Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:7-19, ESV
God judged Israel severely when she rejected the word of Moses: forty years in the wilderness and an entire generation dying out without entering the Promised Land, the place of rest. With Moses and Israel, the rebellion was complete. With a couple of notable exceptions (Caleb and Joshua), all of the people rejected God’s rest because they did not trust that God could overcome the obstacles and give them the land as He promised. Their unbelief cost them the promised rest.
The author of Hebrews has much more to say about our promised rest, as we shall see. Even so, his initial point should not be ignored. When God spoke through Moses and the people failed to believe Him, they lost out on their promised rest. If that is the penalty for rejecting the lesser word of Moses, how do you think the penalty will be if you reject the greater word of Jesus? It is presumptuous to assume a claim on God’s eternal rest if we do not believe, day-in and day-out, God’s words as spoken in His Son.
To be assured of God’s rest, we need help. We need help to safeguard our way. We do not want to follow in Israel’s footsteps. We need brothers and sisters in the family of God to come alongside us every day and exhort us to pay attention to Christ. The assurance we long for is a gift of God and, according to the author of Hebrews, it is a gift given in community.
Why, in days when we are separated by government guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of disease, do we need to remain diligent in reaching out to one another in the body of Christ? There are many good answers to that question! The one emphasized in Hebrews 3 is this: our faith is a fragile thing and we need loving encouragement from our brothers and sisters to keep on in that faith.
So, today, don’t live in social isolation even if you must live in physical isolation. Reach out and help your borther or sister stay strong in their faith. They need you and you need them.
I am praying for you.