Saturday, 22 September 2018
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. Hebrews 4:2
The word “For” is based upon that which was said in verse 4:1. There, it spoke of the promise of God’s rest still standing, and for those who are being addressed to not feel as if they have failed in their chance to attain it. Understanding this, it says, “indeed the gospel was preached.” This is not a good translation. Although it is the same word translated elsewhere as “gospel,” it is not speaking of the technical term that we consider the preaching of the gospel in this dispensation. Rather, it should say, “good news.” The “good news” of God’s rest was conveyed “to us as well as to them.”
This is speaking of those in the past who were promised God’s rest during the time in the wilderness. The same promise which was made to them was also conveyed, as the author now says, “to us.” The promise of God’s rest is still obtainable, and this is why the previous verse indicated that those now being addressed should not feel as if they have missed their opportunity to enter into it. There still stands the promise of God’s rest. Those in the past heard it, “but the word which they heard did not profit them.”
The Greek reads, “but the word of the message did not profit them.” It is not speaking of the word they heard, but rather the word of God which promised rest. The word of the message was given, but it had to be received and acted upon, and it was not. And why? It is because it was “not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” Paul says elsewhere that “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The word of hearing was of no value to them because it was never incorporated into those who heard it.
The Lord promised them rest, and yet they continuously failed to believe Him. Their words and actions demonstrated this. As Vincent’s Word Studies says, “They did not make the promise of rest their own. Their history was marked by continual renewals and rejections of the promise.” Because this is true, the Lord set a new day, calling it “Today,” and offers His rest to the people. The train has not pulled away from the station, and the audience of this epistle has a chance to obtain the rest if they will – unlike their fathers – respond in faith to the word of the message.
Life application: It needs to be remembered who is being addressed. It is a Hebrew audience who is being instructed on the completed work of Jesus Christ. Though it was written in the first century AD while a temple was still standing, its placement in the Bible, after the letters of Paul, show that it is intended to appeal to the hearts of those Jews after the church age. The truths of Hebrews applies to Gentiles, but the main intent of the message is to appeal to the hearts of this group who are seemingly without hope, but who are being encouraged that there is still, in fact, hope.
Gracious and merciful heavenly Father, we can trust in the promises of Your word, because we can see how faithfully you have dealt with Your unfaithful people Israel. The record of their history shows a careless attitude toward You, but You have preserved them nonetheless. You promised this would be the case, and Your promises have remained true. How can we not expect the same when You make sure promises to us? Thank You that we will never be cast away when we come to You in faith. Amen.