Hebrews - Lesson 8

Hebrews 3:7-19

Having a hard heart means to set your will against the Lord’s will. An unbelieving heart means that you are refusing to think that God’s ways are the right ways. The result is that you turn away from the living God. It comes from a pattern of life that turns a deaf ear to God’s word.

Lesson 8
Watching Now
Hebrews 3:7-19

I. Purpose and process

            A. Psalm 95

            B. Form of the passage

II. Text

            A. Hebrews 3:7-11

            B. Hebrews 3:12-19

            C. Community

             D. Hebrews 3:15-19

III. Introduction to Hebrews 4

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • Hebrews was written to give strong encouragement for those who were struggling in the Christian life, not primarily for the purpose of being a theological treatise for future generations. The main message of the author of Hebrews is, "God speaks effectively to us through Jesus."

  • The purpose of Hebrews is to encourage those who are faltering spiritually to endure in the faith. The author does this by exhorting people to put into practice his Christological teaching. Your endurance in the Christian life is going to be in direct proportion to the clarity with which you see Jesus and what he has accomplished on your behalf. The image you have of who Jesus was and why he came have radical implications for how you live and preach.

  • The Son is superior to the angels by virtue of his unique relationship to the father, by virtue of the inferior status of the angels, and by his exalted position as the Lord and creator of the universe.

  • The writer includes a section on exhortation in Hebrews 2:1-4 in the middle of a section in which he is emphasizing the position of the Son in relation to the angels. Jesus is superior to angels, those who rejected the law given through the angels were punished under the old covenant, those who reject the word of salvation given through the son deserve greater punishment. 

  • The purpose of Hebrews 2:5-9 is a transition between the superiority of Jesus and the incarnation. The process the author uses is the quotation of Psalm 8.

  • The author of Hebrews focuses on the incarnation because he plans to show that Jesus is a high priest. When it says that Jesus was “perfected through suffering,” it was a path that Jesus had to travel all the way through to get to the point where he was all that the Father designed for him to be in terms of the author of our salvation. We have hope because Jesus has liberated us from the fear of death.

  • The first extended block of exhortation in Hebrews. The purpose is to focus on the faithfulness of Jesus. The process is comparing Jesus to Moses.

  • Having a hard heart means to set your will against the Lord’s will. An unbelieving heart means that you are refusing to think that God’s ways are the right ways. The result is that you turn away from the living God. It comes from a pattern of life that turns a deaf ear to God’s word.

  • The author of Hebrews emphasizes the promise of rest for the people of God. He cites the example of God resting in Genesis 2:2 in contrast to Psalm 95.

  • The concept of the word of God in the first century is a force or dynamic power, not just a word printed on a page. The word convicts of sin which means it moves us in life to different perspectives and ways of living. It reaches inside of us and sorts us out. Hebrews 4:14-16 is a warning passage.

  • The center point of the exhortation. In chapter 5, the author identifies the hearers’ problem as a lack of spiritual maturity. They are spiritually sluggish and have lost perspective on basic Christian teaching. 

  • The Hebrews 6:4-8 is a warning about the consequences of rejecting Jesus.

  • The middle section of Hebrews focuses on Jesus as high priest. Hebrews 6:13-20 is both exhortation to persevere in the faith looking to Abraham as an example, and a transition back to a discussion of Christology focusing on Melchizedek.

  • Jesus is a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews continues where he left off in 5:10 by first arguing for the superiority of Melchizedek by reflecting on Old Testament passages that mention him.

  • This is a transitional passage linking the ideas of appointment of Jesus as high priest and the superior offering of Jesus.

  • The new covenant is superior to the old covenant.

  • The structure of the tabernacle shows that we could not get into God's presence on our own.

  • Christ’s offering superior to the offerings of the old covenant. It is the day of atonement offering made once for all time so all our sins are dealt with and we may enter the presence of God.

  • It is encouraging to realize how decisively your sins have been dealt with by the sacrifice of Christ. When you sin, you need to agree with God that it is sin and it has already been dealt with by Christ. If I am in covenant with Christ, I am not guilty before God. Jesus’ work as high priest is what allows me to come into God’s presence.

  • “Let us draw near,” “Let us hold fast,” “Let us consider.” We should live in community in such a way that we are stirring up so that the end result is that we are doing good works in the context of love. We should not forsake assembling. We should stir each other up to love and good works. These should both happen “in light of” the return of Jesus. It is important to learn theology in community.

  • If we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer a sacrifice for sin. It’s referring someone who continues to reject the gospel. Contrasts the righteous who live by faith and the wicked who reject God by quoting Isaiah 26:20-21 and Habbakkuk 2:3-4.

  • Two literary devices used in Hebrews chapter 11 are the author’s use of “by faith” repeatedly for emphasis and the “example list” used for exhortation, not exposition. It encourages people to action by using overwhelming evidence. They were successful in spite of the difficulties they faced as marginalized people. Faith is not leaping out against the evidence. It is standing confidently based on what God has revealed to be true.

  • We look at Jesus in his exaltation to see his position as the superior high priest and thereby gives us stability, and in his incarnation because we follow his example of endurance. In a normal father-son relationship, the father disciplines the son. As children, we respected our earthly fathers. The goal of discipline is to produce holiness.

  • The author draws theological strands together to give a theological exhortation in a unique form to emphasize the power and blessings of the new covenant. A new covenant community is characterized by the active presence of God, joy and grace. The chapter finishes with a warning passage.

  • The essence of the community won’t change over time because Christ doesn’t change. As we are building bridges of communication to people in the culture, we are called to be distinct from the culture. The distinctness should not come from cultural trappings, but from identifying with Jesus and the gospel over and against the world system.

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.

Course: Hebrews

Lecture: Hebrews 3:7-19


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.