These words from Hebrews 4:7 are the crux of my message. They apply to every Believer in this age. It is just as imperative to our walk with Messiah now, as it was in the early Church in their period of time. At first glance, this quotation might appear a contradiction in terms, for how could it be possible to hear the voice of the LORD and harden our hearts? Yes, if we are honest with ourselves, we could accept this proposition. However, if we glance back to Hebrews, Chapter 3, verse 15, we will note these few additional words:
'...as in the rebellion,'
referring to Israel's sin during their forty years experience in the wilderness which led to unbelief and to death. Whenever this portion of Scripture comes to mind, I think of these few words in Matthew, Chapter 22, verse 14:
'For many are called; but few are chosen.'
The writer to these Messianic Believers is warning them not to fall away. Hebrews, Chapter 4, verse 1:
'Therefore, since a promise remains of entering his rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed, the gospel was preached to us as well as to them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.' We should appreciate that the 'today' quoted in Chapter 4, verse 7, is another day;
'... for if Joshua had given them'(the children of Israel)
'rest, then he would not afterward have spoken of another day.'(Verse 8).
It is implicit that the writer was not just concerned with their salvation, but more so, with the weakness of their faith. He reminds these Hebrew Believers that,
'He who enters GOD's rest, has himself also ceased from his own works, as the LORD did from His. For GOD rested on the seventh day from all His works.' (Hebrews 4, verse 4 and verse 10). Evidently these Jewish Believers were holding on to some aspects of the Law, as was practised by the Pharisees, legalistically, and which was not Biblically sound. A 'works' oriented religion, full of ritualism. In all fairness, they were not yet fully accustomed to their new way of life.
Also, we must bear in mind, that not only did they consider themselves Hebrews, but they were such by birth, and by upbringing. They recognized in reality, their Scriptures had not been altered, but was based upon the Five Books of Moses, and its teachings. There was not another religion, as was later suggested by the brethren. They worshipped the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, the difference was that they saw through the prophetic utterances of the holy men in the Scriptures, that YESHUA, JESUS had come at the appointed time, and that He is the anointed of GOD, the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world.
'To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.' (Romans 1, verse 16). This was then, and still is, the fundamental statement of faith of all Jewish and Gentile followers of Messiah, YESHUA, JESUS.
Therefore, these young Believers were true in the faith. But, like many of us today, weakening perhaps, under trials and tribulations of much persecution. For this time was just before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The LORD knew they desperately needed a strong word of encouragement at that time, and He raised up this incomparable writer to bring His Word of truth to them, that they may continue to walk uprightly, and with confidence of salvation, with perseverance to the end.
But according to Chapter 5 of Hebrews, verses 12, 13 and 14 they were spiritually immature. For the writer puts it like this:
'Though by this time, you ought to be teachers; you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of GOD; and you have come to need milk, and not solid food!'
In Chapter 6 of the Book of Hebrews, the writer exhorts these Hebrew Believers not to hold on to the elementary principles. In other words;
'Let go of this, and spring forward to the goal, or the finish line, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works; and of faith toward GOD, or the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, of eternal judgment.' (Chapter 6, verses 1 and 2).
On the one hand, they must have felt they were being pulled back by the traditionalism of their brethren, and checked, on the other hand, by the continuing sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. It was a tough time for them.
Let us pause for a moment, and ask ourselves this question: What can we learn now from the dilemma these early Messianic Believers were evidently faced with? First of all, let us recognize that probably much of the fundamental differences that they were faced with in their day, we too, also are confronted with today. Little has really changed. We still very much place great emphasis on things in the Church today, which we cannot but admit has caused, and is still causing friction and animosity, and often divides the Body of Believers contrary to Christian doctrine. Certainly, frustrating the work of the Holy Spirit.
May I respectfully remind, secondly, all true Believers in Messiah, YESHUA, JESUS, and I'm not exempt, that we have come out of the legal religious background of one kind or another, where acrimony took precedence over gentleness; and argument seemed to be an indeterminable discourse without solution. Let us therefore heed these words of the writer to the Hebrew Believers:
'But beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you. Yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For GOD is not unjust to forget your works and labour of love, which you have shown toward His Name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.' (Hebrews 6, verses 9 and 10).
It is this hope that keeps us together in difficult times when we need the strength of another to uphold us. Let us be confident that the LORD has settled this by promising faith and hope.
'A three-stranded cord cannot be broken,' if we continue with Him, even to the end.
Listen, in conclusion, to these inspired words of the writer to the Jewish Believers:
'This hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil where the Forerunner has entered for us, even JESUS, having become High Priest forever, according to the order of Malki-Tzedek.' (Hebrews 6, verses 19 and 20).
My prayer is that the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will enlighten His Word to us and bring us peace. Shalom.