Sunday, 28 October 2018
…but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:8
This verse is set as a contrast to what was said in the previous verse. That said, “Land that drinks in the rain…”
The rain was likened to the word of God. Although not evident in some translations, which incorrectly show a distinction between the land in the two clauses, the land in this clause drinks in the same rain as in the first clause. This is evident by the words, “but if it.” The subject “land” hasn’t changed. Despite this, the soil is bad – whether rocky, full of clay, full of sand, etc. – it simply doesn’t absorb it. And so it is with people who hear the same word and yet the yield is completely different. This group hears the word and simply rejects it. Like the good land which receives the rain, this land is also explained in the same general manner by Jesus in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:4-23. In this case, the land bears “thorns and briers.”
The terminology goes all the way back to Genesis 3. There we read in the curse upon Adam, “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:18). This land has received the same rain as the previous land. It has received the same care of cultivation as well. And yet it only produces that which came from the curse, thorns and briers. The result of the curse, which came upon man at the very beginning for his disobedience, is produced in the unproductive land and thus it is “rejected and near to being cursed.”
What more can be done to such an unproductive piece of land? To spend time on it would be futile. To invest more money and resources on it would be a waste. The result would be a piece of land which is not only unproductive concerning a good harvest, but which would actually be counter-productive by sending forth a bad harvest. There would be just one remedy: Its “end is to be burned.” The symbolism of the burned land is found in the words used by Moses in Deuteronomy 29 –
“The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.” Deuteronomy 29:23
The context of this verse from Deuteronomy is the curse of the Lord upon Israel. This is explicit before the verse, and it is repeated again after it with these words –
“Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against this land, to bring on it every curse that is written in this book. 28 And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 29:27, 28
Understanding this, it is the same audience that Moses was speaking to in Deuteronomy that the author of Hebrews is again speaking to, meaning the Hebrew people. Though any such example is given for the Gentile-led church to learn from, it is the Hebrew people who are the subject of the matter. The people are being warned that they have been given abundant rain, and they have been carefully cultivated, but what they produce will result in what happens to them?
Unfortunately, they produced (as a collective whole) thorns and briers. Because of this, the curses of the covenant did fall on them. They were scattered and destroyed for two thousand years. However, the words of the covenant also promise restoration at some point. That time has begun. The prophets foretold of the time when they would again be in the land and they would be given the chance to produce a proper harvest. This is why Hebrews is placed after the Gentile-led church age epistles. Though written to the first-century Jews, God knew that they would produce a bad harvest, and be cursed. However, after the church is taken out at the rapture, things will change. The tribulation period will refine them, and they will come out at the end of it by calling on Jesus and acknowledging His New Covenant.
Life application: Though this is addressed to the Hebrew people as a collective whole, those in the Gentile-led church age can learn the same lesson concerning individual salvation. For those who receive the word and produce a good harvest, they will receive their just reward. For those who reject it, a great Day of Judgment is coming. It says in Revelation 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Make the right choice today, while you still can. Drink in the water, cultivate your soil properly, and receive blessing from God.
Thank you Jesus that you have given us the chance to bear fruit for You. What we deserve is destruction, but you graciously took our sin and nailed it to the cross, if we will only believe. Help us to make that choice and then to glorify you through changed lives throughout all our days. Amen.