a requirement for SALVATION.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18
Belief requires action: Mark 16:16: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
The good news is:
- that there is still time to put your belief in God- to TRUST Him for your salvation TODAY…
- the offer is open but comes with a deadline.
Jesus is coming BACK soon: on a day we don’t expect or know- He’s coming to reward those who are His and to punish those who have rejected Him.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”
One thing I know for certain: we are closer to the second coming of Jesus than we have ever been. We need to get ready, to be sure we are ready to meet Him.
It is so strange that Christians are living thinking: Jesus won’t come back for 1,000 years or more. But the truth is He could come back RIGHT NOW.
Will you TRUST JESUS TODAY?
That might mean you release something to God - something that you have tried to control - and you realize that you NEED God to take the lead.
It could mean that you need to give your life to Jesus: - to confess Him as Lord- to repent of your sins- be baptized to receive forgiveness of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says - that we are all sinners- we’ve all gone astray- that we are all guilty and deserve to die and go to Hell.
But Jesus made a better way:
- Jesus loved us and paid our debt.
- He died on the cross so He could save you from your own sins.
What is your choice?
- The decision is yours alone.
- The decision is yours, and so are the consequences.
- One way leads to heaven; one leads to hell.
I don’t think anyone wants to go to Hell: - and the good news is that no one has to.
- Jesus died once for all. He died for you…will you believe in Him?