A Good Church
Hebrews 3:7 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 desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10That is why I was angry with that generation, and 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.' " 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (NIV)
The Book of Hebrews addresses two main subjects: the superiority of Christ and exhortations of obedient living. Mixed in with these two subjects are five warnings to the Hebrews to whom this letter was written. Each warning addresses a specific issue with the Hebrews, of which the writer is personally aware. The writer is thought to be Paul. This passage represents the second of the five warnings given to the Hebrew Christians to whom this letter is addressed. These warnings are just as relevant to Christians today as they were to the Hebrew Christians in the sixties, A.D.
The writer begins this passage by citing from a Psalm of David. Verses 7-11 are taken from Psalm 95:7-11. The fact that the verses correspond with one another is a divine event. Verse numbers and chapter separations were added after the fact.
Just as the Holy Spirit brought the words to David, so does the “Holy Spirit” (v.7) now bring the words to the writer. Verses 7-11 give an accounting of the wanderings of the Hebrews in the desert, the wilderness, for forty years after the exodus from slavery in Egypt. The people rebelled against God the whole way, causing a trip from Egypt to Israel of months to take forty years. Because of their unbelief, expressed by rebellion, only two of some 600,000 Hebrews were allowed by God to enter the Promised Land.
Only Caleb and Joshua, who believed and did not rebel, were allowed to enter the Promised Land. All others perished in the desert during the forty years, leaving only Caleb, Joshua, and the new generation to complete the journey. Even Moses was denied entry, because of his disobedience in striking the rock, instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:8-13). Moses was allowed to see the Promised Land from a distance but died before entry (Dt. 34:1-6). This is a typecast of salvation. Only those who believe are allowed to enter Heaven.
The writer now issues his warning to his “brothers” (v. 12a), likely the church in Jerusalem. Although the writer addresses the Hebrews as “brothers” this does not mean that they were all Christians. Not all who call themselves Christians are actually Christians. Only they and the Lord know if they are truly saved.
The warning, from this passage, is not to have “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (v. 12b). The Hebrews of the exodus started their journey from Egypt by trusting and believing in God. But they sinned, by losing that trust, that belief, when hardship came upon them. In the same way, people today start out by expressing belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, but when hardship comes through the attacks of Satan, as it always does, they sometimes lose that trust, that belief.
One of the remedies for the sin of loss of trust in God is encouragement from other Christians (v. 13a). A good church will support those fellow members who face hardship. They will support them “daily”, and “Today” is the time to start (v. 13b). Their support will help keep them from being “hardened by sin's deceitfulness” (v. 13c). A “hardened” heart is one who has lost their trust in God. A good, Bible based, church can help keep this from happening.
A good church supports their fellow members in times of hardship. Unfortunately, some churches do not. If this happens to you, do not give up on God, and do not give up on church. Instead, try another church. I do not encourage church shopping, but, at the same time, if a church is not following the teachings of the Bible you should not be a member of that church.
Online Bible Commentary