“Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day 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 me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)” (Hebrews 3:7–11, KJV)
“For he is our God; And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, And as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, Proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, And said, It is a people that do err in their heart, And they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath That they should not enter into my rest.” (Psalm 95:7–11, KJV)
Why is Paul writing this? Because some Christians were thinking about going back to Judaism. It was obvious they were the third kind of seed, who fell away because of persecution. Paul is telling them, “you can’t go back.”
I remember my rabbi telling me when he gave me a Tehillas Hashem prayerbook, “The Hlalakhah (Jewish law) says, Once you start praying Tehillas Hashem, you can’t switch to any other siddur.” Well, I guess i’m not in violation of halakhah, because I never went to another siddur after that. I searched for which religion was the truth, and of course, I found it was Judaism – Biblical Judaism.
We call it Christianity today.
Anyway (I’ll tell the whole story sometime), the issue was that the Jewish believers of that day were experiencing persecution on all sides, and some were thinking, “This isn’t right – if He’s the Messiah, then this would be working!” So, some began to theorize things we’re still dealing with today, for the same reason. “IF Jesus Christ is just an angel, I can be on better ground for leaving Him or rationalizing what parts I don’t like.” “If Jesus Christ is just a man, then His words are not binding on me.”
You’re right! And so, Paul began to write this letter, and the Lord began to move him to write the words the Lord wanted in the letter. And so we have Hebrews.
EVery Jew would know about the tempting at Meribah. It’s part of the yearly Torah readings. Paul here contrasts the temptation at Meribah and Kadesh-Barnea, and the current temptation to leave and go back to Judaism.
The issue is, if they leave, they never were saved in the first place. Hence the parable of the tares, which the Lord declared a foundational parable. There are four kinds of “Christians”. Three leave, and prove they were never saved. One stays. Are they saved because they stayed? No. They stayed because they were saved.
Paul is delicately telling them, “If you leave, you’re not saved.”
So, what does staying do? Paul uses phrases like “…to the end” (Hebrews 3:6, 3:14, 6:8, 6:11). It’s a truism that when you look into a commentary to see what the difficult part means, they always skip right over it! This verse is no exeption. But I believe this is saying, “If you leave and you’re not saved, there’s no hope for you. You won’t listen again. If you stay and aren’t saved, the hope for you is that eventually you’ll listen to the Gospel.”
Hebrews makes dire predictions of what happens if you are not saved. It’s one reason it’s not a popular book. Nobody likes to be reminded they’re going to suffer horribly forever. That’s why in many ways, the result of a study of Hebrews leaves many christians on their knees, weeping and begging God to save them. If you were already saved, good remembrance of why you got saved. If you’re NOT SAVED… guess what just happened???
Good thing you didn’t leave, huh?