“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This statement has been made by a number of people including Sir Winston Churchill, Edmund Burke, and philosopher George Santayana.
The writer of the book of Hebrews wants his readers to learn from the mistakes made by the nation of Israel. After discussing the positive examples of Moses and Jesus (3:1-6), the author of Hebrews now moves to the negative example of the Israelites who, by their own disobedience to God, fell in the wilderness and failed to reach the promised land (3:7-19). The author explains that because God punished Israel for their disbelief and rebellion, we should avoid making the same mistake.
Remember the lessons of the past: Israel hardened their hearts and rebelled against God in disbelief (7-11).
While a human author penned Psalm 95, God himself was speaking through the Holy Spirit. By making this statement, the author of Hebrews elevates the authority of Scripture. In using this quote from Psalm 95, he explains that Israel did not listen to God. Instead, they constantly rebelled, tested, and rejected God’s instructions and authority.
Israel had a heart-head problem. They went astray from God in their hearts. They did not know God in their heads. The persistent practice of sin and rejecting God led him to issue his verdict. They would not enter the land. When we rebel, we place ourselves outside God’s protection.
Don’t make the same mistake in the present: Don’t harden your heart and miss out on God’s blessings (12-19).
Don’t be deceived by sin (12-13). Every Christian must guard against a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. We need to constantly ask ourselves—Do I believe God’s Word…trust his promises…obey his commands…avoid compromise? In addition, we are to check each other’s spiritual pulse so as to ensure those around us are not taken in by the lure of sin. We need to be asking each similar questions—Do you believe God’s Word…trust his promises…obey his commands…avoid compromise?
Hold fast to Christ until the end (14). Since we are partners with Christ in salvation, we are to follow him wholeheartedly. By persevering to the end, we demonstrate the reality of our salvation.
Don’t harden your heart in disbelief (15-19). One of the ways we harden our hearts is by thinking we have time and can put off a decision. Instead, we need a sense of urgency that “today” is all we have. We can also harden our hearts by thinking the message applies to other people and not us. In so doing, we act in rebellion against God.
The author closes his warning with six questions, or three pairs of questions. The second question in each pair answers the first questions. All total, they point out that while there were a few exceptions—Moses, Joshua, Caleb—Israel’s rebellion was total. As a result of their unbelief, the people of Israel did not enter the promised land. When we choose not to believe God’s Word, we will also miss out on his blessings.
Check your spiritual pulse. Ask yourself these questions. Am I listening to God’s voice? Do I have an unbelieving heart? Am I growing closer to God? Do I allow others to correct me? Who am I encouraging? Lord, help me to practice this today!
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 31, 2019. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.