Reading through the Bible together

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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As we read Hebrews 3 and think of the enormous opportunity that the Israelite desert generation wasted of entering the promised land, we may be tempted to think that we would have done differently had we been in the same situation.

The author of Hebrews says, however, that “today” we have exactly the same opportunity. If we want, we can enter His rest right now.

The invitation comes in the context of two contrasting examples. In vs. 1–6 we have the example of high priest Jesus who is faithful over his house. This passage alludes to the prophecy that the “man of God” communicated to Eli, the long-serving high priest over Israel in the time of the judges (1 Sam 2:35). The prophecy said that because Eli did not honor God by reproving and disciplining his children because of their wrongdoing, God would “cut off” his descendants from serving as priests and would raise instead a faithful priest that would minister before his anointed forever. This was fulfilled when Solomon dismissed Abiathar from the ministry and installed Zadok in his place (1 Kings 2:26-27). Nevertheless, Zadok and Solomon only foreshadowed the coming of Jesus as the faithful true king and high priest over God’s house.

The other contrasting example is the Israelite desert generation. They saw God bare his arm and strike the arrogance of Egypt with the plagues. They walked through the Red Sea and ate manna from heaven and water from the rock during 40 years. Yet, they hardened their hearts.

Why did Israel fail where Jesus succeeded? I think it has to do with the “deceitfulness of sin” (3:13). Sin suggests that the only thing that matters is “today.” When our security for “today” is threatened, we tend to forget God’s care in the past and his promises for the future because the demands of the present hijack our attention. God, however, in the words of Psalm 95, invites us to do the opposite. He urges us to break the hold of the urgent, the slavery to the present, and “today” remember both the care He has shown in the past, and His promises for the future. Then, and only then, will we enter into His rest.

Felix H. Cortez

Andrews University

United States