In the book of Hebrews, the writer is speaking to the Hebrews hundreds of years after their ancestors had escaped Egypt to venture to the Promised Land under the guidance of Moses, one of the greatest Jewish heroes in the Old Testament.
It is evident from the first couple of chapters that the Hebrews are beginning to stray from the life they were called to live. The writer is advising them to look to Jesus, not just the familiar routine of their Jewish tradition. Instead of worshiping angels, who were considered great because of the messages and laws they delivered to their ancestors, they are told to worship Jesus, who is “as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” (1:4)
Instead of relying on the Law to save them, they are also advised to find salvation through faith in Jesus, who was able to “destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (2:14-15) The Hebrews might have thought that they could find their way to heaven through careful practice of their ancestors’ laws and traditions, but the writer was reminding them that Jesus made a way to heaven through his death and resurrection.
In order to boost the Hebrews’ confidence in Jesus, the writer even says “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” (3:3) This is a mighty risky statement, considering Moses was considered by many the greatest in history. He led God’s people to the Promised Land and was given the Ten Commandments. Yet Jesus is raised higher.
Moses recognized there was someone greater than he, as seen in Deuteronomy when he tells the Israelites that “the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (18:4) John the Baptist spoke of Jesus, as well. When questioned by priests and Levites, he denied being the Messiah, the One sent to save God’s people. He responded to their interrogations by using the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” (John 1:19-23) Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets, is speaking of One even higher than him, THE Prophet. Numerous time, major figures of the Old and New Testament attested that the Messiah was coming and He was to be praised above all.
So when Jesus finally shows up and dies for his people’s sins to make a way for heaven, why do the Hebrews resort back to the way of the past? The writer advises against this by quoting Psalm 95: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” This refers to the Israelites and how they turned away from God after their rescue from Egypt because of their disbelief. Even though they were on their way to the Promised Land, they still doubted God and failed to trust in Him.
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” (Hebrews 4:1-2)
The Hebrews were guilty of not having faith, much like their ancestors. They knew Jesus came to offer salvation, yet they still looked to angels, the commandments of Moses, and their rituals and traditions to save them. It seems silly from our perspective that they would still fail to trust in God and His Son, even after being told time and time again that Jesus is far more than worthy of their praise.
But don’t we do the same?
Just like the Hebrews, we sometimes tend to focus too much on works and actions instead of the relationship with Jesus we are intended to build. We can go to church all we want and tithe all we want and help the needy all we want, but without earnestly seeking God, what good does it do? How will we ever grow? How will we reach the relationship He desires to have with us?
Just like the Hebrews, we harden our hearts and fail to believe God’s promises and truths. We keep coming back to the same lies we’ve been telling ourselves for years: “I can find my own way.” “I don’t need Jesus.” ” I’ll repent later.” “I’m not worthy.” “I don’t deserve to be loved.” “I’ll never find my way out of this mess.” “God can’t use me.” “There’s no point in my life.” “I could never make a difference.”
Even though we know what God does for us, we know Jesus saves all who believes, and we know we will be delivered, we still continue to doubt at times.
Where in your life are you suffering from disbelief? Where have you hardened your heart? Where have you looked elsewhere for salvation? Where are you chained?