Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.
Remember what it says:
“TODAY WHEN YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DON’T HARDEN YOUR HEARTS as Israel did when they rebelled.”
And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice?
Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?
And who made God angry for forty years?
Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness?
And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest?
Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him?
So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.Hebrews 3:12-19
You guessed it. We are dealing with the same passage again. Of course that would be the case, you would expect me to stay with a passage until I have sucked from it everything the author intended. As two of my mates pointed out in response to the last Gem, “It is nice to see we are moving on now. Do you realise you have spent 17 Gems on Hebrews 3:8 or 3:7-11? I am sure you do, but I just thought I would point it out. Now I see we are moving on. The pillar of cloud of the pillar of fire must have lifted from above the tabernacle and be on the move again.”
The first feature of our new paragraph we have to take notice of is the repetition of the word “today”.
That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.Hebrews 3:7-8
You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.Hebrews 3:13
Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”Hebrews 3:15
Why is the word ‘today‘ repeated three times in a short paragraph? It must surely be important. Many have wondered which today was in focus. Was it a particular day in the time of Moses? Was it a particular day in the time of the writer of the letter or a particular day in the lives of the recipients of the letter? Some suggest this ‘today’ refers to “the days of Messiah”. Some think it is a specific day of the LORD’s calling to individuals. Others make much of the construction “warn each other every day, while it is called today”, with emphasis on the use of ἄχρι / ἄχρις which has multiple meanings. These words can mean:-
- [ἄχρι] (achri): with respect to place, with respect to a designated time, as far as to the time of, until, during,
- [ἄχρις] (achris): until, as far as , while, even. hitherto, into (of a time period)
These variations in meanings encourage commentators to search out the designated time intended. Is it God related? Is it era driven? Is it related to the lives of individuals? Is it related to the pending timing of the beginning of Nero’s persecution? I don’t think it is any of those alternatives. I think the writer of the letter makes it clear what he is meaning by this choice of words.
There is a continuous daily need for us to be vigilant against drifting. We need to “warn each other every day, while it is called today”, to cling to Christ. The strong emphatic use of “today” is to remind us of the immediacy of the obedience needed when we hear His voice. Our obedient response is needed at the point of realising we have heard God’s voice and we need to take action. Do it now while it is still today! That is, you have a 24 hour period to respond, from midnight to the following midnight. Or better yet from sundown to sundown – i.e. while it is still daytime. Today! If you wait until tomorrow; tomorrow has already made today yesterday. The call for immediate action is to prevent drifting into hardness of heart, disobedience or indifference. Do it now!
The next element in the text we need to notice is “when you hear His voice“. [Ean] is a conjunction which expresses the idea of what is expected to occur under certain circumstances. It can be expressed in English as “if” or “when” but the idea when ‘if’ is used to translate [ean] is not doubt that hearing His voice may not happen. Rather hearing His voice will happen and when it does, take immediate action. God’s voice is always heard, either by our ears or in our conscience, by His Spirit to our spirit or in our thoughts. You WILL hear His word to your heart. God will get your attention. If we are honest with ourselves and stop and take note of our God inspired thoughts, we will realise He has said “that” before. In fact He has been saying it to me repeatedly. Take note of God’s repetitions. I tell participants in Deeper Bible, pay careful attention to repetition in the Bible. Just like with your mother and father’s repetitions, God’s repetitions are important to heed. WHEN you hear the Voice of God, in whatever form it may come, take action straight away. Not to do so will put you in a dangerous place.
- Who was it who heard His voice?
- Who was it who rebelled against God?
- Who was it made God angry for forty years?
- To whom was God speaking when He took an oath that they would not enter His rest?
Wasn’t it . . .
- the people Moses led out of Egypt?
- the people who sinned and died in the wilderness?
- the people who disobeyed Him?
It’s very clear isn’t it? It was the Jews. In other words those who heard were ‘God’s chosen people’. Those who had been marked as the people God would pay attention to and through whom He would show His glory. Those He would bless if they responded with obedience. Well, by the time of the letter to the Hebrews being sent to those Jews who had decided to follow Jesus as their Messiah, they were now Christians, Christ followers. Isn’t that the point of the letter to the Hebrews? The author is in the process of reminding them (and us) how much more important it is for your eternal spiritual state to obey Christ. Don’t neglect Christ in the way the Jews of old neglected the commands of Moses. Now it is not a case of rebelling against Moses. Now it is a case of rebelling against The Son, the One who is so much greater than angels and prophets and all else.
Don’t miss out on entering God’s rest like they did.
Now is the time to move on to Chapter 4, but I am sure you will realise there should be no chapter break at this point. This was an example of where Robert Estienne put the chapter break in the wrong place.
If You Think Being Obedient Is Too Hard.. Just Try Disobedience For A While And See What It Brings You.Robb Thompson
Understanding can wait; obedience can’t. Instant obedience will teach you more about God than a lifetime of Bible discussions.Bob Gass
Procrastination makes easy things hard and hard things harder.Mason Cooley
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.Abraham Lincoln
Delayed obedience is disobedience.Rick Warren