Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
“Wherfore as the Holy Ghost saith, TODAY IF YE WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART,…”Introduction: God is always speaking to believers, but they do not have to listen. If their hearts are hard they will not hear, if their hearts are soft they will hear. May this message be used of God in helping us be in the latter category.Heb. 3:7a “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith,…”Hebrews 3:7b-11 is a quotation from Psalm 95:7-11. God had spoken through that Psalm a thousand years earlier, but our author knew that God was still speaking through it. The Lord was speaking anew and afresh through that passage to first century Jewish believers.
Thus, the Holy Spirit is described as speaking in the present tense (“saith”) rather than in the past tense (“said”). Scripture is an immediate speaking of God unto us. It has authority because it continues forever to be the voice of God to us. Scripture is given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and contains those things, which He wants to say to the Church in all ages. By means of the Bible “there is a continuous voice of God sounding through all the ages” (Maclaren).
Our text is a classic example of this truth. Three thousand years ago, the Holy Spirit spoke these words to Israel through the Psalmist. Nineteen hundred years ago the Holy Spirit spoke the same words to first century Jewish Christians. Today the Holy Spirit speaks the same message to you and me.
As the Holy Spirit lives forever, He speaks forever. The Holy Ghost ever speaks to us individually and directly through the bible. He speaks now, thus increasing the urgency of His words and the danger of disobeying them. To disobey Scripture is not a rebuttal of dusty ancient parchments, but rather an affront to the Holy Spirit of God Himself. The Bible is a book crying out to be heard. Listen to what the Spirit has to say.
Heb. 1:7b “TODAY…”
“Today” denotes urgency. Whatever needs to be done should be done at once. Evil habits, forbidden indulgences, all must go at once. It is difficult, like cutting off a hand, or plucking out a right eye, but it must be done.
Every command of Scripture cries out for immediate obedience. The Bible is not to be placed on the shelf for future reference. Having been granted the blessed privilege of hearing God, we are obligated to obey immediately.
Why such urgency on the part of the Holy Spirit? Because our sins keep Him from performing His main role, that of Comforter. He cannot comfort us when we are in sin. Comfort for men in sin would mean destruction. The Holy Spirit has to make backslidden believers miserable in order to gain their repentance. The ungodly must be convicted and rebuked to draw them to the place where the Holy Spirit can comfort them.
In contemplating this truth, for the first time I have come to understand why the Holy Spirit has two seemingly contradictory tasks: comfort and conviction. I have always seen these two functions as opposites, but they belong together. The wisdom of God placed them together as being complementary to one another.
Heb. 3:7c “IF YE WILL HEAR HIS VOICE,…”
God is speaking through Someone greater than Moses. He is speaking through His only begotten Son, Jesus. The Great Shepherd is calling, and the sheep are expected to heed His voice. Obedience is always the chief worship required by God.
Unfortunately, these first century Jewish believers were hearing other voices calling to them. Patriotism was calling them to be true to their national heritage. Natural affection was calling them to remember family traditions. Custom was calling for loyalty to the temple and its ritual. Voices, voices, voices, were calling from everywhere, but the sheep were expected to reject all except one. It was their duty to hear the voice of their Great Shepherd.
We, too live in a world replete with voices. Cries for our attention seem to come from every conceivable direction. The world calls us to itself. Evil calls with an alluring voice. The voice of our flesh cries out for indulgence. Friends call us to compromise our convictions.
This multitude of voices almost causes us to lose the hearing of God’s voice. There are so many distractions that it is often hard to concentrate upon Him. It is easy for the voice of God to be drowned out.
When the Wesleys were forced to preach in the open-air, their enemies would often beat drums and blow trumpets to prevent the preaching from being heard. There are still abundant drums and trumpets trying to smother the voice of God. Preoccupy yourself with the one voice worth hearing. Listen to the Holy Ghost. Pore over the Scriptures, let your eyes be your spiritual ears.
Heb. 1:8a “HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS,…”To “harden the heart” is a metaphor which signifies resistance to impressions from without, and refusal to change; as wax when it is hard cannot be molded. Our text is a plea to be soft and pliable in God’s hands, not resisting the impression and changes He intends for us.
By nature men have hearts of stone. Through regeneration, God’s voice begins to soften the heart and make it tender. He spends a lifetime trying to undo our hardheartedness, but often our own resistance to His will thwarts His efforts.
Who would ever imagine that there could be a pleading God and a refusing man? Even more unbelievable is when one of these “refusers” is one of God’s own children, but it happens. It is actually possible for a believer to have an “unhearing” heart.
Insensible creation is often more responsive to God than is His own family.
When God spoke in creation, inanimate materials responded immediately. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God spoke, “Let the dry land appear,” and it was so. God commanded. “Let the earth bring forth grass,” and it happened immediately. How sad that unthinking things are often softer toward God than are we who are the recipients of His grace.
Angels veil their faces before God, yet His own children can trifle before Him. Angels hasten to do His biding, but believers sometimes dare to turn a deaf ear toward their Sovereign.
Disobedience is “hazardous to the health” of believers. The Holy Spirit is very sensitive. He is like a mother, tender, soft, and easily grieved. When men refuse to heed such a gentle One, the father is correct in rendering for such insensitivity consequences that are terrible.
You keep saying that someday you will make God the priority of your life, but right now just isn’t a good time. You want to spend more time with the little ones, you say. Do not be surprised if, once you are ready to get right with God, the children care not a whit about the things of God.
Someday you plan to become a tither, but not now. Do not be surprised if your financial house never gets in order. God asks for it now. Someday you plan to be regular in church attendance. Do not be surprised if you finally lose the desire to go at all, and you and your whole family sinks into the quagmires of sin.
There is nothing but danger in delay. Set your priorities straight immediately. Right now, this very moment, align your life in accordance with what you know to be the will of god for your life. One of the most dangerous things you can say at a time like this is, “Preacher, I know you’re right, but.” Cut it off right there. Do not put that “but” on there. If you know heartedness, I plead with you; hear the voice of God now.
Archias, in the midst of drinking and pleasure, replied with a laugh, “Serious affairs tomorrow,” and continued his revelry. That same night, in the midst of his party, assailants rushed the palace, and murdered Archias, thereby leaving to the world a striking example of the evil of procrastination.
You, too, are confronted with an uncertain future. You hold in your hand the Book, which can provide you with the most help. To ignore it means destruction. Hear it. Do not harden your heart. “Serious affairs tomorrow” is the motto of a fool.