One of the baffling features of human nature is how so many people can see and have experiences living around the foolish choices in the lives of others, but rather than learn from it, they go out and do the very same things. That is just being stupid. And to quote Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
As we wrote yesterday about the entire background of the book of Hebrews, these Christians from a Jewish background were on the cusp of doing something very stupid – of walking back to that system from which they had previously departed.
We finished yesterday by giving the first of three points that would have been in last week’s snowed-out sermon. It was to say to those contemplating giving up the faith (and by application to us), here is what to do – Fix your thoughts on Jesus, the Son of God.
So today, as a contrastive second point, here is what not to do: Don’t follow the foolish example of those who displayed a lack of faith. Of course, the writer was talking about their Jewish ancestors who comprised the generation that came out of Egypt 1500+ years earlier under the leadership of Moses and God’s miraculous deliverance.
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
On one hand we can sort of understand the small-minded nature of the roughly two million people who comprised the nation of Israel at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. They had been slaves for over 400 years – think of that as comparable to the period of time from Jamestown/Plymouth Rock until now. They were a defeated and oppressed people.
But on the other hand, consider what they had seen happen. They witnessed the powerful hand of God in the plagues brought upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians that resulted in securing their release. After that they saw the waters of the sea open, the army of Egypt swept away, the cloud by day and the pillar by night, manna falling from the sky and water out of a rock … among other things. Clearly God was with them. They were unconquerable.
As they approached the Promised Land at Kadesh-Barnea and sent the spies into the land, the nation (apart from Moses, Joshua and Caleb) failed to act in faith upon what they had seen. Instead of going forward into the good land of God’s promise (called also in this passage “entering God’s rest” – more on that in future writings), they were ready to go back to Egypt.
Get the theme? Going back … to Egypt … and then, for the Hebrews, to the old system of faith. There is only one word for that: Stupid!
And so it is for you when you have had Christ’s truth come to your life – you’ve understood the Gospel – you’ve begun to walk in it – you’ve seen the good that comes of it – but some troubles come your way and God doesn’t seem to be riding shotgun when you need him – so you head back to your own personal Egypt! You know what that is? That’s being stupid … you’re going to end up being a slave again – a slave to sin and the stuff that is never going to survive this fallen world.
And the passage today contains as well some practical advice: to encourage one another “daily, while it is today.”
There is an endless and ongoing need for encouragers in the body of Christ. If we all commit to this with each other and do it for others, we’ll find joy in helping and resources for our own needs when we face the inevitable discouragements of life. Some days you’re the giver, other days you’re the receiver.
Being an encourager and remaining faithful is being smart. Giving up and going back from trusting God is, in a word, stupid.