We are in a spiritual desert like Israel in their exodus in the desert going to the Promised Land

By Albert Ngu          New York        July 14, 2020

Hebrews 3:14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

This is really important!  If we hear God’s voice today, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. Hebrews wants us to understand that as believers in Jesus, we have had a real experience of release from the guilt and power of sin.

Not only that, Hebrews is also comparing us to the exodus of Israel from Egypt, that many of them hardened their hearts and fell along the way in the desert! Those were the ones who were disobedient! Provoked God for forty years! Who heard Moses and rebelled against God and Moses. They were unable to enter God’s rest. Now Hebrews compares that with us today, the believers in Christ, in the same way, we are also out of our spiritual ‘Egypt’ the darkness of bondage to the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light in the Son of God. But we are not there yet! We are on the way, just like Israel was on the way, in the wilderness, desert.

Just as Israel although delivered from slavery from Egypt, was not yet in the promised land but still in the wilderness, so the church has not yet entered into God’s rest, as he calls it. Believers still do not possess the final rest of God in its full and perfect form. We have not yet attained to the experience of salvation that is unthreatened and unchallenged.[1]

And in our journey, pilgrimage, we are exposed to all kinds of difficulties and hardships, and all of that hardship tends towards an ultimate temptation, the temptation to give up, to abandon our confession, not to ‘hold fast’. [2] Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Again, Hebrews 3: 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. And tell us that we are to encourage each other daily.

This letter was written 2000 years ago as exhortations to the early church, and us today, in the 21st century America and the world. Just as the 1st century Mediterranean world when this letter was first written, it is like the Sinai desert. It is a wilderness, a wasteland in the spiritual landscape of today’s world.

Just as them walking through the desert facing mirages and imagine things in the heat of the day, we also face the mass media and our culture today that confronts us. [3] The deception that what the Bible teaches is not necessarily the truth, as the most potent one. Culture teaches that the truth is what I for the moment consider it to be. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. We live in a time when God’s commandments have been replaced by a new morality of mankind’s making, based on our natural impulse of love. [4] In other words, we relabeled against God’s word, redefined the truth in our human’s liking and choice.

We too easily lose sight of the fact that every gift from God has two sides and you can’t separate them. Every gift involves a duty, a responsibility.[5] But we too often like the gift, and neglected the responsibility, ending up what’s called playing Christianity. And we lose sight of the fact that genuine growth as a believer in Jesus Christ is something that only comes by struggle.[6] This is really important to understand and apply in our lives, so we’ll never just so easily get discouraged when God doesn’t answer our prayers, or face tough difficulties, but we will press on in Christ. The reason we can do that is that we recognize the responsibility that comes with the blessings of God. Otherwise, we will never mature and grow up. That’s what Gaffin calls as genuine growth through our struggles. In Chinese language proverb, anyone who’s never struggled in life is like a small flower in a green house or heated space. Never faced the snow, harsh storm of life. So when they come, storms, difficulties, we will press on, and struggle and begin to grow.

Genuine growth only comes as we  open up ourselves to and acknowledge the reality of the desert that Hebrews reminds us of in the text.

[1] Richard B Gaffin, Jr.,  Christ, Our High Priest in Heaven    NWTS 1/3 (Dec 1986) 17-27

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

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