Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF CHRISTIANS.
1. They are fraternal in relation. "Brethren." These Hebrew Christians were brethren in a twofold sense to the writer of the Epistle - first, as being his kindred according to the flesh; and next, as being of the same religious faith. Every Christian is a member of a glorious brotherhood. We are brothers inasmuch as we have all one Father and one elder Brother; we are animated by one Spirit; we are tending to one home, our "Father's house." Let us endeavor to realize this relationship, and to practically express its spirit. "Love the brotherhood."
2. They are consecrated in character. "Holy brethren." By applying to them the term "holy," the writer does not affirm that all those whom he was addressing were in a state of sinless purity. The adjective conveys two ideas - consecration and transformation. Christians are holy because they have consecrated themselves to the Lord, and are being transformed into moral resemblance to him.
3. They are exalted in privilege. "Partakers of a heavenly calling." This calling "is the invitation given on the part of God and Christ to men, to come and partake of the blessings proffered" in the gospel. In two senses it is "a heavenly calling."
(1) It is heavenly in its origin; a calling from heaven. The holy voices and gracious invitations are from above. All saving influences and impulses are from God.
(2) It is heavenward in its end; a calling to heaven. Spiritual, sublime, eternal, heavenly, are the blessings to which we are called. It is "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The "partakers" of this calling are not those who have merely heard the call to gospel blessings, but those who have both heard and accepted that call.
II. THE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE LORD AND SAVIOR.
1. He is "the Apostle of our confession. There is here a comparison of Jesus with Moses. Moses was sent" of God to be the emancipator, chieftain, and ruler of the Israelites (see Exodus 3:10, 12, 14, 15). In this sense he was an apostle of God. Jesus Christ was the Sent of God (see John 3:34; John 5:36, 37; John 6:29; John 10:36; John 17:18). He was sent on a still grander mission of redemption (see Isaiah 61:1-3). Moreover, the Jews designated the minister of the synagogue, who had the charge of its affairs and presided over them, an apostle. And in the verse following our text the writer goes on to speak of Jesus and Moses as each presiding over the affairs of a house. In this sense also our Lord is "the Apostle of our confession." He is sent, not only to emancipate, but also to rule over his Church; to be both "a Prince and a Savior."
2. He is "the High Priest of our confession. Here the comparison is with Aaron. As Aaron was high priest of the Jews, and, as such, made expiation for the sins of the people, so our Savior has made atonement for the sins of the world by the offering of himself in sacrifice. Through him we approach unto God. He maketh intercession for us. He pleads with us and in us and for us. Through him we shall rise to heaven. As the Apostle, he is the Representative of God to men; as the High Priest, he is the Representative of men with God.
3. He is Jesus. There is perhaps a reference here to Joshua, the great general of the Israelites, who led them into the promised land. Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." How great, then, is our Lord and Savior!
III. THE ATTITUDE WHICH CHRISTIANS SHOULD MAINTAIN TOWARDS THEIR LORD AND SAVIOUR. "Wherefore, holy brethren... consider the Apostle and High Priest," etc.
1. The argument. "Wherefore," i.e. because we have in Jesus such "a merciful and faithful High Priest," such a mighty and gracious Helper, we should attentively consider him. And such consideration would be likely to strengthen the Christian faith of any who were in danger of falling back into Judaism; for they would find him a greater Apostle than Moses, a greater High Priest than Aaron, a greater "Captain of salvation" than Joshua. The great principle is this, that the greatest safeguard against weariness, discouragement, and apostasy is an earnest consideration of Jesus; a believing, steadfast, looking unto him.
2. The exercise. "Consider the Apostle," etc. Contemplate him as "the Apostle of our confession." How much greater is he than Moses! Moses did not lead the people into the Promised Land, or even enter therein himself; but Jesus has entered heaven as our Forerunner, has led multitudes into its blessedness, will lead all his people there. Contemplate him as "the High Priest of our confession." How much greater is he than Aaron! Aaron's priesthood was imperfect, typical, preparatory; but our Lord's is gloriously perfect. By his sacrifice he has made full atonement; his intercession is divinely efficacious. Contemplate him as our Savior, "Jesus." He is "mighty to save;" "able to save to the uttermost," etc. Here is the sublimest contemplation. In weakness and weariness consider him, and you will be strengthened and animated. In darkness consider him, and the night will shine even as the day. In sin consider him, and you will seek and obtain forgiveness. In sorrow consider him, and the troubled heart will grow calm and restful. In death consider him, and his rod and staff will comfort you, and he himself will lead you through its dark portals into the joys and glories of heaven. Let this be our constant attitude - "looking unto Jesus." - W.J.
Subject - The superiority of Christ to Moses the reason why they should cleave to Christ.
I. ALL THAT MOSES WAS TO GOD'S PEOPLE, CHRIST IS. A very delicate subject. To exhibit Moses in a subordinate position was to touch a point on which the Hebrews were very sensitive. The writer, therefore, begins by simply speaking of Christ as, at least, on a level with Moses.
1. Moses and Christ were successively the divinely appointed heads of Israel. "House" equivalent to "household." Both Moses and Christ successively presided over, administered the affairs of, the household of God on earth. The New Testament often draws a parallel in some kind between Moses and Christ: "As Moses lifted," etc.; "The Law was given by," etc.; "They sing the song of Moses," etc. This parallel is more sharply drawn in the affirmation that Moses and Christ occupied this position in the twofold capacity of "Apostle and High Priest. The two aspects of the mediatorial position: an apostle is one sent of God to represent him to the people, and the high priest is one appointed to represent the people before God. Moses fulfilled this dual position with regard to Israel; but the Hebrews had lost nothing in advancing from him to Christ, for they had all this in Jesus.
2. Moses and Christ were both faithful in their fulfillment of the Divine appointment. Not, Each was personally faithful," but "Each perfectly fulfilled the part allotted to him;" so that if Moses did less than Jesus (as may presently appear), he did all that was incumbent on him as administrator of the old economy. The writer is careful not to sink Moses that he may exalt Jesus. (We need not undervalue any of God's gifts in order to extol Christ.)
II. WHILST CHRIST IS ALL THAT MOSES WAS, HE IS ALSO MORE. From the resemblance he proceeds carefully to the superiority.
1. Moses was but a part of the household; Christ is the Founder of it. Moses was born into the family which existed before him, and had to share its privileges, duties, responsibilities, etc. But God was the Founder of the family, and Jesus has before been shown to be God. He must, therefore, be greater than Moses. (All the beauty in anything we love must be more fully in Christ, because it originates in him.)
2. Moses was but a servant to the house; Christ is Lord of it. Moses only did what he was bidden: "The Lord said unto Moses." What he did for the nation was not due to him, but was the carrying out of the will of another, and therefore the reverence and thankfulness given to him were really due to the Master whose instrument he was. And that Master was Christ. By so much is Christ better than Moses. (Do we think of that when anything ministers to our well being, that it is only a servant - all things come of God?)
3. Moses was but a symbolic witness in the house; Christ was the realized Life of it. "Moses was for a testimony of those things which were afterwards to be spoken." He and his work were symbolic of things to come - a dead symbol. The contrast is drawn in ver. 6: "Christ, whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying," etc.; that is, the Church is a living organism, whose life is Christ; Christ's family are such by a living faith which binds each member of it to him. Christ is the quickening Spirit to which Moses, as a symbol, pointed. (Everything we value on earth is only a symbol of something better in Christ. Happy we if, ere the evanescent symbol fades, we have grasped the reality; if, when Moses passes out of sight, Jesus is left!)
III. THE CONSIDERATION OF THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST IS THE POWER TO CONFIRM THE WAVERERS IN THEIR ALLEGIANCE TO HIM. Christ is better than Moses; therefore, ye wavering Hebrews, cleave to Christ; - that is the idea. The practical lesson is, that:
1. Moses, in the case of Israel, corresponds with anything which in our case competes with Christ. What Moses was to them many an object is to us, and we stand hesitating between it and our Lord.
2. Then, remember that all that is to be found in this object is to be found in Christ, and much more. Whatever good it promises us is but the shadow of a greater good in him.
3. Then, when we are tempted to leave Christ for anything, our safety is in considering him. If we leave him it is because we do not know him, and that is because we do not reflect upon him. As you "consider him," and he turns on you a sad look, asking, "Will ye also go away?" you will answer decidedly, joyously, "Lord, to whom shall," etc.? - C. N.
I. HERE WE HAVE THE PRE-EMINENCE OF CHRIST OVER THE JEWISH LAWGIVER ASSERTED. Having proved that our Lord was by nature and by his work infinitely above the angels, and that his assuming our flesh qualified him to be the great High Priest, it was desirable to show that he was immeasurably greater than Moses, who was the human mediator in establishment of the covenant and Law. The apostle knew the luster with which the name and ministry of Moses were always surrounded in the minds of the people of Israel, and therefore with admirable wisdom he proceeds to claim for Jesus Christ his rightful ascendancy and special glory. Jewish believers are addressed as "holy brethren" and partakers of the heavenly calling, which differed from the calling which invited the tribes to march and take possession of Canaan. It is heavenly because it comes to them from heaven and calls them to heaven, and is heard continually by the spiritual ear of those who are advancing to the "rest which remaineth for the people of God." Moses had a glory which was that of fidelity to the thoughts and ideas of Jehovah, who said to him, "See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount." When the tabernacle was finished God looked upon the work and blessed it, because it faithfully realized his design. He was faithful in receiving communications from God and delivering them to the people, and in publishing the laws respecting sacrifices, ceremonies, and social life. He uttered predictions respecting the future course of Israel and the character and ministry of the Lord Jesus, and could say, as Paul said, "That which I have received of the Lord have I delivered unto you." He was faithful to the interests of the people, and in a time of danger from the righteous anger of Jehovah was willing to die for them (Exodus 32:32). He was a servant in the house, and ministered under him who was its Architect and Builder. Our Lord rises infinitely above Moses, because he is a Son, and by his dignity and nature is far above all angels, all patriarchs, and prophets, and even Moses himself, who spake to God "face to face." This is confirmed by the events of the Transfiguration, for when Moses and Elijah were with him in glory the voice was heard, "This is my beloved Son; hear him." The apostle invites us to consider the sublime edifice of the Church, which is the work of God, who created all things, in which Jesus Christ has a special and glorious ministry as the Son of the Father. He is faithful as Moses was in the range of his Divine communications, and said, "Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak" (John 12:50). He came to do the Father's will in his mighty and sacrificial sorrows, and drank the bitter Cup that we might drink the cup of blessing. He promised to see his disciples again, and to pour out the Spirit upon them. St. Peter stood with joy on the day of Pentecost, and affirmed, "He hath shed forth that which ye now see and hear." The existence of his Church proves his faithfulness; for the gates of hell have not prevailed against it; and "blessed are all they that trust in him."
II. THE NEED AND ADVANTAGE OF REVERENT CONSIDERATION OF HIS GLORY. To "consider" signifies to withdraw from the excitement and turbulence of human life to look steadily at the Son of God, and resemble, in some degree, the astronomer who enters into his observatory to gaze in silence on the glory of the heavens above. It was needful for Jewish Christians to look to the glory of Christ, as the best way to counteract the discouragements which arose from the opposition of the synagogue and of those to whom the cross of Christ was a stumbling-block and an offence. The truth of his priesthood was to be acknowledged, and the glory of his apostleship was to be confessed; for he was sent by the Father to reveal his will and claim our faith; and "whosoever will not hear this Prophet shall be destroyed from among the people." If the steady contemplation of Jesus Christ was necessary for Jewish believers, it is equally so for ourselves. It is by beholding him we are changed into the same image of constancy, and hold fast the cheerful confidence with which we began the career, and cherish the exaltation of our hope to the end of our earthly life. Then those who die in the Lord gain the precious recompense of the congratulation and welcome of the Redeemer, who will greet them with those sacred words, "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." Believers are besought by the endearing appeal to their brotherhood to be faithful to him who was faithful as a Son, to whom they are predestinated to be conformed; and as he is not ashamed to call us brethren, we should strive to please him who encourages us to be faithful unto death, and he will give us "the crown of life." - B.
I. THE HEAVENLY CALLING. Elsewhere the upward calling. A voice out of the pure, the abiding, the unchangeable. A voice of love, pity, invitation, authority, such as could not sound from anywhere in this distracted, defiled world.
II. THE HEAVENLY GIFT. The δώρεα - the free donation of God; the gift bestowed for men to taste and live by; the bread of eternal life. Remember what James says, that "every perfect gift is from above" (Hebrews 1:17).
III. THE HEAVENLY COUNTRY. The fatherland; the πατρίς of the Christian. The voice from heaven calls us there. The heavenly gift is for our provision by the way; the manna of our desert life (Hebrews 11:16).
IV. THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM Where all the glory of the heavenly fatherland is concentrated. The treasures of a land are represented in its capital city. Jerusalem gave a site for the temple, a palace for the king (Hebrews 12:22). - Y.
I. CONSIDER THE PEOPLE HERE ADDRESSED, AND THE SPEAKER IN RELATION TO THEM. Amid the endless, fruitless discussion as to the authorship of this Epistle, so much at least it is not unreasonable to conclude, that the author was a Hebrew Christian, not a Gentile one. The Hebrews were now divided into what might be called Christian Hebrews and non-Christian Hebrews - Hebrews of the gospel and Hebrews of the Law - and in addressing the Christian Hebrews the writer implies certain profound distinctions. He calls them:
1. Brethren. This not a mere word of courtesy. It acknowledged the relation between writer and readers; it indicated the writer's interest; he had a certain claim to be listened to. And, to put this brotherhood beyond doubt, there is the subsequent "our." Then there is the brotherhood of the readers to one another, and their brotherhood to the Son of God.
2. Holy; or perhaps better taken as a substantive - saints; men with the stamp of consecration on them. The Jewish nation was a holy nation, holy by nature; and now these believers, with the Holy Spirit's work going on in them, were twice holy.
3. Partakers of a heavenly calling. (This expression noticed more particularly in a separate homily.)
4. Those who have made an acknowledgment, a profession, with respect to Christ.
II. CONSIDER THE IMPLIED PARALLEL WITH THE EXPERIENCES OF THE HEBREW NATION. All Hebrews were brethren, in this sense, that they had descended from one father, Abraham. They were holy by the consecration of Jehovah's historical dealings with them. God had not dealt so with any other nation. They were partakers of a heavenly calling. It was a voice of God, not some self-dictated impulse, which sent out Abraham and directed and bounded the track of his posterity. And, most important of all, the Hebrew nation made their acknowledgment of apostle and high priest. The apostle was Moses, and of the high priest Aaron may be taken as representative. Though while living Moses had been only too often the object of hatred, jealousy, rebellion, he had now come to be vehemently acknowledged. It could not be too much proclaimed by the Hebrews of the Law that he was the sent of God.
III. CONSIDER THE APOSTLE AND HIGH PRIEST OF OUR PROFESSION. The Hebrews of the gospel had only one Person to consider, where the Hebrews of the Law had two. The matter is one for consideration - close and penetrating application of the mind. Consideration as opposed to negligence, as opposed to superficiality; sufficient examination as opposed to insufficient. To obey the exhortation meant to bend the mind to all the subsequent arguments and illustrations of the Epistle. The writer was going to exhibit the results of his own consideration. And though the interest and responsibility of this consideration is special to Jews, yet it is well for all Gentiles to consider how thoroughly Jesus is a sent Person. Moses was clearly a sent person; there is nothing to show that in himself he was a man of extraordinary gifts. By so much as the nature of Jesus is richer and purer than that of Moses, we need to be on our guard against forgetting that he is a sent Person. We must acknowledge him as such; the supreme Sent One, out of the infinite, the eternal, the unseen. - Y.
I. THE CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD. It is here designated "his house." And St. Paul speaks of "the house of God, which is the Church of the living God." Individual Christians are spoken of as temples of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). And the whole company of Christians are spoken of as "a holy temple" (Ephesians 2:20-22), and "a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). The figure suggests several ideas; e.g.:
1. Design for its construction. The tabernacle was built and furnished by Moses in accordance with minute directions from God. "Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount" (Exodus 25.). Solomon erected and furnished the temple from plans which he received from his father David, and for the making of which David was divinely instructed. "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern" (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). And of the sublime spiritual temple God himself is the great Architect. This spiritual house, from its foundation to its topstone, is being built after the Divine plan. Hence, we may infer, it will be strong and stable, sublime and beautiful, ere
2. Cohesion of its several portions. This glorious edifice is "fitly framed together." There is unity of design, unity of construction, etc. The Church of Christ is one in a unity more true and deep than that of any outward forms, or symbols, or organizations. It is one in its filial relation to the great Father, in its faith in the redeeming Son, as being inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and as consecrated to the glorious cause of Christ. In these respects all true Christians are one.
3. Inhabitation by God. God dwelt in symbol in the tabernacle of Moses and in the temple of Solomon. The sacred Shechinah was there in the holy of holies. By his Spirit he dwells in every Christian. "Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." He dwells also in the Church as a whole. In Christ Jesus "ye are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit."
II. CHRIST IS THE BUILDER OF THIS TEMPLE. In ver. 3 he is spoken of as "he that built the house." "On this rock," said he, "I will build my Church." Christians "are his workmanship;" they "are God's building." "The Lord aided to the Church daily those that were being saved." All other laborers on the glorious edifice work under him. He allots them their respective duties, appoints them their sphere of operation, sustains them in their work, and crowns their work with success. Passing to another figure, Paul "planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."
III. CHRIST IS THE LORD OF THIS TEMPLE. Our text teaches that Christ as a Son is over this house of God. He is "Head over all things to the Church" (Ephesians 1:22). "The Church is subject to Christ" (Ephesians 5:23, 24). "He is the Head of the body, the Church... that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." "One is your Master, even the Christ." His authority is supreme in the Church, higher than that of conferences or councils, synods or convocations, archbishops or lopes; and it should be recognized as such and loyally obeyed. He ordained the laws of the Church; he instituted its sacraments, etc.
IV. PERSONAL INCORPORATION IN THIS TEMPLE IS CONDITIONAL. "Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence," etc. Here are two conditions:
1. The maintenance of assured Christian confidence. This confidence, or boldness, as Ebrard says, "is nothing else than the πίστις itself in its most direct and most practical expression, manifesting itself as the inward power of the peace which dwells in the heart, in circumstances of outward difficulty It denotes that joyful boldness which flows from within and is victorious over unfavorable circumstances; it is joyfulness felt in situations in which others would despair; hence it is the immediate fruit of the objective peace obtained with God through the atonement."
2. The maintenance of their exultant hope. "If we hold fast the... glorifying of our hope." Here also Ebrard's note is excellent. "The Jews boasted of their descent from Abraham (John 8.), of their temple and priesthood, of their being the chosen people of God - all palpable and manifest advantages. The poor Christians had nothing of the kind in which they could glory. Regarded by the Gentiles as a Jewish sect, by the Jews as apostates from the people of Israel, forming no state, no people, without rulers, without a head except One who was crucified, the refuse and off scouring of the people, they had nothing of which to boast but the glory which they hoped to receive." But how splendid a hope was theirs! - the hope of perfect holiness and of perfect blessedness. And such a hope is ours. Let us, then, "hold fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end." - W.J.
I. WE ARE MORE TO CHRIST THAN EVER HIS BRETHREN COULD BE TO MOSES. Moses had great authority, honorable position, but he was never as a son over his own house. Moses at best was the steward, and even he bad checks which reminded him that he was but the first among servants, not an all-controlling lord. And yet he was a man to be honored. Mark this in the Epistle, that its writer, in exalting Christ, exalted Moses also; whereas the enemies of Christ only exalted Moses, that by the same movement they might correspondingly depreciate Christ. The nation of Israel was as the house where Moses dwelt as appointed responsible director and custodian. A servant certainly, but a servant of a peculiar kind. He is called θεράπων. Nowhere else in the New Testament is a servant called by this name; it is as if there must be a unique description for a unique relation. If simple servitude had been all needing to be signified, δοῦλος would have done; if simple ministry, διάκονος would have done. But Moses has a servant-name to himself; as much as to say, "Among all the servants of God there has been none greater than Moses." The word indicates at one and the same time service and the greatest responsibility that could rest on mere man. Moses was the great steward of God in God's house for the time being, even the people of Israel. Compare him with the man spoken of as Joseph's steward (Genesis 43:19; Genesis 44:4). Consider also the question of Jesus in Luke 12:42: "Who then is that faithful and wise steward οἰκονόμος), whom his lord shall make ruler over his household (θεραπεία)?" "It is required in a steward that he shall be found faithful. Thus the nation of Israel was a great deal to Moses, but not so much as we are to Christ. We are for the use of Christ, at his disposal, under his control, in a way far transcending the control which Moses had over Israel. Moses died and Joshua succeeded. Joshua died and others succeeded. But as a Son over his house, over the successive generations of Christians, Jesus is, emphatically, the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
II. THE CONDITIONS WHICH MAKE US ABIDINGLY THE HOUSE OF CHRIST. We are the house of Christ who is the Son of God. It is a great destiny to feel that we are of use and service to him. Bat the use and service depend on our perseverance. Christ asks great, arduous, necessarily painful things from his household. Not that he rejoices in pain - everything but that; but to hold a place under him requires faithfulness in extremities. His household may have to resist unto blood, striving against sin. As to the members of Christ's household, Christ has infused into their hearts an expectation of serving him amid surroundings and conditions far different to those of the present service. And this expectation is one which at times makes them confident and also free of speech in their approaches to their Master. It is an expectation in which they can glory as the world looks curiously on them, because of present things they give up for the sake of the expectation. But here is the peril lest the confidence and the expectation sink so low in the heart as to lose power over the life. Moses was faithful in his house, but the house was not faithful. The privations and delays of the wilderness well-nigh killed the joy of liberty from Egyptian bondage, and the noble aspirations towards the land promised by Jehovah. Jesus will be faithful in the household of God; and some in that household will always be faithful to Jesus, through whatever dubious and protracted experiences. The point is one for the individual. Will he, through impatience and want of the single eye, the straightforward gaze, lose his place and promotion in the household of God? - Y.
Introduction. The witness of the New Testament to the Divine inspiration of the Old. "The Holy Ghost saith" (Psalm 95:7-11). We have in the text -
I. A GREAT FACT IMPLIED. That God speaks to man. The "if" does not indicate uncertainty as to the Divine voice, but as to man's attention to this voice. There is no question as to whether God will speak to man or not, but whether man will heed his communications. Notice:
1. The object for which God speaks to man. This object is that man may be saved. The Divine voice proclaims and proffers a "great salvation," and publishes redemptive truth to man.
2. The organs by which he speaks to man.
(1) By the sacred Scriptures, and especially in the life and teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ, as recorded therein. "God... hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son."
(2) By Christian ministries, especially the preaching of his gospel. "We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:20).
(3) By the voice of our conscience. In its approbation of the right and its condemnation of the wrong, God speaks to us.
(4) By the events of his providence.
(5) By the influences of his holy Spirit. He speaks within the soul of man. He imparts emphasis and energy to the other voices by which God addresses us.
3. The frequency with which he speaks to man. Our text implies that he speaks to us daily. And surely by some one or more of these voices, every day he addresses to us some prohibition or persuasion, some caution or encouragement, some precept or promise, some invitation or warning. Were our susceptibility to Divine influences greater, we should ever hear the utterances of the Divine voice.
II. A MOMENTOUS DUTY EXPRESSED. Our duty is to hear God's voice. Consider:
1. The signification of hearing God's voice. It is not mere hearing that is meant here, but earnest attention to God's voice, hearty belief in his communications, and willing obedience to his commands.
2. The season for hearing God's voice. "Today; i.e. now.
(1) Because life is uncertain. "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life?" etc. (James 4:14).
(2) Because procrastination is perilous. The postponement of our duty today facilitates a further postponement of it tomorrow.
(3) Because it is a present duty, and to defer the performance of it is, therefore, sinful. We ought to attend to God's voice now. The urgency of this duty is suggested in the text. In the psalm from which it is quoted, our text "is virtually the expression of a wish, 'Today if ye will but hearken to his voice! '" or, "Oh that ye might this day hearken to his voice!" The pathos and earnestness which the Holy Ghost puts into this wish suggests the deep importance of the duty; cf. Psalm 81:13, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me!" etc.
III. A SOLEMN CAUTION GIVEN. "Harden not your hearts." The sapling is pliant; it may be bent and trained as to the direction and form of its growth. The full-grown tree is fixed in form, firm in texture, and unbending in its resistance; it is hardened. Men harden' their hearts by disregarding the voice of God, by not recognizing the authority of their consciences, by postponing the performance of religious duties, by neglecting the great salvation, and by practically despising or resisting the Holy Spirit of God. St. Paul speaks of men who were "alienated from the life of God, because of the hardening of their heart," and "who being past feeling" had abandoned themselves to persistent and active wickedness. For such moral insensibility what hope remains? "Oh that ye might this day hearken to his voice!" - W.J.
I. THE FEAR OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST. This solemn exhortation is written to professing Christians; and such professors (see Hebrews 10:32-34)! Their piety was of such a nature that onlookers could not doubt it; yet, says the apostle, even these may apostatize. Members of the Church, this speaks to you. "Take heed." This possibility is enforced:
1. By Scripture warnings against the repetition of the wilderness-sin. For what means the quotation here from Psalm 95., and the four-times repeated "today"? Not that the day of grace is short and may speedily terminate, but rather that it was possible for the men of the writer's time to repeat the sin of their fathers in the wilderness. That sin was not confined to those who came out of Egypt; for, five hundred years afterwards, David said to Israel, "Today it may be true of you." So the writer here says, "Learn from your Scriptures that the guilt of your forefathers, the awful effects of which you know so well, may be repeated by other generations. Beware, therefore, lest it be repeated in you." We have the same reason for godly fear. What mean the parables of wheat and tares, and wise and foolish virgins; the declaration, "Many will say unto me in that day," etc.; the assurance that at the judgment many will be surprised to find themselves on the left hand of the Judge; and such passages as in this Epistle (Hebrews 6:14), but that the wilderness-sin may be true of today's Church?
2. By the subtlety of the sin of unbelief. "Take heed lest," etc.; "Lest any of you be hardened by the," etc.; as though this sin could grow upon the soul that is unaware of it. It is easy to mistake the nature of faith and the fruits of faith, and to have a spirit of unbelief, the one deadly sin, without knowing it.
3. By the fact that continuance is the test of true faith. "We are partakers of Christ if we hold our begun confidence," etc. Where vital faith exists it endures, the continued mediation of Christ for his people being the ground of this. But it is not uncommon for professors to think themselves to be Christians because of what they were. As long as there are members of the Church whose hope is of this character, the Church will have those in it who apostatize from the living God. "Lord, is it I?"
II. THE EVIL OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST.
1. To apostatize from Christ is to depart from the living God. (Ver. 12.) We cannot leave Jesus without losing God. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." To relinquish Christ is to be rejected of God. "He that believeth not the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him."
2. To apostatize from Christ reveals an extraordinary degree of inward evil. "An evil heart of unbelief." Is unbelief, then, so very evil? It is the relinquishing the Son of God; it is the making God a liar; it is (in the case of an apostate) the breaking away from Christ, not held fast even by the glory of the fuller vision.
3. To apostatize from Christ is to fail of the rest to which he leads. "For to whom sware he," etc. Rejection from Christ is the one deadly sin. "This is the condemnation;" "He that believeth not is," etc.; "And this is the condemnation, that light," etc. How much more so in the case of the apostate! "I saw," said Bunyan, "that from the very gate of heaven there was a path down to hell."
III. THE PREVENTION OF APOSTASY FROM CHRIST. There is only one means - cleave to Christ. Apostasy springs from unbelief; its antidote is faith. How can a persistent faith be maintained?
1. Faith depends greatly on the condition of the heart. "They do err in their heart;" the passage is full of that. Men do not, for the most part, leave Christ because of conscious hostility to him, or a desire to depart; it is rather because the lust of other things entering in blinds them to his beauty, and insensibly draws them from his service.
2. Faith must be shielded from outside influences which tend to weaken it. "Take heed." There are enemies to faith outside as well as in - pleasures, companionships, literature.
3. Faith must be supplied with its natural food. "Exhort one another," etc. That is, present the truth. The food of faith is truth, and in order to produce or maintain faith we must present truth to the mind. Let Scripture be unstudied, and faith will die. - C.N.
Exodus 17:1-17), when they murmured against God and against his servant Moses, and chode with the man of God respecting their want of water; and the place was called Massah ("temptation") and Meribah ("striving" or "contention"). A similar occurrence took place at KNumbers 21:13). These acts of unbelief sprang from hardness of heart, which the thought of the Divine deliverances wrought for them and the designs of love revealed to them failed to overcome. The goodness of God did not lead them to repentance, but after their hardness and impenitent heart they "treasured up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." They tempted God, and proved him to find whether he was able to do great things, and whether he was the supreme Ruler of them and all creatures. They found that he was of one mind, and none could turn him. "Harden not your hearts," was the counsel given by the psalmist; and by Isaiah, whose mission, through unbelief in the people of Judah, was a "savor of death unto death." The prophets, and Jesus Christ the great Prophet, repeated and urged the same counsel upon the attention of the Jewish people, and urged it in vain. Jehovah was grieved and vexed with the former generation; and the Image of the invisible God wept over Jerusalem, and said, "If thou hadst known... the things that make for thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." The punishment of the murmurers in the wilderness was that they should not enter into the rest of Canaan, which was designed for the obedient and those who should become a "kingdom of priests." There is probably a sacred meaning in the choice of the psalm, which specially refers to forty years, which length of time was nearly the period which elapsed from the crucifixion of our Lord to the predicted overthrow of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and cessation of sacrifices, and the captivity and dispersion of the people. Holding up the examples and punishment of unbelief before the eyes of Jewish believers, the Holy Spirit taught them to remember the severity of God, and to fear lest their apostasy from Christ should shut them out from the higher and more glorious rest of heaven. - B.
etc. Our text leads us to consider -
I. APOSTASY IN ITS NATURE. "Departing from the living God."
1. This departure is not local. In this respect separation from the Divine presence is impossible "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" etc. (Psalm 139:7-12).
2. This departure is not theological The corruption of a man's creed will almost certainly be followed by deterioration of his character and conduct; yet a man may retain his hold of a true creed, and at the same time be falling away from the living God.
3. This departure is not ecclesiastical. Membership and activity in the visible Church of Christ may be fully maintained even while one is departing from God. Apostasy may exist in the heart long before it is manifested in action.
4. This departure is spiritual. It is a falling away from the living God in sympathy and in service. "They do always err in their heart" (ver. 10). It is the decline of love and loyalty to God.
II. APOSTASY IN ITS ROOT. "An evil heart of unbelief." Confidence in God is essential to union with him or love to him. Let any one doubt God's existence or character, that he is wise and righteous and good, and that man's sympathy with God will speedily perish. His apostasy has already begun. Doubt of our friends will be the death of our friendship. And unbelief towards God must lead to spiritual alienation from him, and that alienation persisted in must issue in spiritual death. It is of the utmost importance that we firmly grasp the truth that this unbelief is not intellectual, but moral; it is not the doubt of the inquiring mind, but of the wandering heart. It is the faith of the heart that unites man with God. "If thou shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shelf be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness," etc. It is the unbelief of the heart that separates man from God. "An evil heart of unbelief."
III. APOSTASY IN ITS PERIL. There is the danger of:
1. Drifting further away from God. It is impossible for us to remain stationary in our relation to him. We are ever either drawing nearer to him or departing further from him. In this "failing away from the living God" the soul falls lower and lower.
2. Deprivation of spiritual blessings. Unbelief excludes the soul from the rest of God. The peace of the forgiveness of sins, the rest and joy of affections centered in God, the comfort of Christian hope, and the blessedness of true progress, are forfeited by the unbeliever.
3. The death of the soul. The soul lives only as it is united with God, and its union with him is impossible apart from faith in him. "Departing from the living God," its death is inevitable. What a death is that! A man in whom truth and trust, purity and love, righteousness and reverence, moral effort and aspiration, are extinct. What a death!
IV. APOSTASY IN ITS PREVENTION. "Take heed, brethren," etc.
1. Guard against the insidious advances of unbelief. "Watch and pray," etc.
2. Seek the increase of your faith in God and of your love to him. A nearer approach to God is the surest preventive of apostasy from him.
CONCLUSION. Is "thy heart right in the sight of God"? "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." - W.J.
I. THE NEED OF WARNING. The state of things indicated is repudiated by many in whom it obtains. Those in whom unbelief is most deeply seated think themselves real believers in whatever is reasonable and true. Therefore warning is needed - affectionate warning, it will be observed. The readers are again addressed as "brethren." Also individual examination is suggested. Men have fallen from what seemed the strongest faith into the most shameful apostasies. A brother, sent of God, warns us to be on our guard.
II. THE DEEP-SEATED MISCHIEF. There may be outward discipleship and service, but a heart not trusting in the living God. There may be abundant manifestations of the Divine love and power, but the heart may be so subdued to worldly considerations that nothing shown by God can produce its proper impression. We believe too much in living men, in their power to help or to hinder; we trim everything to catch their favor or keep in their good graces. And meantime the living God is as if he were not. If at any moment we have been in real connection with his infinite grace and power, there is something in our hearts which tends to draw us gradually away. Nothing is more absurd than unbelief in God, and yet nothing is harder than practical faith. And to get rid of unbelief we need to have the heart renewed and inspired. We readily see the need of heart-renewal if it he some other sin that is in question - if it be malicious, or selfish, or sensual feeling that we want to get rid of. And so our prayer should be, "Make us feel that unbelief is sin, moral malady, a something that needs to be cured by the turning of the heart to God." There is manifestation of truth enough, evidence enough; the lack lies in our disposition. - Y.
I. AN AWFUL PERIL. "Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." The danger is that of growing into a condition of moral obduracy, of becoming "past feeling." The greatness of this peril largely arises from two facts.
1. That this condition is generally reached gradually. Men do not become hardened in sin by one act of wickedness. Moral insensibility is the result of a process. The progress may sometimes be distinctly traced.
(1) The hardening of the will against certain Divine commands, as in the case of Pharaoh (Exodus 5:2). The refusal to do a manifest duty.
(2) The hardening of the entire moral disposition in sin. In this stage the struggle against temptation to sin is renounced, and the effort to be and to do what is true and right is given up (cf. Ephesians 4:18, 19).
(3) The hardening of the heart against the influences of Divine grace. In this stage the offers of the gospel are rejected; unbelief becomes positive and active (cf. Acts 7:51). How inexpressibly terrible is such a condition of soul!
2. That this condition is generally reached insidiously. "Hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Sin never approaches the soul in its true aspect. It assumes attractive disguises; it propounds plausible reasons; it exhibits fascinating yet fictitious prospects. For example, to those who are "not far from the kingdom of God," and who are almost entirely decided to serve him heartily and wholly, the deceitful and dangerous suggestion is presented that tomorrow will be more favorable in circumstances than today for beginning a decided Christian life, that a more "convenient season" for genuine personal religion will speedily arrive. And. so the holy decision and. consecration are deferred; procrastination becomes habitual; the heart hardens in procrastination. Again, to the Christian the temptation to unbelief is never presented in its real character, or it would be rejected immediately and decisively. It approaches the heart in fair forms, and with a show of reasonableness and righteousness. Thus, if a man be not on his guard, the hardening process will have begun ere he is aware of it. Hence the awful peril.
II. AN INSPIRED PREVENTIVE. "Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today."
1. The nature of this preventive. "Exhort one another." The word translated "exhort" indicates two exercises.
(1) Admonition of each other. Stuart translates, "Admonish one another." Let Christians warn each other when they detect impending dangers.
(2) Encouragement of each other. Let Christians endeavor to inspire their disheartened brethren with new hopes, to comfort their troubled brethren with Christian consolations. "Wherefore, lift up the hands that hang down," etc. (Hebrews 12:12, 13). Christians, being children of one Father, disciples of one Master, members of one great community, exposed to similar perils, sustained by similar influences, and inspired by common hopes, ought thus to "exhort one another." Moreover, there is a preventive mentioned in the preceding verse against, this dread peril which each one must exercise for himself. "Take heed." Be watchful, etc.
2. The season for the exercise of this preventive. "Exhort one another daily," or, "day by day." Mutual oversight and help should be continuous. Watchfulness and prayer and Christian effort must not be irregular or intermittent, but steady and constant; not occasional exercises, but abiding dispositions.
3. The limit to the exercise of this preventive. "While it is called Today." This may mean while our present form of life shall last; as in our Lord's words, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day," etc. Or it may mean while the day of grace continues. Adopting either interpretation, the season for this mutual exhortation is limited and uncertain. "We have but an uncertain season for the due performance of most certain duties; how long it will be called Today, we know not; the day of life is uncertain, and- so is the day of the gospel; a summer's day for clearness, a winter's day for shortness; our working day is a wasting day." Let the solemn gravity of the peril lead each of us to a diligent use of the Heaven-inspired preventive. - W. J.
I. WE SHOULD REST IN THE CONVICTION THAT SIN IS A DECEITFUL THING. We cannot be too cautious, too observant, in pursuing our path through this complicated world. Agencies are always at work to make the worse appear the better reason. Things visible, whether things attractive or repulsive, press upon our eyes; and concerning the attractive we find ourselves saying, "This is worth making ours even at a great price;' concerning the repulsive," This is to be avoided at whatever cost." The world around us speaks with a voice that discountenances things invisible and Divine. If we begin to act as hearing a voice from heaven, others say they have heard no voice; whereupon we are easily persuaded that no voice really spoke. Sometimes sin dresses itself up in the guise of liberality and charity, and again it is found beneath the appearance of zeal for God and goodness. If there is no danger that we should be tempted into any kind of vicious living, then most of all is the deceitfulness of sin be feared. Before the readers of this Epistle a great historical example was put, drawn from the conduct of their own ancestors. The behavior of the children of Israel in the wilderness is an illustration, on a great scale, of the deceitfulness of sin; especially of the proneness of the heart to kill into unbelief with respect to spiritual things. It might have seemed safe to predict that, after all the great Divine deliverance of which they had been objects, they would have steadily gone on in the way of obedience; whereas only a very short time elapses before they are found believing the wishes of their own hearts rather than the word of God through Moses. "Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall." Those who are fallen today were standing yesterday, and some standing today will be fallen to-morrow. And if we are not among the fallen, it will be because we are giving daily practical heed to this truth concerning the deceitfulness of sin.
II. HOW ARE WE TO GUARD AGAINST THIS DECEITFULNESS? All that the writer says just in this part of the Epistle is negative - at least, it seems negative. But that simply means the iteration and reiteration of the danger of unbelief. No one knows better than the writer that we cannot guard against unbelief in a negative way. The only way of getting better of the deceitfulness of sin is to rise above it, and be so intent on our Savior's business as to have no time, no inclination, to attend to what sin may have to say. - Y.
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 instructs us that the Hebrews were baptized unto Moses, and ate spiritual meat and drank spiritual drink, and yet many were overthrown in the wilderness. The first question is (in the Revised Version) - Who were they that did provoke at Meribah and awakened the Divine displeasure? This inquiry is answered by another. Did they not all come out of Egypt, anti while the destroying angel was abroad their families were safe; when the sea opposed their march it was dried up to give them passage, and when the enemies pursued them with rage and breathed out threatenings and slaughter, were they not redeemed? These were they who added the baseness of ingratitude to the sin of unbelief. Another inquiry follows, which is - With whom was he displeased, and was it not with those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? It is the historic realization of a truth penned many centuries afterwards by St. James, who writes," Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." These unbelievers died under the frown of Jehovah, and left their sad experience as a beacon to warn against sins which provoked the Divine anger and laid them low in the dust of death. The inquiry advances once more, and asks - Who were they who were denied the privilege of entering upon the much-desired inheritance of Canaan? There is an awfulness in the oath which Jehovah takes, that the unbelieving Hebrews should not enter the pleasant land, with its fertile soil, its pastures, its vineyards, its brooks and streams, and the margin of the Mediterranean Sea. There is no secret in the cause of their failure, as there is no secret in the cause of Christian success. They could not enter in because of unbelief, which, while it barred their entrance into Canaan, excludes men from the "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." If these sad and awful punishments overtook Israel according to the flesh, then the truth which the author designed to teach is that redemption from sin, condemnation, must, to secure all the fruits and issues of the gospel, be associated with humble and persevering fidelity to our profession of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. - B.
I. REFUTES SEVERAL ASSIGNED REASONS FOR MAN'S FAILURE TO ATTAIN SALVATION. If any one does not enter the spiritual rest which God has graciously provided for man, it is:
1. Not by reason of anything in the purposes or predestinations of God. His purposes are the purposes of a Being of perfect righteousness, and of infinite wisdom and love. He could not ordain an evil thing, or have any intentions which are inimical to the well-being of his creatures; for he is God - the Supremely Good (cf. Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4-6).
2. Not by reason of any deficiency in God's redemptive provisions. These are abundant, inexhaustible, and entirely free. The atonement of Jesus Christ, which is perfectly adapted to reconcile man to God, is as efficacious for a million hearts as it is for one (cf. Isaiah 55:1, 2, 6, 7; Matthew 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-23; John 3:14-17; Revelation 22:17).
3. Not by reason of any inability to accept God's redemptive provisions. The condition upon which salvation is appropriated by man is sincere and hearty faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Every sane man can comply with this condition if he will.
4. Not by reason of any deficiency of evidence for the essential truths of Christianity. The Christian religion is founded upon facts, which are as well attested as any facts of history.
II. AFFIRMS THE TRUE REASON FOR MAN'S FAILURE TO ATTAIN SALVATION. "They were not able to enter in because of unbelief." This unbelief is not intellectual or theoretical, but practical, and resulting in disobedience. The unbelief of the Israelites here spoken of totally unfitted them for entering the promised land (see Numbers 14:1-4, 22, 23, 26-25). Their unbelief had stripped them of hope and of courage, and reduced them to humiliating despondency and cowardice. No one can enter upon any worthy inheritance without the exercise of faith. For the discovery of new countries, for the exploration o