THE BASIC ARGUMENT AND WARNING IN THIS SECTION
In the foregoing verses the writer had contrasted the greatest from among men in the Old Testament, Moses, with the greatest of the New Testament, the Christ of God. Each was great in his own rank and place in God’s house, the church of the living God. Moses was great as a servant; Christ was great as a Son and Builder of the house. Is He not the Apostle and High Priest of our profession? Are we not, in Him, partakers of the heavenly calling? Are we not holy brethren in Him?
The answer to this question is yes and no! As far as the elect of God are concerned, the answer is yes! However, this is not evident to and in the elect, unless they walk in the perseverance of the saints, and they show in their lives the evidence of election— the infallible fruits of God’s elective grace. The crowning fruit of election is perseverance! And perseverance is made up experientially of walking in heeding the “Voice” of God in many “To day” situations. Ever we walk in perseverance by walking in what is called “To day.” The non-elect do not walk in perseverance because they never walked in true faith in Christ at all! They are not in Christ, are no partakers of Him and all His benefits, and, therefore, they will become embittered by and by, be offended and hardened by the rigor of the journey to Canaan above, and harden their heart, as did Israel in the wilderness in the provocation, in the day of Israel’s tempting God in the wilderness ! Ever again the mixed multitude and the reprobate Israel will murmur against God’s covenant dealings, trials and judgments which the redeemed experience in this world. The righteous must enter into the kingdom through much tribulation. And blessed is he who is not offended at the ways of the most High!
Since only those who hold fast to the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm to the end are the house of God, we are to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure. Wherefore we are to take heed lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief to fall away from the living God.
It is our conviction that the KJV is correct in placing the quotation from Psalm 95:7-11 (Hebrews 3:7-11) in parentheses. The injunction is, therefore, that we take heed lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief. There is so much in this present evil world which would draw us away from, and cause us to apostatize from the living God. To prevent such apostasy in the saints there is need of the means of grace, the means of exhortation and careful mutual regard toward one another. We are to exhort one another daily, while it is called “To day.”
In the argument of the writer in this section we see the reality of what the fathers called the sin of separating what God has in His wisdom most intimately joined together. The fathers hold that if we separate the perseverance of the saints from the exhortations of the Word, we tempt God in the church. This writer remembers too painfully that not so many years ago there were some who walked this slippery path, when they echoed and reechoed loudly the slogan: do not tell God’s people what to do! God’s people walk in the ways of the Lord spontaneously, so they said! Why? Because they are Spirit-led and Spirit-filled! Dangerous talk! Practically it leads (led?) to the carelessness of the life of the antinomist, a trifling with the grace of election. Such do not desire to be admonished by the law of God as the rule for their life of thankfulness and daily conversion. They need not the precepts of the Gospel! Ah, they pretend to be above and beyond the need of the admonitions of the Gospel, and they do not give heed to each other lest there be an evil heart of unbelief in their midst. On the contrary: they allege that the elect do not need admonitions, and the reprobate don’t profit by them anyway!
Nevertheless, we shall by God’s grace adhere to the sound words of admonition, and give heed to the basic warning and argument of the writer to the Hebrews! Is not all Scripture given by inspiration, and profitable also for reproof and correction in righteousness, that the man of God be thoroughly equipped unto all good works? (II Timothy 3:16 f.f.)
THE CRISP QUOTATION FROM PSALM 95:7-11
There is an expression of extreme urgency in Psalm 95:1-6. The urgency is expressed in the words “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation…Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving… O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD, our maker.” Thus also here in Hebrews 3:7-11 there is an urgent calling to worship God in Christ. Already in verse 1 we hear this urgent exhortation: “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession… take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief… . but exhort one another daily, while it is called To day.”
This urgency is not merely of human invention; it did not originate in the heart of prophets and bards. It is not merely an excited or a devoted David who thus speaks, but it is God Himself who thus speaks to us inPsalm 95:7-11. It was the Holy Ghost who speaks in and through a David. (Hebrews 4:7) Let us, even while we are reading this essay, feel this urgency of God’s “Voice.” to us, giving instant and continuous heed to the same. When God speaks to us in the Gospel, we are no mere spectators, nor do we simply listen to what others have heard Him say and now relate to us. When God speaks, all hear, whether they heed the Word of God or not! May we say and confess: to me also, to me also, the Word comes. Speak, Lord, thy servant heareth! Let us say this prayerfully before the face of God.
There is a certain emphasis in this quotation — the emphasis of God’s “Voice” itself. It is the oft repeated “harden not your hearts,” a warning against being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. This hardening is the moral process from evil to worse. It is the process of the sin of unbelief against the clear testimony of God’s Word — His voice, clear and strong, as it is accompanied by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the heart of all who hear the Gospel, whether this be in the wilderness of Sinai, or from the pulpit of some little country church in a Western prairie-land! This process reveals itself in the hardening of the heart which expresses itself in contention with God on the part of the sinner, of tempting God to wrath and fury by ascribing evil to the most High! It is really the sin against the Holy Ghost, and ultimately an open falling away from the living God as revealed in His Word, His Voice! Such a hardened sinner says: I have no desire to walk in the ways of the LORD.
Here we come to that point where we feel the force of the quotation of Psalm 95, do we not? We stand here in the either-or. Either we shall more and more come and worship the LORD, our Maker, and bow down to Him, we shall kneel before Him, even as He came to stand before us in the face of Jesus Christ, partakers of the heavenly calling, or we shall gradually lose delight in the church of God, as those who “hear the Word and anon: with joy receive it,” according to Jesus’ word in the parable, the parable of the sower. (Matthew 13:20) Hence, the writer to the Hebrews cites for our warning and admonition the frightful example of the unbelief of Israel in the desert, and how they were condemned to die in the wilderness and forbidden to enter into the promised land. In that great apostasy of Israel some six hundred thousand men of war died in the wilderness, from twenty years old and upwards. Thus did the Holy Ghost record this history through David for our instruction and warning; yea, thus did this Word of God resound in the ears of the Hebrew christians.
Yes, we need this word of warning. For God does not come to us with a special and individual revelation from heaven to tell us that we are personally elected of Him; that we are engraved in the palms of His hands. Nor are we favored with a trip into the inner sanctuary of God to see whether our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; nor are we permitted to curiously pry into the secret will of God and counsel of our redemption. Thus God does not ordain that we shall make our calling and election sure. Nay, we receive such assurance of election in various degrees and in due time by observing in ourselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure the infallible fruits of election. These fruits are wrought by the Holy Spirit in our hearts by the Gospel, and they are pointed out to us in the Word, such as, true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Thus we preach the doctrine of election for our profit, for the comfort of the godly, without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the most High! (Canons of Dordt, First Head of Doctrine, Article 12, 15).
Our confessions are in agreement with this crisp quotation in Hebrews 3:7-11 taken from Psalm 95:7-11. God works the grace of obedience and perseverance in the faith, through admonitions, warnings and threatenings. Wherefore, Today, if ye hear his voice, harden not your hearts.. . !
We notice that, in the quotation from Psalm 95:7, the first term is “To day.” It is an adverb of time, and it expresses a certain urgency which will allow for no procrastination on the part of those who are called to the worship of the Lord. In the Hebrew language the term for To day is “Ha Yom,” the day. The Greek translation is “Hemeera.” The term “TO day” is used here throughout indistinction from yesterday and from the endless future. We are no longer in yesterday, and we are not yet in tomorrow. The only time allotted us to serve the Lord is “today.”
The writer to the Hebrews makes a special use of this term “To day,” both in this Chapter and in the next. We notice this peculiar usage of the term in verse 13, where we read, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day.” In verse 15 we read, “While it is said; To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” In Chapter 4:7 the term “To day” is contrasted with an earlier period in the life of God’s church. It is the contrast between the time of David and the time of Joshua at the time of Israel’s inheriting the land.
From this usage of the term we may conclude that the term “To day” refers to an epoch-period in God’s church. It ought to be quite clear that the term “To day” is not a mere adverb of time, but rather is a basic concept of Scripture, rich in meaning; that it is of great significance for our understanding of the thrust of the exhortation that we do not harden our hearts as in the provocation. The writer to the Hebrews distinguishes. the “day” of Israel’s being in the desert and their finally entering into the promised land under Joshua from the later “day” of David, as well as from that much later “day,” wherein a better “Rest;” a Sabbath remaineth for the children of God in the New Dispensation. “To day” therefore refers to the peculiar dispensation of God in which any given saint live is in the history of God’s covenant.