Friday, 14 September 2018
…but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13
The word “but” is given as a contrast to what was just said. The author spoke of any one of the congregation as having an “evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” In order to keep that from occurring, he offers sound and practical advice, which is to “exhort one another daily.” The word “exhort” here means to build up and encourage one another, to give comfort, and to console. The theme is found throughout the writings of Paul, such as in 1 Thessalonians 4:18. There he says to “comfort one another.”
The idea here is to not be like those in the wilderness, and to grumble and complain about how bad their situation was, and how much better it was before He brought them out of Egypt. It was as if God had made a mistake by bringing them out, and He became the object of their blame. If such a root of bitterness were to arise, others were to encourage him in an attempt to quell the bitterness. From there, he says, “while it is called ‘Today.’” A literal rendering of the Greek would be, “as long as the Today is proclaimed.” The word “Today” is prefixed by a definite article, setting it off as a particular moment in time.
The thought brings the reader back to verse 3:7 which said, “Today if you will hear His voice.” There was a day when the voice of God was heard. It was disregarded, and so God, through the Psalmist, said again, “Today if you will hear His voice.” The author of Hebrews, citing this many, many centuries later again says, “Today if you will hear His voice,” and he tells them that daily the Today is proclaimed. But the word “while” indicates that it is a set time. Someday, the Today will be gone. Today is the day. It is a day when God’s voice can be heard, and it is a day when salvation can be found. It is reflective of Paul’s words of 2 Corinthians 6 –
“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says:
‘In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2
Grace is offered Today. It is Today then that the reader is to exhort one another concerning this offering, as the author then says, “lest any of you be hardened.” The word “you” is in the emphatic position which is intended to contrast the reader of Hebrews with the fathers. He is specific that what happened to them should not be repeated. The hardening he refers to is what was stated in verse 3:8 – “Do not harden your hearts.” He will continue to explain this, and then he will restate it again in verse 3:14. It is obvious that he fully expects this possibility to arise, because there has already been the example set in Israel during the wilderness wanderings. The hardening happened, and it was “through the deceitfulness of sin.”
In the Greek, there is an article before “sin.” It is “through the deceitfulness of the sin.” Here, sin is personified. It is as a living force that creeps in and steals away the softened heart, causing it to harden. The specific sin spoken of is that of the previous verse, unbelief. The Hebrew audience is asked to encourage one another, and to do so while it is “Today,” because there may be those who simply refuse to believe. The deceitful enemy is there before them, and they must ensure it is challenged until a state of belief exists. If they believe, they will enter God’s rest (verse 4:3), if they fail to believe, they will not (verse 3:19).
Life application: For the believer in Christ, we are sealed with God’s Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the eternal life which is promised. But that only comes through belief. Apart from belief in the finished work of Christ, there is nothing we can do, and there is nothing we can give to God, which will bring us to salvation. The author is building his argument for his Jewish audience, preparing them for the decision. Will they choose Christ, or will they go back to temple worship? Though Hebrews was written to the first century Jews, while the temple was still standing, its placement in Scripture shows that the words are directed to the Jews of the end times, when there will be another temple standing. What path will they choose? The author exhorts them to not be caught up in the deceitfulness of the sin of returning to the temple service.
Heavenly Father, You have placed the sun and the moon in their orbits, and You have dug out the pits of the oceans. Birds fly through the expanse of the sky, and monkeys swing in the trees. Everything has a place, and all things work according to Your purposes. Why does such obvious wisdom fail to spark the mind of man? Why do we turn from it and say it was all just time and chance? Lord, help us to understand Your presence, and to acknowledge You for Your acts of glory. Great are You, O God, and greatly are You to be praised. Amen.