Read: Hebrews 3:7-4:13

Last week Carol and I traveled to Pennsylvania. We do this a couple of times a year to visit my 93-year-old mother, and to catch up with other family members and friends. The drive to and from the Keystone State is always a long and tiring journey. But one of the consoling factors along the way is mile-after-mile of beautiful landscapes. However, along with the scenery there are some dangers. Warning signs are strategically posted, telling drivers to reduce their speed because “construction is up ahead, and the fines will be doubled.” And if you have ever traveled the winding roads of Western Pennsylvania, you may recall seeing those warning signs that alert us to sharp curves and steep hills. In fact, truckers are reminded that there are “runaway exits” provided if their brakes should no longer function! 

My question may sound odd, but it’s necessary in order to navigate the rough waters of our biblical text and eventually dock in the safety of God’s truth. Here it is: why do we obey those warning signs? It’s because we take the consequences of “disobedience” very seriously! It’s safe to say, I think, that we respond out of…FEAR. We may not say it or feel it, but fear plays an important role in our “road-sign obedience.” 

OK, that leads me to ask yet another question. Why should we obey the Word of God, especially the warnings He so graciously places in our daily lives? Why persevere in following Jesus, when it seems like Jesus doesn’t deliver on what we want? In fact, there are a lot of times that He seems so very far away? The answer to those questions is found in this rather lengthy text that starts in Hebrews 3:7. 

In the preceding passage (Hebrews 3:1-6) the writer concludes that even though Moses was a great servant of God, Jesus is the superior Son of God who rules over God’s family. Then in Hebrews 3:7 he goes on to quote from Psalm 95:7-11. There is no strong transition from verse 6 to verse 7, but the writer seems to be asking ever so subtly, “What would happen, however, if you were not to remain faithful to Jesus?” In the verses that follow, there is a constant allusion to the people of Israel; first as they complained about having no water (Exodus 17:1-7), and then when the twelve spies returned and the people decided they did not want to enter God’s Promised Land (Number 14:20-24). Why does the writer give us this lengthy passage with the recurring reminder “to hear His voice,” and “to not harden our hearts”? It’s a WARNING! It’s a spiritual road-sign telling us that there is no wisdom and no benefit in abandoning the faith. 

In fact, there is a better way to live. It’s found in a four-letter word tucked away in Hebrews 4:1. It’s the word “fear.” The writer was mindful of the dangers of spiritual apathy and anger. He knew that every generation of God’s people would wrestle with the possibility of “quitting on God.” And so he provides us with warning after warning throughout this text. He wants us to see that PERSEVERANCE IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF FEARING GOD ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE.

What hardships are you facing today? What challenges does the Enemy use to tempt you away from Christ to take the path of least resistance? Whatever it might be, take your eyes off of your problems and focus on the constant faithfulness of God. That’s what the writer of our text was doing for his first-century readers, and that’s what the Spirit of God wants to do in your life as well. The Living God is not calling you to “grin and bear it.” He is calling you to “rest” in Jesus (4:11-13). That is, He wants you to believe the promises of God and accept the fact that the best is yet to come—eternity in the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior (4:9). So don’t waste another minute pondering the possibility of quitting! Live in the love and fear of God. Make every effort to rest (rely) on Jesus, so that you will never face the dangerous consequences of disobedience.

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