"For who provoked Him when they had heard?
Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?
And with whom was He angry for forty years?
Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest,
but to those who were disobedient?
So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
40 years x Provoked + Sinned + Disobedient + Unbelief = God's anger
There is no rest, rather a "Do Not Enter" sign.
Their bodies fell in the wilderness.
Hmm. Do I sense a warning here?
"'Were they not all that came out of Egypt?--An awful consideration!
The whole elect people of God (a very few excepted)
provoked God presently after their great deliverance;
continued to grieve His spirit for forty years,
and perished in their sin!
Only a remnant survived.
They say it is difficult to become a Christian the later in life that you wait. Once we had a ninety year old women who became a Christian in our ministry, much to her son's rejoicing. While staying recently with my cousin and listening to his testimony of becoming a Christian at age 42 was also a joy. Upon hearing what his son was learning while attending church with the girl he was dating, his father, my cousin, became concerned and determined to go to this church to see what they were teaching. The first Sunday upon hearing truth, he gripped the seat saying to himself over and over again, "I'm not going down to the altar like the others. I'm not!" He was miserable all week, but he was still concerned over what his son was hearing. The next Sunday, he gripped his seat white-knuckled even tighter while under conviction until he surrendered his life to Christ. Still, he had a journey ahead as he came to the full knowledge of Christ as he opened the Scriptures.
For some reason, I am thinking of Saul who became Paul on the road to Damascus when Jesus said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Can't you just see Jesus shaking his head. Saul was a pharisaical over-achiever, wanting to be a good boy by following all the laws, putting himself up while putting others down, literally by persecuting Christians, even the apostle Stephen. Acts 9:1 says, "Now Saul still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. He was not a nice guy. Once again we see that sin condemns not just ourselves, but brings others down with us. Isn't it amazing that Jesus looked through all that hate in Saul's heart and saw the pip-squeak zealot's deep-down-desire to serve God! Yes, he was doing it by serving his pride and pulling men and women out of their homes to persecute them in his zeal: Saul, Saul, for shame, Saul. He was blind even before Jesus struck him blind and knocked him off his donkey. Thus, if the author of Hebrews is Paul, he knew first hand what it meant to convert from Judaism to Christianity. He knew that not many would go on to find rest. He came from the Pharisees, the blind leading the blind. It took an act of God to open his eyes.
Adam Clarke quoted Surenhusius "who first observed that 'the apostle, in using the term forty years, elegantly alludes to the space of time which had elapsed since the ascension of our Lord till the time in which this epistle was written, which was about forty years.'" He goes on to say that though it might "not exactly agree with what appears to be the exact date of this epistle. However, God had now been a long time provoked by that race rejecting the manifested Messiah, as he was by the conduct of their forefathers in the wilderness; and as that provocation was punished by a very signal judgment, so they might expect this to be punished also...And was not the destruction of Jerusalem a proof of the heinous nature of their crime, and of the justice of God's outpoured wrath?"
"To whom He sware He..."
Adam Clarke goes on to say, "God never acts by any kind of caprice; whenever He pours out His judgments, there are the most positive reasons to vindicate His conduct. Those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness were they who had sinned. And those who did not enter into His rest were those who believed not...who chose to sin, and would not believe. Unbelief produced disobedience, and disobedience produced hardness of heart and blindness of mind."
Don't be like Saul. Be like Paul who once was blind, but now could see. Amazing grace!
(more on rest to come...)