Hebrews 3:7-19 A Case Of Covenantal Rebellion.
Again, in this second section of the Historical Prologue, as in the first, our author introduces the second section of the covenant Lawsuit-The Introductory Statement Of The Case. Psalm 95:7-11 recites the history of the LORD building His house, and providing rest to His people. The case which is spelled out in verses 7-11, also serves as a warning to all. There were those who did not enter the LORD’s rest because they did not believe the word of God, but instead they hardened their hearts, “departing from the living God” (v. 12). The LORD is more than an opinion that some have, He is living. Some turned to dumb dead idols, but the LORD of the covenant is the living God. The very same God spoke to our author’s audience and continues to speak to us-every day, including today.
It is the deceitfulness of sin that some are able to deceive themselves into thinking that they are safe, while they have an evil heart of unbelief (v. 13). Again it comes as also a warning to all who seek this rest that we would examine ourselves and “exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’.” Again, perseverance is a sign of God’s preserving His own, and it is a confirmation that gives one confidence in being made a partaker of the Messiah, of Christ (v. 14). The specific charge which our author brings forward in his case is rebellion-one that stretches all the way back to the rebellion in the wilderness (v. 15). This is a rebellion against God’s Son, the Messiah, the one through whom this rest has always been promised. The LORD delivered a people from Egypt and promised them a place of rest.
Those who rebelled showed their rebelling by refusing the rest of which the LORD of the covenant had promised (v. 16). We should not forget that the next generation that were allowed to enter that rest under Joshua’s leadership, had to be circumcised. So those who rebelled even rebelled against the external sign of the covenant which the LORD had commanded. So even though it is possible to have the external sign, whether of circumcision in the old, or baptism in the new, to sin against the command to administer the sign is another sign of this rebellion. This is something which those who refuse baptism to infants and confine it to adults, need to think about. For forty years they rebelled, and as a result their “corpses fell in the wilderness” (v. 17).
After looking at Psalm 95, the author of this letter here gives a brief running commentary on Numbers 14, and also Deuteronomy. He studiously follows the practice of appealing to two or three witnesses to make his point. In Numbers 12 Moses had to contend with a rebellion of Aaron and Miriam, and it is in this context that the LORD said to them that Moses was faithful in all His house (v. 7). Then in chapter 13 the spies are sent into the promised land, but only Joshua and Caleb come back believing the promise by faith. Then in chapter 14 we have the rebellion. At verse 2, in their complaint to Moses and Aaron, they actually wish that they had either died in Egypt or the wilderness. They rejected the LORD, not believing his word, even though many signs had been performed (v. 11), as with the apostolic witness (2:4).
Other than Joshua and Caleb, and the next generation with them, the rest were forbidden from entering the promised land, getting their wish to die in the wilderness (v. 30 Cf. Dt. 1:35-38). Our author at verse 17 echoes the anger the LORD had for that generation, as recorded in Numbers 14:22-23. Again, at verse 18 our author asks who it was that did not obey, which we see at Numbers 14:30. It is important to note the biblical understanding of belief-to believe is to obey. If anyone says they believe but they do not obey, then they really don’t believe as they ought (v. 19). They rebelled because they hardened their hearts. It is this kind of unbelief that results in the case which our author brought forward, and it was intended to be directed to apostate Israel who had rejected the Messiah, and a warning to all.