Sun, Oct 08, 2017
Provoking a Curse from God
Hebrews 3:16-19 by Vincent Bradshaw
Series: The Book of Hebrews

The writer of Hebrews commands each Christian to search his own heart.   He writes in 3:12: “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart in falling away from the living God.”  Each must search his heart for 3 things:  evil (rejection of God); unbelief (a refusal to repent) and falling away (becoming an enemy of God).  Once a believer has passed this self-examination, he must encourage others “day after day” so that the “deceitfulness of sin” does not harden anyone else (3:13).  Finally, the writer sets forth a standard: the genuine Christian never fully breaks faith with God.  He perseveres until the end.  He writes: “we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast . . . until the end” (3:14).  

The writer concludes with three questions and an answer.  Questions serve many purposes.  They can request information.   Jesus asked, “Where have you laid him? (John 11:34).  In His humanity, Jesus did not know where Lazarus’ body was.  Questions can challenge authority.  The serpent asked Eve: “Has God really said . . . (Genesis 2:1)?” satan knew what God said; he was getting Eve to doubt God.  They can also deceive and feign innocence.   After Cain murdered Abel, he said to God, “I do not know.  Am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9)?”  Questions can also get a reaction when another is tempted to remain quiet.  These are the types of questions in 3:15 – 18.  The writer has issued a serious warning with indisputable consequences.  He knows the hearers may want to keep quiet and let the warning pass.  Therefore, the writer presses them with pointed questions.  The answer to each question is obvious and identical.  They know the answer.  That is not the point.  The writer wants them to confess that by rejecting Christ, they are flirting with the same tragic and irreversible consequences as their ancestors.

In the last verse, the writer answers an implied question.  The question the writer asks three times in verses 16 – 18 is ‘who?’ The answer is the same each time: the Israelites in the desert.  The writer himself supplies the answer each time.  However, in the final verse, the writer answers another question which he did not ask but is in everyone’s mind: ‘why’ – ‘why this horrible and senseless rejection of God and His grace?’ Yes, it was the Israelites who provoked (3:16) and angered (3:17) God to the point of Him issuing a curse (3:18).  But what caused it?  Why did this happen?   The writer answers in the final verse (3:19).

What provokes and angers God to give a curse?  The answer:  continual, hard-hearted, persistent unbelief.  He writes: “they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (3:19).  Many think unbelief is harmless and neutral: a mere delay.  The writer says it is evil (3:12), active (3:15), productive (3:17) and riotous, ‘disobedient’ (3:18).  Unbelief is not neutral – it is what provokes God to issue an eternal curse (3:18).

Take care, brethren!  Recognize and repent of the deadly sin of unbelief!