Return to Study Guide for Hebrews – by Debbie Parnakian
Fix your thoughts on Jesus; Hebrews 3:7-19
Overview of Hebrews
Study by Debbie Parnakian
7-11 What the danger is / Scriptural
12-15 How to avoid the danger / Application
16-19 Example of failure and consequences / Historical
What if God couldn’t take the time to bless us today because we couldn’t take the time to thank Him yesterday?
What if we never saw another flower bloom because we grumbled when God sent the rain?
What if God didn’t walk with us today because we failed to recognize it as His day?
What if God took away the Bible tomorrow because we would not read it today?
What if God took away His message because we failed to listen to the messenger?
What if God closed the door of our churches because we didn’t open the door to our hearts?
What if God stopped loving and caring for us because we failed to love each other?
What if God answered our prayers the way we answer His call to service?
What if God decided to stop leading us tomorrow because we didn’t follow Him today?
There are so many verses that deal with God’s leading. It is invaluable to us. It is a gift. As Christians, we have accepted God’s gift- the path of salvation- through His son Jesus Christ. We must trust Him enough to continue to follow Him because His Word tells us what His intentions are toward us.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
So, His plan is not to abandon us once we have accepted His Son, but to guide us along. He gives each of us our own personal path. Now, we should be careful and stay on that path. Listen to a few verses about His path.
Psalm 119: 105
Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Proverbs 3: 5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.
Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path
Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
Our verses, today, start with a familiar story to the readers of Hebrews. It is the same story I began my last lecture with. I think God is calling me to listen!!!! It is the story of the wilderness generation and it reveals several important aspects of God’s relationship with His people.
This example is found way back in the history of the Israelites beginning with their slavery and oppression in Egypt. God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham because of his great faith. So, as promised, God delivered His people out of Pharaoh’s bondage, showing them that He is a God of deliverance. The Israelites found themselves miraculously crossing the Red Sea, with their God given guide, Moses.
God showed them that He is a God of provision, as they were supplied with quail and manna to eat. God showed them that he is a God of direction, who provides us a path, as they were guided by cloud and fire. God showed them that He is a God of protection, as He saved them from the harsh environment in which they traveled.
Finally, God tried to show them that He is a God of blessings, and of promise, but there was a problem. The people were grumbling. They even wished they could go back to Egypt, where the labor was brutal, and they enjoyed no freedom, but at least they knew what to expect, and the food was good and plenty. They were tired of manna. The people had no recipes left untried. They had made all the “manna burger,” “manna cotti,” and “ba manna bread” they could stand.
Here, in the wilderness they were not satisfied with God’s plan for them and they felt oppression was easier than walking by faith. They were dissatisfied with the path that God had provided. They had forgotten the miracles the Lord had done on their behalf and began to focus on the negative. They left their path. They began to try to find their own way.
Despite their misbehavior, God shows his people the Promised Land and tells them to take possession of it. This is the long awaited gift that they had been waiting for. This is the blessing that God wanted to bestow upon them in honor of Abraham. Again the people grumble. They react with distrust, asking Moses to send spies ahead to see what this so-called Promised Land is like.
Moses sends ten spies to survey this unknown land. The report is mixed. This is the most beautiful, green, fertile land imaginable, but the inhabitants are huge. Joshua and Caleb urge the people to have faith and enter their land. They know that God is bigger than any giant. They know God keeps His promises.
In the end, Joshua and Caleb are the only ones to enter the Promised Land because of their decision to trust God. The others chose their own path, and suffered and died in the wilderness. They missed their blessing! Their disobedience did not result in their return to bondage, the same way our disobedience does not take away our salvation, but they did lose their blessing. We can miss our blessings as well, and forfeit our promise of rest. I don’t know about you, but I would like some rest! So, let’s stay on our path!
After the writer tells the story, he addresses his “brothers” (in verse 12) with an exhortation. He urges them to avoid the fate of the Israelites. He is cautioning them about turning from God. Let’s choose not to miss out on the blessings He offers to us, let’s stay on the path. Let’s chose NOT to try to find our own way, but to trust the way provided by our Heavenly Father.
Let’s remember that our world loves to tell us that God doesn’t care about us, and that we need to “look out for number 1, because if we don’t, no one will.” Let’s continually ask ourselves if we are turning off path. Let’s be careful.
Verse 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
The writer makes it clear that there is choice in the matter. It is possible to start out with excitement and faith in our relationship with God, and then stray too far to return. The Hebrews had started out well, but they must be careful not to abandon the path they have chosen through Christ. Listening and obeying God is a matter of will.
Romans 8:15 Those who live in accordance to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
God does not force us to accept His way. Accepting Christ is a matter of choice, and so is our obedience to Him. Think about it, if God didn’t give His people choices, He would have picked up His grumbling Israelites and plopped them down in the Promised Land despite themselves. He wants us to follow Him because we love Him, because we fear Him, and because we have learned from our own mistakes that God’s way is the best way.
When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time exploring. As an only child, I was motivated to entertain myself, and I loved nature (still do), so I went on adventures all the time. Our house, in North Carolina, was adjacent to the woods (the east coast version of the wilderness.) My many, many hours spent in those woods are such an example to me of the warning our writer is talking about.
These woods had a path, which was there for horses and their riders. It was a clear, unobstructed path that led from my backyard (I don’t know why) to a horse farm about a mile away. Normally, I walked from point “A” (my house) to point “B” (the farm). These walks were easy, and relaxing, and they took a predictable amount of time. There were many other days, however that I chose to deviate from the path. There were so many interesting things to discover, that on these days I just could not resist.
Sometimes I would see something close to the path and after checking it out, return to the path without much thought. On other days, I allowed one step away to lead to another, and then another. Pretty soon, I was lost. Where was the path? Why didn’t I go back after I looked at that red mushroom? On these days, succumbing to my curiosity got me in trouble. I wished someone were with me, namely my mom!
It was scary. Thankfully, none of my misadventures resulted in the need to be rescued. I could have easily gotten myself so lost that my mother would have needed to search for me. Well, this is the way it is with sin. We are given a path; it is the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is a safe, rewarding path. We know that this path leads to everlasting life and peace, but sometimes there is something so interesting that we get off the path to see it.
These are our temptations. These are the things that personally call us to come closer. Once we leave the path to go look it is so easy to take just one more step away because so far leaving the path hasn’t gotten us into too much trouble. Pretty soon we are lost and we are alone in the wilderness. We are confused about where our lives are leading and why we are having such a difficult time finding our way. Thankfully, our path is still there and it is possible to find it again, but the farther away we travel from our path, the harder it is to find it again.
William Shakespeare said, “A little fire is quickly trodden out.” Let’s put out our little fires, our temptations to go our own way, when they start. Let’s not allow those fires to grow and spread. As Californians, we can all understand the danger of an uncontrollable fire! The path can be so destroyed that there is no trace of it.
Hopefully, we all agree that our path is before us and that we have to trust God to lead us down that path. What about when things get tough? We need to keep in mind that the path is going to be difficult sometimes and resist the temptation to give up or to decide God has left you. George Herbert said, “Every path has a puddle.” The Bible says,
John 16:33 In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.
Our path will be scary sometimes. There could be a snake sunning himself on our path. There might be a fallen tree blocking our way, these represent the difficult circumstances in our lives. Difficulties will arise, but we should still strive to stay on His path. God doesn’t always make it easy for us. He isn’t interested in our comfort, after all. He is interested in conforming us into the like-ness of His son, but He is there waiting to show us how to manage that snake or how to get over that tree. There are things God wants to teach us. These are the circumstances that require perseverance and faith and result in strength of character.
1Peter 1:6-7 Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
If we get off the path to handle it ourselves, then our lesson is lost. We have likely made things worse, any way!! I can attest to that, for I have made BIG messes out of small problems, only to realize later how God had intended to work it all out! In other words, open mouth; insert foot!
So now that we know it isn’t always going to be easy, but that God’s path is the only way for us, let’s look at our next verse. It gives us a tool to help each other stay on the path.
Verse 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is still called today.
This is the second use of the word today in our verses. It must be important. Why does he emphasize “today?” Why can’t we just do it tomorrow? One commentary that I read wrote this about the use of “today”…
“By it he clearly means while the opportunity lasts. The present is our opportunity for a deed. It is where we all live. The past lives in us with a grim kind of inevitability. It cannot be un-done. The future is the land of our faith. But our works belong to the present. It is the place of our decision.”
I like how He described today as where we live. We are human beings after all. We’re not human dids or human will dos. Procrastination can result in lost chances. We have all had that happen to us.
Dwight L. Moody, in his early years, used to end his sermons with, “go home and think about what I’ve said” On one particular day he was speaking about the decision we must make about whether or not we accept Christ. He ended in his usual way, instructing the congregation to have their decision for the next Sunday. That day, the deadly Chicago fire broke out and several members of Mr. Moody’s church perished. Needless to say, that was the last time he ended in that manner. He saw all too clearly that tomorrow was too late.
Encouragement, then, is an important tool, today, for resisting the temptation to leave the path. Encouragement helps us stay on the path, together. An old proverb says, “Assurance is two thirds of success.” Encouragement works, and it is a tool to be used now. Encouragement in Greek means, “to come along side.” Nature gives us a beautiful analogy for this. In northern California, the redwoods do not stand alone. Their roots are completely intermingled. Their joined roots hold each other up. This is the way it is to be with us.
2 Samuel 19:7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall.
Col 2:2-3 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
So, along with the troubles are treasures!!! There are many joys and blessings for us in our walk with our Lord. Remember the beautiful, fertile land God wanted to give to the wilderness generation.
Finally, verses 16-19 ask the readers to consider who the wilderness people were and why their lesson is relevant. These were people who saw God’s miracles for forty years and had a faithful leader in Moses, but still couldn’t be obedient. He repeats the dire outcome of their disobedience. Verse 19 says, “so we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”
Let’s choose to stay on the path! Let’s see what restful places the Lord wants to take us! Let’s discover the treasures along the way. Let’s see what wonderful lessons He has for us. Let’s encourage each other not to stray! Let’s hold each other up like the redwoods when temptations call us off the path. And by all means, let’s do it today!!!!!!
Return to Study Guide for Hebrews – by Debbie Parnakian