Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews uses the the Children of Israel refusing to enter the Land because of fear as a platform to encourage a disenfranchised first century community of Jewish believers in Israel (Numbers 14:1-4; Hebrews 3-4).
The two situations are truly analogous. The Children of Israel hear about the giants in the Land so they refuse to fight for it. As a result, they die in the desert and never entered God’s rest, the rest of finding a home where to build and settle their families; the home where they can finally put down their travelling gear down, live, exist, and multiply in a place that is their own by right. They were at the borders of receiving the fulfillment of that promise but they turned back due to fear fomented by lies (Numbers 14:2-3).
The first century Israeli believers were in the same predicament. They were ostracized by their brethren; excluded from Jewish communities, synagogues, and the Temple. They had lost all civic privileges because of their belief in Yeshua. All they had to do change their woeful predicament was to ‘turn back’ from that belief and they would be restored into Israeli society, which sadly some did. The Book of Hebrews then uses the story in Numbers as mentioned in Psalms 95 (vs. 95:7-11) to encourage these first century Jewish believers to not lose faith like their predecessors did. The Psalms says: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, … I swore in my wrath, "They shall not enter my rest." (vs. 7-11).
Let’s go over that passage. ‘Today’ is a Talmudic way of talking about the Sabbath. In Hebrews, the Sabbath Rest of entering the Land is analogous to the idea of living in obedience to God through His Messiah. In essence a similar situation of obedience was presented to that new generation of fist century Jewish believers, and through the epistle, they were being warned of the dangers of turning their back on God’s promises because of fear just like their fathers did fourteen centuries before.
This warning works for us today. So many hear the truth of Yeshua the living Jewish Messiah, but when they realize that kinds of havoc obeying Him will create in their lives, they refuse Him. They fear being ostracized from their families and their friends as their lifestyle changes. Obeying His Words in eating according to the Levitical diet and observing the Sabbath will certainly change their lives in many drastic ways socially and even financially, and some people do not want to go through that.
Come to think of it is quite amazing because these are the things the early believers were faced with all over the Roman Empire. Their new faith in the God of Israel took them away from their idolatrous environment to obey God’s commandments and as a result they lost all civic privileges in Greek and Roman society.
The days are coming and are already upon us when the Text of the Book of Hebrews will resound like a distant shofar: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”.