Ellet J. Waggoner
The Present Truth : October 21, 1897
We have now studied as far as the sixth verse of the third chapter of Hebrews. The next verse begins with “Wherefore,” the reference being to the statement in verse 6 that we are the house of God “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” Faithfulness is the one, essential thing, “wherefore” the exhortation is,
“Take heed, 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. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; while it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke; howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom swore He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3.12-19
These verses give, the direct connection from the sixth verse, but verses 7-11 contain an explanation in parenthesis, and these we must also have before us for our present study: —
“As the Holy Spirit saith, “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted Me, proved He, and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known My ways. So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest.”” Hebrews 3.7-11
A Few Questions on the Text directing the attention sharply to just what is said, will help us to understand it better than pages of comments. We begin, for the sake of the connection, with the sixth verse, taking the text in the order that we have quoted it.
• On what conditions are we the house of God?
o “If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
• What exhortation is therefore pertinent?
o “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in stay of you an evil heart of unbelief.”
• What would an unbelieving heart cause?
o “Departing from the living God.”
• What is necessary in order to be really partakers of Christ?
o That “we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.”
• What in the meantime is said?
o “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation.”
• When was “the provocation,” to which the Holy Spirit refers?
o “The day of temptation in the wilderness.” Verse 8
• Who when they heard did provoke?
o “All that came out of Egypt by Moses.”
• How long did they grieve Him?
o “Forty years.”
• What does God say they did?
o “Your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.”
• What did He say of their way?
o “They do always err in their hearts.”
• Although they saw God’s works, what did they not learn?
o “They have not known My ways.”
• What did He therefore swear?
o “They shall not enter into My rest.”
• To whom did God swear that they should not enter into His rest?
o “To them that believed not.”
• Why could they not enter into rest?
o “Because of unbelief.”
Faithfulness the Essential Thing.—“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1.9. Faithfulness is the rule of His house, for even man’s lack of faith cannot make of none effect the faithfulness of God. Romans 3.3, R.V. He is true, although every man be a liar. Moses, the servant of God, was faithful in all His house, and Christ, the Son, was likewise faithful, His faithfulness is identical with that of the Father, for “if we believe not, yet He abides faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2.13. Therefore if we would be a part of the house of God, members of His family, we must “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” “The faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14.12), and nothing less, distinguishes the household of God. It is a “household of faith.” Galatians 6.10
“Wherefore Take Heed?”—“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” 2 Corinthians 13.5. Faith is that which joins us to the Lord. “An evil heart of unbelief” means, “departing from the living God, who is the sole source of the life of the house. The house is built on the living Stone; God’s presence gives life to the throne on which He sits, and to the soul in which He dwells. Departure from Him means certain death. Wherefore take heed, and keep the faith.
“An Evil Heart of Unbelief.”—It is the evil heart that disbelieves. It is the dark fog that rises from the low marshy ground of sin that obscures the sight, and makes it difficult to see the truth. It is true that unbelief is the primary cause of sin, but sin in its turn breed’s unbelief. The unbelieving heart is always evil, no matter how fair the exterior may be. As long as a man loves sin, so long will unbelief cloud his mind; but as soon as the heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away, and the soul rejoices in the glory of God’s sunlight. 2 Corinthians 3.16-18; 4.2-4
When Shall We Believe?—There is only one time, and that is, Today. “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” “Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today.” Yesterday is gone; it is not in existence. Neither is there any such time as to-morrow; it is not yet in existence, and when that which men call tomorrow comes, behold, it is today. Every man has all the time there is, and that is today; no other time has God ever given to men. He saith, “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee; behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6.2. What is the name of the day of salvation? —Today; “it is called Today.” He who rejects salvation today, rejects it forever. “Today” may seem to be a very long day, but be sure that the night is coming.
The Cause of Deafness.—“Today, if ye, will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Here we see the effect that the heart has on the ears. The heart is deceitful above all things, because it is sinful, “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17.9; Mark 7.21-23), and sin is deceitful.
God’s Works and His Ways.—God says of the children of Israel in the wilderness, they “saw My works forty years,” but “they have not known My ways.” “He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel.” Psalm 103.7. Note that while all the children of Israel saw the acts or works of the Lord, Moses only is mentioned as knowing His ways. Why? —Because Moses had his eyes as well as his ears open. His heart turned to the Lord, and therefore he saw Him with unveiled face. A hard heart, “an evil heart of unbelief,” makes one blind, as well as deaf. The only reason why God did not make known His ways unto the children of Israel, was that they would not see; for God did all on His part. He showed them His works, and that is the only way any person can make himself truly known. If we know all of a man’s doings, then we know the man himself. Although Israel saw God’s “wonderful works,” “they soon forgot His works,” “and His wonders that He had showed them” (Psalm 78.4-11; 106.13); therefore they did not know His ways.
The Same Things Revealed to Us.—We have no grounds on which to accuse the Israelites, for we are equally guilty with them. We have all seen the wonderful works of the Lord, and yet have remained in ignorance of God’s ways. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19.1. “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honorable and glorious; and His righteousness endures forever. He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered,” or, more literally, “He hath made a memorial for His wonderful works.” Psalm 111.4. What this memorial is will appear in our next study. But the fact is, that God’s works are all about us, and they reveal Him to us. “For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made.” Romans 1.20. Every day of our lives we have been beholding the works of God, which clearly reveal “the invisible things of Him,” even “His everlasting power and divinity and yet we have not known His ways. Every day God is doing just as wonderful miracles as the dividing of the Red Sea, yet people will stand and look at these, and gravely discuss whether the age of miracles has not passed! Truly there is need for the exhortation, “Take heed.”
Knowledge and Life.—What is it to know God?—It is eternal life. “This is life eternal, that they might knew Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17.3. He who knows God, enters upon the life eternal, having passed out of death into life. Compare 1 John 3.14 and 4.7. We must not make the mistake of confounding eternal life with immortality. Both life and immortality are brought to light through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1.10), but immortality is not bestowed until the “coming of the Lord and the resurrection, at the last trump.” 1 Corinthians 15.51-54. Eternal life, however, is to be enjoyed now, if ever, for we are saved only by the life of Christ “made manifest in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4.11. Compare Romans 5.10. Only life, eternal life, can conquer death; therefore he who would have the victory over death and the grave, must have eternal life, which is laid hold of only by faith. “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things,” that is, the wonderful works of the Lord, “even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.” Psalm 107.43. So will they rejoice in the hope, which the possession of life eternal gives.
Eternal Life and Rest.—The true God, the knowledge of whom is eternal life, is “the living God and an everlasting King.” Jeremiah 10.10. But “the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faintest not, neither is weary.” Isaiah 40.28. That is because He is the living God. The characteristic of eternity is freshness. Eternal life is everlasting youth, so that “they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40.31. Eternal life is rest, ever rest, —rest that remains no matter what disturbances arise. It was to this rest that God called ancient Israel, but into which they could not enter because of unbelief. God swore that they should not enter into His rest, not because He would not permit it, but because it was impossible. They rejected faith, the only thing that brings rest. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” If they had believed, they would have entered in. We may also enter into the same rest that was offered them, and enter in today, if we “take heed” to the voice that calls, “Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not our hearts. “Hear, and your soul shall live,” and rest in the Lord.”