Thursday, May 27, 2021

No Looking Back (Hebrews 3:12-15)

"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).

Hebrews cites Psalm 95, which we considered last time, applying it as a warning to the people of that day, Jewish Christians living in Palestine.

Already in the early church, people were falling away and going back to Judaism. The recipients of this letter were sorely tested to do the same. They were surrounded by a comfortable pattern of life that they had grown up with, which “felt right” to them, and from which now they were estranged because of the Gospel. They had friends and relatives who were scandalized.

Moreover, the Jews were becoming more and more hostile to the Roman oppressors. Yet at this point in time, the Romans protected the Christians (as we see in the book of Acts), and the Christians did not join in the condemnation of the Romans. In fact, the Christians were constrained to view the Roman occupation of Judea as God’s just dealing with a wayward and rebellious people. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah in the old covenant, the Israelites hated Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel because these three men said that Nebuchadnezzar was God’s agent and called on Israel to submit. These faithful prophets felt the pressure to please their Israelite brethren by opposing Nebuchadnezzar. Now the Christian Jews in Palestine were objects of the same kind of hatred and were receiving the same kinds of pressure. In fact, disagreeing with the Rome-hating zealots was a good way to get yourself killed.

Hebrews says that Judaism is like Egypt, and that the early Christians are like the Israelites in the wilderness. Great is the temptation to go back, but believers are called to follow God and move forward. The Glory Cloud of God’s presence is marching toward the Promised Land. The Egyptians were eventually wiped out, and the Jewish nation is also about to be destroyed. It is foolish to look back to the “city of destruction.” We must look forward to the sabbath rest. The Jewish Christians would experience a kind of rest after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because the Jews would no longer put as much pressure on them. The author of Hebrews calls on them to persevere.

While we don’t live in the same redemptive-historical circumstances as the church before the destruction of Jerusalem, we certainly face parallel temptations. What kinds of things draw you back to the old ways? Ask God for strength to resist the easy old way and to continue forward in the new.