Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Heb. 3:14 “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;”
The Israelites made a good start when leaving Egypt. They crossed the Red sea, marching toward Canaan as an army with banners. Their confidence, though, did not remain steadfast. Faith faltered, and they were unable to partake in all God had for them.
Many show confidence at the beginning of their profession, but the best benefits received in Jesus depend on perseverance in faith. Deep spirituality is not our automatically.
Men want a relationship that grows without tending. They want spirituality to be a plant, which thrives with out watering, fertilizing, weeding, or pruning. However, neglected faith produces withered lives. Without persistent faith, there is no fruitfulness, no land flowing with milk and honey. There is only “wilderness” living.
Heb. 3:15-16 “While it is said, TODAY IF YE WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, HARDEN NOT YOU HEARTS, AS IN THE PROVOCATION. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.”
Like Israel of old, we are ever confronted with decision. God is always speaking, calling us away from a “wilderness” life. Fortunately, it is possible for us to respond with faith. Even in Israel’s dark hour, some believed. Most rebelled, but Joshua and Caleb displayed faith. You are ever at a crossroad. You must believe or disbelieve. A.B. Simpson wrote,
They came to the gates of Canaan,
But they never entered in.
They came to the land of promise,
But they perished in their sin.
And so we are ever coming
To they place where two ways part:
One leads to the land of promise,
And one leads to a hardened heart.
At every opportunity provided, quickly display faith. When God speaks, respond immediately. Do you duty promptly, while the voice of God is being addressed to you. Obey today. “Tomorrow, Lord” is a contradiction in terms. “Tomorrow is the day when idle men work, and fools repent. Satan cares not what good resolutions you form if only you fix them for tomorrow” (JFB).
Heb. 3:17 “But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?”
Unbelief is never a minor thing. Israel in the wilderness revealed the extent to which unbelief provokes God. Our text uses rough language regarding the unbelievers. Scripture does not say, “They died,” but instead, their “carcasses fell,” a phrase indicating contempt and indignation. It was language God Himself had used of them at least three times (NB 14:29, 32, 33).
We try to speak reverently and delicately of the dead whom we cherish. My Grandpa and Grandma Marshall had 13 children, one of which died in infancy. They always talked of Carrie in loving tones. They spoke of her big round blue eyes, and said she was their prettiest baby. They thought she looked like an angel in her little white coffin. On the casket itself were inscribed the words, “Our Darling.” They were pleased with Carrie.
The use of harsh language when speaking of the dead reveals how upset God was with the unbelieving Israelites. He emphasized a bitter reality. Their cold, lifeless, motionless cadavers fell in the wilderness at the rate of forty a day for forty years.
The Israelites had been blatant in their unbelief. Since they were publicly defiant, God let them serve as public examples. God sometimes hurls a thunderbolt among men that men may see and learn. One purpose for punishment is that others might “hear and fear, and do so no more.”
Heb. 3:18 “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
Unbelief kept Israel out of Canaan, and keeps us from the rest we are meant to have in Jesus. True rest is that sense of spiritual repose, which comes when one has placed total trust in the Savior. It is a shelter from the strains of life, a haven from the pressures of this world.
Unbelief robs us of this. It deprives us of the peace and victory God means for us to have. With unbelief, men disinherit themselves from God’s best. Victory comes solely by God’s power, but His power cannot operate in an evil heart of unbelief. Unbelief is the restricting sin. It shuts up the heart of God, and turns off the flow of his greatest blessings. Every defeat and every moment of despair can be traced to simple unbelief.
Unbelief is nothing less than the attempt of Satan to frustrate the whole plan of God. Unbelief is Satan’s way of making God look like a liar, of keeping Him from being owned and acknowledged, of making us cease from worshipping Him as God only wise. Unbelief denies that God is good or sufficient. Unbelief treats God as if He did not exist, treats Love as if it did not care, treats the King of kings as if He should not rule.
As sure as God is God, unbelief has to be punished, and its consequences have to be severe. Israel was barred from rest because of it. We must learn form their mistake. A ship burned on Long Island Sound, and its hulk was afterwards beached. Its alarm aboard kept sounding day and night for weeks. It was a solemn and impressive warning to all who passed by, “Be careful. Beware. Don’t let this happened to you.”
Israel of old also sends out an alarm. And in our present day, all around us there are moral shipwrecks and spiritual burnouts, people who at one time felt secure in their faith. Their catastrophes are never-ending alarms, warning us of danger.
Heb. 3:19 “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
As we contemplate corpses strewn across a desert, and think of men never allowed to see Canaan, we need to ask ourselves, are we people of faith? Are our prayers mere forms, or do we truly expect answers from God? Is going to God’s house mere formality, or do we actually plant to meet the living God there? Do we make plans, never asking God’s will? Is our church relying on committees and public relations, but not consulting our God?
Such questions convict me. Many of us live in the “wilderness.” Like a man in prison, our lives are often miserable and pathetic, yet all the while a pardon lies nearby untouched and unopened. Unbelief bind us, simple faith would bring release. Wherever faith is, there is victory.
Faith in God is the world’s greatest relaxant. There can be nothing but inner peace for one who believes all the past forgiven, all the present furnished with power, and all the future filled with hope. Faith clings to these truths. Unbelief causes one to stagger, but wherever faith is, there is victory.
In every test, do what you did at you conversion. Put absolute trust in Christ. Oh believer, back to the crucified One! Return to the cross. Jesus saved your soul there once. Kneel down and sense His healing blood flowing over you again. Faith brought you deliverance from Hell, lostness, and Egyptian bondage. The same faith will rescue now.
Saving faith and delivering faith are the same faith. At conversion, we saw in ourselves nothing, in Him everything. We were in an extremity, but leaned wholly on Jesus. We put our total trust in Jesus without doubting, without wavering, without conditions, without grumbling, without complaining. We fell before Him in unconditional surrender, and found deliverance. Faith worked them. It will work now.
Several coal miners were down in a mine when the shaft collapsed, blocking their exit. The men, having no hope of escape, sat down and waited to die. One of them, though, remembered having heard the old-timers say there was another shaft into the mine. The original shaft had been very narrow, and unused for years. The mean feared it had caved in or been closed, but since it was their only chance to survive, off they went to find it.
Upon finding the old shaft, they entered it by crawling on their hands and knees. Sometimes they had to lie flat on their backs and pull themselves along. At every pull they feared they might come to an obstruction, but they never did. Finally, they reached light and air. The old shaft had saved them.
Some of us feel that we are in a pit of despair. Life has us weighted down. Some even feel “down for the count.” But wait! Before you give up, try the “old shaft.” Get down on your hands and knees and go where sinners always find relief.
Prostrate yourself and say, “Lord help me. I am unworthy, but so much in need. My wounds are many.” You will find that the “old shaft” is not closed up. There is light, air, and life above. The Savior is still accessible. Go to Him through the “old shaft” of faith.