13 January 2011

Hebrews 3:7-14

"Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns us away from the living God." (v. 12)


Just as the author has used the Psalms before to remind his readers of God's relationship with people, so here he takes them back to more difficult part of that story. In passing, note that he associates the Scripture with the Holy Spirit, suggesting that when we read God's word, we hear what the Spirit is saying to us ...

The middle of Psalm 95 reminds God's people of their wandering in the wilderness. It makes it clear that this wandering was because of their own disobedience or wilfulness. Because their ancestors turned their backs on God, they wandered for 40 years and were prevented from entering into the Promised Land. They thought they knew best and rebelled against God.

The author then warns the reader not to follow the example of the Jews in the wilderness. He calls them to faithfulness in a living God. Rebellion and wilfulness can develop out of complacency. We can forget God and what God has done for us - religion becomes a tradition or a duty or a chore. Our hearts are hardened and we turn to our own resources once again. The author wants us against such deceitfulness. This is sin - turning from the living God to rely wholly upon ourselves.

It is a sobering call to faith and perseverance. Note that it is a call to persevere - that last verse raises the question of whether we will persevere to the end. Our pilgrimage journey with Jesus is not about the first step, but rather persevering to the very end when we will arrive home with him.

To Ponder

How much have we rejected the idea of an angry God? Does verse 10 sound too alien today? Do we have a faith which allows God to be angry?

Entering into the Promised Land is referred to as 'entering my rest' (v. 11). It provides a link the author will use later to explore rest. In a busy world, reflect upon it as a promise for your own faithful journey.

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Pete Phillips

Pete Phillips is secretary to the Faith and Order Committee and research director for CODEC at St John's College, Durham. CODEC is exploring Christian communication in the digital age.