“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Life is dangerous and filled with pitfalls. We are constantly warned to be on the lookout for danger. We see signs warning us that the road is slippery, the coffee is hot, there is a low beam, animals may cross the highway; riptide, sharks, jellyfish and high surf face us in the ocean. Paul reminds us of a hazard that is far more dangerous because it has taken many more away than any riptide ever has. He warns us against having a hardened heart. Biblically speaking, a hard heart could be defined as being unwilling to do what God asks. This was the primary issue with the pharaoh in Moses’ day. He clearly heard the word and will of God, yet he was unwilling to submit to it and fought against God. This proved costly to him, as it always will to us. Our text reveals three things we must avoid because they will result in a hardened heart.
First, we are warned against unbelief. Unbelief is simply not trusting the Word of God, whether it is warning, instructing, or providing us with promises. Israel in the wilderness is cited as an example of unbelief. God promised them victory as they entered the land, yet they cowered in fear and refused to enter. Looking at their circumstances, instead of looking to the Lord, resulted in unbelief that led to a hardened heart. We can avoid our hearts hardening by taking God at His word and doing what He asks.
Second, we are warned against departing from the living God. Departing means to move away. The closer you are to Jesus the easier it is to trust Him. Mark records the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast, where the host had run out of refreshments for the guests. When word came to Jesus, he sent his disciples to fill large contains with water from the local well. Upon arriving back at the party, the water was served but had miraculously been turned into wine. The guests were unaware of what had been accomplished, but those closest to Jesus experienced the miracle. Close proximity to Jesus is always beneficial to walking with Him. James exhorts us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4:8).
Finally, we are warned against our hearts becoming hardened by sin. Sin is doing what God has forbidden. We often sin because, from our limited perspective, we cannot see why something is bad. This is very common in relationships. We see many Christians get involved with someone who is not pursuing the Lord, but is a very nice person. They cannot understand why that is forbidden. Others cross the line physically, because they believe they are in love and convince themselves that sexual activity is acceptable. In every case, sin leads to a hardened heart and must be avoided. Be very careful that you do not cross verses out of your Bible, in order to justify your behaviors.
Let us not harden our heart, but keep it soft to hear all the Lord has to say to us.
Questions for Hebrews 3
1. What are we told to do in verse 1?
2. As Jesus was demonstrated to be greater than the angels in the first two chapters, here He is presented as greater than Moses. In verses 1-6, what illustration is used to paint Jesus excellence over Moses?
3. Look at verse 7 and 8. When is the best time to listen to and respond to Jesus?
4. In verse 8, 10, and 12 the children of Israel’s hearts are described as hardened, astray, evil and unbelieving. Notice verse 11 and the result of allowing our hearts to be like this.
5. Verse 12 is an especially strong warning to us. Are there times when you feel tempted to walk away from Jesus? What tends to cause these times? Guard your heart and consider the truth of the book of Hebrews: Jesus is better!
6. The chapter ends with the sobering example of the judgment of the children of Israel in the desert. We too will remain in a spiritual desert and fail to enter into the fullness of what God has for us if we do not walk in childlike faith and trust in Jesus. Enter in to His rest.