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Hebrews 3:8-9

Victor M. Eskew




A.  In the previous section, the writer had just exhorted his readers to hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (Heb. 3:6).


B.   He now presents these Hebrew Christians with an example from their past, the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness.

1.    The text reveals many of the things the Israelites did and did not do.

a.    They did not hear God’s voice (Heb. 3:7).

b.    They hardened their hearts (Heb. 3:8, 15).

c.    They tempted and proved God (Heb. 3:9).

d.   They erred in their hearts (Heb. 3:10).

e.    They did not know the Lord’s ways (Heb. 3:10).

f.    They had evil hearts of unbelief (Heb. 3:12, 18-19).

g.    They were hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13).

h.    They provoked God (Heb. 3:16).

i.     They sinned (Heb. 3:17).

2.    The result was that they could not enter into the Lord’s rest (Heb. 3:11, 17-19).


So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.


3.    Ways to protect oneself from apostasy and condemnation.

a.    Hear the Lord’s voice (Heb. 3:7).

b.    Hardened not your hearts (Heb. 3:8, 15).

c.    Exhort one another daily (Heb. 3:13).

d.   Hold the beginning of your confidence stedfast unto the end (Heb. 3:13).

e.    NOTE:  These things need to be done TODAY! (Heb. 3:7, 15).


Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice…Whiles it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.


4.    Key Verse (Heb. 3:12)


Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.


C.  Outline:


I.         HEAR – HARDEN NOT (Heb. 3:7-9)

II.       ERRED – ENTERED NOT (Heb. 3:10-11)

III.      DEPART NOT – DIG IN (Heb. 3:12-14)

IV.      HEAR – HARDEN NOT (Heb. 3:15)

V.        BLOCKED – BELIEVED NOT (Heb. 3:16-19)


I.         HEAR – HARDEN NOT (Heb. 3:7-9)


A.  Hear (Heb. 3:7)


B.   Harden Not (Heb. 3:8-9)


Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:  when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.


1.    Definitions

a.    Harden

1)     Strong (4645):  come from the root meaning dry, hard, or tough… render stubborn

2)    Thayer:  to make hard, to render obstinate, stubborn

b.    Hearts

1)     Strong (2588):  (figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind)

2)    Thayer:  the center and seat of spiritual life, the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors

c.    Provocation

1)     Strong (3894):  irritation

2)    Thayer:  provocation

3)     Robertson:  embitterment, exasperation

d.   Temptation

1)     Strong (3986):  a putting to proof (by experience [of good], experience [of evil]…by implication adversity

2)    Thayer:  the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy

2.    The heart of man is the key to all of his actions (Prov. 4:23; 23:7).


Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.


a.    A soft, pliable heart will hear God’s Word and obey.

b.    If a man’s heart is hardened, he will make no effort to change.

c.    “…no man can remain stationary in Divine life.  If he does not soften and purify his heart by obeying the truth, he will of necessity harden it by dis-obedience” (Milligan, 120).

d.   LESSON:  We are responsible for the condition of our heart.  We are commanded:  “Harden not your heart.”

3.    There were three specific times that Israel is said to have provoked God in the wilderness.

a.    Murmuring for water (Exo. 17:7)


And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the childing of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?


b.    The acceptance of the spies unfavorable report (Num. 14:23)


Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto the fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.


c.    At Meribah (Num. 20:1-13)


This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them.


4.    These and other events are described as Israel tempting, proving, and seeing the works of God (Heb. 3:9).

a.    Definitions

1)     Tempted

a)    Strong (3985):  to test, scrutinize, entice

b)    Thayer:  by impious conduct to test God’s justice and patience, and to challenge him, as it were to give proof of his perfection

c)    Vincent:  to tempt or try with a view to seeing how far one can go

2)    Proved

a)    Strong (1381):  to test

b)    Thayer:  to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy

3)     Works

a)    Strong (2041):  to work, toil

b)    Thayer:  an act, deed, thing done

c)    Reece:  It seems probable, in this context that seems as a warning, that “works” refers to God’s judgments upon the disobedient people.

b.    It is possible for humans to tempt the patience and longsuffering of God.  The Israelites tried to see just how far they could go with Him.  They learned of His longsuffering, but also saw His wrath as executed upon many of them.

5.    What happened in the wilderness was on the verge of happening again.  The inspired writer was exhorting them NOT to let this happen.

6.    LESSON:  The importance of learning from the past.

a.    Wacaster:  “The only thing that we learn from history is that we do not learn from history” (115-116).

b.    One of the reasons we have the Law of Moses is for us to learn the lessons of the past (Rom. 15:4; I Cor. 10:11; Heb. 2:1-4).


For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning…