Psalm 100 All people that on earth do dwell
All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
him serve with mirth,1 his praise forth tell,
come ye before him and rejoice.
The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
without our aid he did us make:
we are his folk, he doth us feed,
and for his sheep he doth us take.
O enter then his gates with praise,
approach with joy his courts unto;
praise, laud, and bless his Name always,
for it is seemly so to do.
For why? the Lord our God is good,
his mercy is for ever sure;
his truth at all times firmly stood,
and shall from age to age endure.
READING Hebrews 3:7–18
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?
SERMON 3 Warnings About Unbelief
Early Christian tradition of Christ’s work of redemption viewed the death of Christ as a ‘New Exodus’ – the sacrificial lamb without blemish who is the true Passover. Like Israel in early days, these believers are ‘the church in the wilderness’, baptised into Christ (like Israel going through the Red Sea), sacramentally feeding on Him by faith (like Israel’s feeding with manna and water). Christ the living Rock leads them through the wilderness; the heavenly rest before them is the heavenly counterpart to the Israelites goal of earthly Canaan (1 Cor 10:6ff; Jude 5). The writer warns his readers not to abandon their faith and hope.
Psalm 95:7b-11 cannot be separated from Psalm 95:1-7a in this Psalm that was sung in the Temple on the Sabbath. The key point was to remind believing people that it was and is vital to worship God, but deeds and words of worship are valid and acceptable only if they spring from genuinely obedient minds, hearts and wills.
Israel’s complaint to Moses about lack of water at Rephidim was just one of a whole string of occasions of moaning and grumbling that stretched over 40 years of wandering. They wanted to see just how long God’s patience would last, faced with their unrelenting stubbornness of mind, heart and will!
Another example of unbelief in Israel was the Num. 14:20ff and Deut. 2:14 incident when most of the spies sent into Kadesh-Barnea brought back an unfavourable report about the land of Canaan. The Israelites revolted against Moses and Aaron and only by Moses’ intercession did God spare the whole people. The entry of the Israelites was delayed by continued wandering for a further 38 years. Only Caleb and Joshua entered the promised rest of God in Canaan at this time.
Failure to listen to, and respond in obedience to, the voice of God is taken very seriously by God.
Now generations later, the writer to the Hebrews warns his readers that ‘Today’ is the time to listen to and obey God.
3:12-18 Shun The Sin Of Unbelief – Our writer explains strongly in 3:12 along these lines – the Israelites who rejected Moses in the wilderness wanderings era were judged by God in their failure to enter their earthly Canaan. How much greater will be the loss of the new age blessings of heaven for those who fail to enter because of unbelief that involved disloyalty as well as passive failure to believe. The Israelites of old had rejected the authority of Moses. If Christians reject the Christ who is Son of God and who is appointed by God as Apostle and High Priest, then this amounts to rebellion against the living God! This would be apostasy, a complete break with God. To turn back from gospel illumination and reject it in favour of the old order already superceded, amounts to sin against the light.
The call of the writer is therefore for the believers to maintain the faith and
their faith to the end, by hearing the voice of God and living in obedience.
Mutual encouragement was the order of the day – and every day/’Today’ – for there is always strength in numbers. Isolated Christians are always vulnerable. Struggling with temptations to compromise will always press in on Christians and worldly wisdom will be a threat – and ‘the deceitfulness of sin’ – that will push believers towards a watered-down conscience that will all the more easily lead them into doubt and disobedience.
United encouragement reduces this. Verse 14 stresses again that the true people and partners of Christ are those who remain firm right to the very end. Perseverance is our greatest challenge. The ancient people of God worshipped God after their deliverance from the Red Sea but soon flagged and drifted. Starting the journey of faith is vital but is not enough. The final prize goes to those who continue and complete the course!
Verses 15-18 underline the worrying truth that the people of Israel at the Red Sea had seen just what power God had wielded on their behalf and yet had rebelled against Him. God passed sentence, as recorded in Num.14:27ff and Deut. 32:20. How true of all of us as believers in Christ. We experience His power and yet we so quickly start to doubt and drift all over again as we struggle to trust our God! Finally, the writer summarises the truth that because of unbelief – faithlessness – those wandering people failed to enter God’s rest in the promised land. The message to the first Century AD Hebrews must have been plain indeed. They had experienced the redeeming power of God in the gospel of Christ and had received the promise of an eternal rest and inheritance. The writer pleads with his readers not to risk losing these glorious promises……by unbelief.
Hymn My hope is built on nothing less
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
When darkness hides His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay