Hebrews - Lesson 8

Hebrews 3:7-19

In this lesson, you explore the significance of Hebrews 3:7-19 and its relevance for both the original audience and modern readers. By examining the quotation from Psalm 95, you learn about the warning against unbelief and the consequences of disobedience, including hardened hearts. Additionally, you delve into the theological implications of the passage, emphasizing the importance of faith, the necessity of perseverance, and the dangers of apostasy. As you progress through this lesson, you gain a deeper understanding of the text and its relevance for Christian living today.

Lesson 8
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Hebrews 3:7-19

NT528-08: Hebrews 3:7-19

I. Introduction to Hebrews 3:7-19

A. Context and Background

B. Significance of the Passage

II. Exegesis of Hebrews 3:7-19

A. Quotation from Psalm 95

B. The Warning against Unbelief

1. Hardened Hearts

2. Disobedience and Consequences

C. Application to the Original Audience

D. Application for Modern Readers

III. Theological Implications

A. The Importance of Faith

B. The Necessity of Perseverance

C. The Danger of Apostasy

  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Hebrews' background, literary features, themes like Jesus as High Priest, faith and perseverance, the New Covenant, and its significance in the New Testament.
  • This lesson offers insights into Hebrews' purpose, emphasizing perseverance in faith and the superiority of Christ over prophets, angels, Moses, and the Levitical priesthood, while also exploring warning passages and their application to modern believers.
  • By studying this lesson, you gain insight into the Son's superiority to angels in Hebrews, explore the biblical basis for this concept, and learn about the roles and functions of angels in the Bible, deepening your understanding of Christology and its relevance today.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the context, exegesis, and application of Hebrews 2:1-4, emphasizing the importance of heeding Christ's superior message and recognizing the confirmation provided by the Holy Spirit and accompanying miracles.
  • In this lesson, you'll explore the context and themes of Hebrews 2:5-9, focusing on Christ's superiority, His incarnation, and the encouragement it provides for believers.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into Jesus' role as the perfect leader and High Priest, exploring His suffering, incarnation, and the purpose behind His actions for the deliverance and reconciliation of humanity.
  • Through this lesson, you will understand the roles of Jesus and Moses in Hebrews 3:1-6, the significance of faithfulness, and the importance of perseverance in the Christian life.
  • Through this lesson, you gain understanding of Hebrews 3:7-19, learning about the consequences of unbelief, the importance of faith, and the necessity of perseverance to avoid apostasy.
  • By studying Hebrews 4:1-11, you'll learn about God's promised rest, its ties to the Old Testament Sabbath, and the role of faith in accessing it.
  • In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the power of God's Word, Jesus' role as the Great High Priest, and the significance of the high priestly order of Melchizedek in the context of Jesus' suffering and obedience.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights on the significance of spiritual maturity in the Christian life, the consequences of spiritual immaturity, and the importance of perseverance, using Abraham as an example.
  • Through this lesson, you gain a comprehensive understanding of Hebrews 5:11-6:12, learning about spiritual immaturity, the dangers of apostasy, and the importance of perseverance and spiritual growth in your faith journey.
  • By studying Hebrews 6:13-20, you gain insight into the connection between God's promise to Abraham and the hope Christians have in Jesus, emphasizing the role of Jesus as High Priest and anchor for the soul.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jesus' superior priesthood, the New Covenant's transformative power, and the implications for believers, offering assurance and perseverance in faith.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the significance of Christ's superior priesthood, His ministry in the heavenly tabernacle, and the establishment of the New Covenant, which prevails over the Old Covenant due to its better promises.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the superiority of the New Covenant in Hebrews 8:7-13, its fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy, and the implications for living under it.
  • Through this lesson, you learn about the Tabernacle's significance, the limitations of the Old Covenant, and the superiority of Christ's sacrifice in granting access to God under the New Covenant.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the superiority of Christ's sacrifice in the New Covenant and how it contrasts with the Old Covenant, deepening your understanding of faith, perseverance, and the theological implications in the New Testament.
  • By studying Hebrews 10:1-18, you understand the superiority of Christ's sacrifice and the insufficiency of the Old Covenant, while learning the importance of the New Covenant for believers.
  • Through this lesson, you learn how the blood of Jesus enables believers to confidently enter the holy place and the importance of perseverance and community in the Christian life.
  • Hebrews 10:26-39 teaches the seriousness of willful sin, the need for perseverance, and the value of living by faith in the face of adversity.
  • By studying Hebrews 11, you gain insight into the nature of true faith, its relationship with works, and the importance of perseverance through suffering.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the significance of perseverance in the Christian faith, the role of God's discipline in shaping believers' lives, and the importance of pursuing holiness and peace to avoid falling short of God's grace.
  • By studying Hebrews 12:18-29, you will learn about the contrast between Sinai and Zion, the importance of gratitude and worship, and the concept of God's unshakable kingdom within the New Testament context.
  • In Hebrews 13, you gain insight into practical Christian living, ethical exhortations, the role of leaders, and foundational theology, as well as the Epistle's relevance for today and its impact on the early church.

As Dr. Guthrie interacts with each verse, he explores not only the meaning of the text, but how we apply the theology of the text in our daily lives and ministries.

Hebrews 3: 7-19 

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

I. Purpose and Process

The purpose of the author is to talk about a statement of unfaithfulness and communicate the problem of a lack of faithfulness and disobedience in regards to the covenant. So, this is a lack of obedience, a lack of faithfulness to the covenant and not persevering in holding to the confession of faith. The process is the use of a negative example. Hebrews uses examples throughout the book; these examples are exemplars both positive and negative. In Hebrews 11, there is a list of examples; it’s a technical rhetorical thing that was used in the ancient world. You build up evidence by giving example and example. Here, he is using a focused example of those who fell in the wilderness. This was a common thing to do in Judaism of the ancient world; it was to use the negative example of those who failed, to illustrate a point. So, you have a negative example of those who wondered in the wilderness. You have something similar to this in 1st Corinthians 10:6-12. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousands of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! This is the same type of thing that the author of Hebrews is doing here.

A. Psalm 95:

So, you have the author getting into this negative example, specifically by using Psalm 95:7c-11. This is probably a meditation on Numbers 14 which is the narrative account of the falling in the wilderness. In that chapter, the Israelites spies had returned from their spying mission. With the exception of Joshua and Caliph, they give a bad report to the people. The people then weep and grumble against Moses and Aaron saying that it would have been better to die in Egypt than to face these mighty enemies in the Land of Promise. They reject Moses and Aaron and threaten to stone them. The Lord takes this
personally and as a rejection of him in disbelief. You have a linking of disobedience and unbelief or disbelief. God has worked so powerfully among them. He had shown his miracles and delivered them powerfully and yet they still didn’t trust God to get them into the land.

B. Form of the Passage:

We have a form of Midrash. The author gives the quotation of Psalm 95 and then he does a running commentary using the language of the Old Testament passage woven into his comments. In the passage following the quotation, you see the words heart, day, today, here, enter and test, rest, unbelief and swear. These terms are woven into the exposition that you have in 3:12-19. By way of introduction, the form of the passage in Hebrews 3:7-11 shows several places in which the form of this passage is somewhat different than what we have in the Septuagint text. When this happens in the Septuagint, there is a possibility that you are dealing with a different textual tradition of Hebrews. For example, after Hebrews was written and circulated, these changes somehow came in. You may be dealing with a different form of the Septuagint that Hebrews was dealing with. Perhaps it was an older tradition or an old Greek text than we have today. Or it could be a different form of the Hebrew text in some way. There are all kinds of possibilities. In the study of Hebrews in recent research among evangelicals, Hebrews is kind of making a paraphrase of his Old Testament quotation in order to make it read more clearly in order to make a theological point. Sometimes in writings of the ancient world, you would have the ending words of two different lines having a similar sound because it was more pleasing and poetic as it was spoken. Some of these places in Hebrews, the author changes the crafting of the passage just a little, not to change the meaning but changes the form somewhat to make it more poetic. It is similar to what we do in preaching, we sometimes paraphrase a verse to make it sound better. I am still much in line with the meaning of the text. The adjustment is more of a rhetorical feature as I present it to the congregation. Note that there were those in the ancient world who thought that the Septuagint was the inspired Word of God.

Some today think that some of our English translations are the inspired Words of God. There are interesting dynamics associated with these translations as to the inspired Word of God. There is a good book on this: Van Houser’s argues for the point that we have lost authenticity because we have lost the
voice of the author. The point of translation is to facilitate an understanding. The question is whether we should leave theological concepts in tact? Yes, but remember we are dealing with English words that translate those theological concepts; not like the English words itself are inspired. I think that we need to leave a structural dynamic. For example, the first NLT took out a lot structural poetic dynamics; however, in the second version, they are putting all of those back in. So, you have some minor variations in the text and what I think is driving this is that the author is exercising freedom, changing a word to make the text flow better, but we can’t be dogmatic about this. It could be a different text form in terms of the development. Remember that the Septuagint wasn’t necessarily all crafted at one time; the Pentateuch was probably developed first and other parts of the Old Testament were translated over a period of time and circulated in the Old Greek.

II. Text

A. Hebrews 3:7-11

7 διό (Therefore,) καθώς (as) λέγει (says το the) πνεύμα (spirit) το άγιον (holy,) σήμερον (Today,) εάν (if) της φωνής αυτού (his voice) ακούσητε (you should hearken to,)
8 μη (you should not) σκληρύνητε (harden) τας καρδίας υμών (your hearts) ως (as) εν (in) τω (the) παραπικρασμώ (embittering,) κατά (in) την (the) ημέραν (day) του (of the) πειρασμόυ (test) εν (in) τη (the) ερήμω (wilderness,)
9 ου (of which place) επείρασάν (tested) με (me) οι πατέρες υμών (your fathers) εδοκίμασάν (tried) με (me,) και (and) είδον (beheld) τα έργα μου (my works) τεσσαράκοντα (forty) έτη (years.)
10 διό (Therefore) προσώχθισα (I loathed) τη γενεά εκείνη (that generation,) και (and) είπον (said,) αεί (Continually) πλανώνται (they) err τη (in the)
καρδία (heart,) αυτοί δε (and they) ουκ έγνωσαν (knew not) τας οδούς μου (my ways;)
11 ως (as) ώμοσα (I swore by an oath) εν (in) τη οργή μου (my wrath,) ει (Shall they) εισελεύσονται (enter) εις (into) την κατάπαυσίν μου (my rest, no.)

Here, we have the Holy Spirit who is speaking Scripture at this point. He is saying, today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. He is thinking back to the time when they were on the brink of the Promise Land but rejected the Word of the Lord; the promise of God and they hardened their hearts against God and rebelled in the day they tested God in the wilderness. In verse 9, he talks about how the Father tested him in a test; they saw my works for forty years. I was angry with this generation and said that they were always going astray in their hearts. They did not know my ways and I would not let them enter into my rest. The flow of this passage has God calling to mind this example of this episode in the wilderness. You have a statement that the fathers were testing God. They were being testing but they turned around and put God to the test. They turned the situation around in a way that it wasn’t supposed to go. They saw his works for forty years; this construction is a little different than what the Septuagint says. God was angry with them and said that they were always going astray in their hearts because they didn’t know God’s ways. So, their disobedience and rebellion were due to the fact that they had hard hearts and not walking in the ways of God that was leading them to go astray. The consequence of this is in verse 11; God swears that they will not enter into his rest.

B. Hebrews 3:12-14

12 βλέπετε (Take heed,) αδελφοί (brethren,) μήποτε (lest at any time) έσται (there shall be) εν (in) τινι (some) υμών (of you) καρδία (in heart) πονηρά (a wicked) απιστίας (unbelief) εν (in) τω (the) αποστήναι (separating) από (from) θεού ζώντος (the living God.)
13 αλλά (But) παρακαλείτε (encourage) εαυτούς (yourselves) καθ΄ (according to) εκάστην (each) ημέραν (day,) άχρις (as long as) ου (of which) το σήμερον (today) καλείται (it is called,) ίνα (that) μη (you should not) σκληρυνθή (be hardened,) τις (any) εξ (of) υμών (you,) τις (any) απάτη (by the deception) της αμαρτίας (of sin.)
14 μέτοχοι (partakers) γαρ (For) γεγόναμεν (we have become) του (of the) χριστού (Christ,) εάνπερ (if indeed) την (the) αρχήν (beginning) της (of the) υποστάσεως (support) μέχρι (until) τέλους (the end) βεβαίαν (firm) κατάσχωμεν (we should hold,)

See to it brothers; this communicates, give attention to this, less there be any among you with an unbelieving heart in falling away from the living God. Some of the concepts here include addressing them as brothers, thus he is addressing the Christian community. He is telling them to pay attention to their spiritual condition. It is a heart that is not believing God and it is causing them to fall away from the Living God. The image of falling relates to the fall of those in the wilderness. The imagery in Hebrews shows that the proper response is to draw near to God. The incorrect response is to fall away from God. So, there is an imagery of falling away from the Living God. The heart here is used metaphorically to speak of intellect, memory, emotions, desires, and the will. John the Baptist, in calling for repentance; this repentance includes a softening of one’s heart to God rather than hardening our hearts. We don’t want to have a heart that is evil; for example, like the heart of Saul in 1st Samuel or a heart that is misguided as in Jeramiah 17:9 or a heart that is uncircumcised as mentioned in Deuteronomy 10:16. The hardness of heart in this passage is found in other places like Ezekiel 11:19, Exodus 4:14 and other places. Having a hard heart is setting your will against the Lord’s will. So, it is a sinful heart in that it is determined to do what is contrary to God’s will. It is unbelieving in that it refuses to think that God’s ways are the right ways and the consequence is to turn away from the Living God.

So, the hardness of hearts comes from a pattern of life that turns a death ear to God’s Word. This is directly related to ‘today if you hear his voice.’ You need to have a soft heart compared to a hard heart toward those around you and to the Lord. This is directly related to how you are interacting with the Word of God on a consistent basis. Am I a person who is characterized in my life by constantly opening up my heart and my life to God’s Word and adjusting my life to have a soft heart toward God? I am yielding to the Spirit of God, ready to do whatever God’s says. In verse 13, he says to encourage one another daily in order that no one may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

C. Community:

Community is important in regards to what we are talking about in terms of having soft hearts; being people who are yielding to God, coming closer to God rather than falling away from God. It is framed by the author of Hebrews as a community dynamic. My walk with Christ is strengthened by
living in community with other believers. I have brothers in Christ that hold me accountable and encourage me and pray for me. They help me walk that way that I should because are seeking the Lord with their hearts to walk with him. In community, we encourage each other daily. It is harder for sin to
deceive you if you have a community of people around you who know you well, having an open relationship with that community. Now, being a pastor is not easy because of the difficulty of having other evangelicals with like hearts. It is difficult to build a peer relationship with someone in your church and some say that you shouldn’t do that. So you need to think through what community looks like between you as a pastor and those men in you congregation. How are you going to build community if you go to a place where like heartedness isn’t there. It’s good to have a prayer group of those you respect to have an environment of accountability. We need to find people who are walking with the Lord in such a way that we can share with and trust in to correct our own ways.

D. Hebrews 3:15-19

15 εν (as in) τω (the) λέγεσθαι (saying,) σήμερον (Today) εάν (if) της φωνής αυτού (his voice) ακούσητε (you should hearken to,) μη (you should not) σκληρύνητε (harden) τας καρδίας υμών (your hearts) ως (as) εν (in) τω (the) παραπικρασμώ (embittering.)
16 τινές γαρ (For some) ακούσαντες (having heard) παρεπίκραναν (rebelled;) αλλ΄ (but) ου (not) πάντες (all) οι (G the ones) εξελθόντες (coming forth) εξ (out of) Αιγύπτου (Egypt) διά (with) Μωσέως (Moses.)
17 τίσι δε (And to whom) προσώχθισε (did he loathe) τεσσαράκοντα (forty) έτη (years?) ουχί (Was it not) τοις (to the ones) αμαρτήσασιν (having sinned,) ων (whose) τα κώλα (carcasses) έπεσεν (fell) εν (in) τη (the) ερήμω (wilderness?)
18 τίσι δε (And to whom) ώμοσε (did he swear by an oath) μη εισελεύσεσθαι (to not to enter) εις (into) την κατάπαυσιν αυτού (his rest,) ει μη (unless) τοις (to the ones) απειθήσασι (resisting persuasion?)
19 και (And) βλέπομεν (we see) ότι (that) ουκ (they were not) ηδυνήθησαν (able) εισελθείν (to enter) δι΄ (because of) απιστίαν (unbelief.)

So, he reiterates the idea of not hardening your heart. He ties this directly to today, if you hear his voice. In verses 16-19, you have another rhetorical device called subyectio. This is where a message is developed by asking and answering a series of questions. There is a question and answer format where the author is both asking and answering the question. In this passage, the questions are taken from Psalm 95. The answers are taken from other Old Testament passages having to do with the wilderness rebellion, like Deuteronomy 9, Numbers 14, Psalm 106 and Psalm 78. What the author here does, he
asks a question that is raised by Psalm 95 and he answers it by using one of these other Old Testament passage dealing with the wilderness rebellion. So, who was it that rebelled, he asked. Was it not all of those who came out of Egypt by Moses? It was Moses who brought them out of Egypt. Who was he
angry with for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? Again, we have the question and the answer. To whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest? If not those who were disobedient; he shows in every case that the consequence is tied to their disobedience and their rebellion. In verse 19, he sums it up and we see therefore that they were not able to enter in because of their unbelief. So, disobedience is tied to unbelief. If a person is disobedient, it isn’t that they believe in God very deeply, that disobedience is an expression of not believing God the way that we also should. We are not thinking clearly about God.

III. Introduction to Hebrews 4

In Hebrews 4:1-11, this is going to be a counter balance to what is in 3:7-19. Chapter 3:7-19 is a passage dealing with this negative example of those who fell in the wilderness. The author is going to play off of a specific part of Psalm 95 which says that God swore that they would not enter into his rest. It is made to be a transition to the fact that this rest is still available. Part of the way he is going to make that transition in regarding to the purpose of 1-11 being to focus on the promise of rest for those who are obedient to God. A Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. He is going to argue for this on two bases: one, the logic of the Psalm itself and its historical context. The fact that it was written by David is also a reason. The rest here was something other than entering into the Land of Canaan. Two, he is also going to argue from verbal analogy. He is going to pull together Psalm 95 and Genesis 2:2. This is going to be another aspect of his methodology here. Genesis 2:2 says that God rested on the seventh day. This is the only place in the Old Testament where he specifically talks about God’s rest. So, the author asked what that means entering into his rest. It is a Sabbath rest.