Lamentations 3:22-24, “It is the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him”
Our Text – Hebrews 3
Our Theme – “Christ has been faithful, so Christians must be faithful”
What comes to your mind when you hear the word faithful? Webster defines the word as being committed in affection or allegiance. Dedicated or firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty. Being unwavering, which implies a firm determination to adhere to a cause or purpose? Why is faithfulness to God such an important part of a Christian’s life? Without faithfulness to God there can be no Christian life. Christianity is based first on faith that God is, and then that through Christ Jesus, we can be forgiven and are saved through His blood. Our faithfulness is a commitment to hold fast to the One God who is true and supreme over all and to keep His commandments.
Lamentations 3:22-24 tell us, “It is the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him”
Do you believe God blesses those who are faithful to Him? I do.
Great issues are often determined by choices that on the surface appear to be insignificant. The choice or decision of one person often affects many. There have been a few people in our history that made choices and decisions by which God, in His providence, has directed the history and affairs of the world. However, there are many people in the world today who believe God is no longer involved on a personal basis in his creation. My beloved, God is still involved in His creation and that certain events that happen in our life are a direct result of God showing his favor towards us. Here are a few examples of how God works in the lives of those who are faithful in their service to Him:
In 1858 a Sunday school teacher, Mr. Kimball, led a Boston shoe clerk to give his life to Jesus Christ. The clerk was Dwight L. Moody who became an evangelist. In 1879 while preaching in England the heart of a pastor named F.B. Meyer was set on fire, who later came to an American college campus to preach. Under his preaching a student by the name of Wilbur Chapman was saved. He engaged in YMCA work and employed a former baseball player named Billy Sunday, to do evangelistic work. Billy Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because the revival stirred the hearts of many, some 30 business men wanted to devote a day of prayer for Charlotte.
May of 1934 a farmer loaned the men some land to use for their prayer meeting. The leader of the business men, Vernon Patterson prayed, “Out of Charlotte the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.” The business men then called for another evangelistic meeting asking Mordecai Ham, a fiery Southern evangelist who shattered the complacency of church-going Charlotte. The farmer who loaned his land for the prayer meeting was Franklin Graham and his son Billy became a Christian during the meeting. Thus, it’s impossible to say that everything just happens by chance.
The first two of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), deal directly with our being faithful to God. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…”
These are the words given directly from God to Moses for all people, for all time and especially for today. Since God assumes a covenant relationship with His people, He is declaring that He will not tolerate unfaithfulness and opposition with anything else. An idol can be in the form of anything that you might place in a higher priority over God. This includes false images of worship or placing anything in our lives that has preeminence over God.
PICTURES OF FAITHFULNESS
It is very important to surround one-self with people who can impact your life for the good and not for the bad. Here is a list of a few great men and women worth hanging out with 24/7.
- Noah was a man who took God seriously and found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
- Job was a man whose life and resolve was tested beyond imagination, yet did not curse God“. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with any wrong. Job 1:22
- Joseph was a man who was completely devoted to the Lord even in times of injustice, betrayal, and temptation
- Ruth was a woman who left everything she had for something far more greater than anything she’d ever imagined. But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.” Ruth 1:16-18
- Esther was a woman who understood her times and seized the day not only for her people but also for God. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
- Daniel was a man whose integrity and prayer life helped him to see unbelievable miracles and prophetic mysteries. “He went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done.” Daniel 6:10
- Life has its challenges and heartaches. Few knew this better than Jeremiah, who is also called “the weeping prophet.” But in the middle of Jeremiah’s troubles, God encouraged him with an amazing truth: “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” (Lamentation 3:22)
- Elijah was a man who availed himself in such a way to God and as a result, God used him mightily. “Then the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king.” 2 Kings 1:15
- Phillip was a man who chose to live by the spirit; follow His promptings; and be used by the Spirit. “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place… And there was an Ethiopian.” Acts 8:25-40
JESUS IS GREATER THAN MOSES – (Hebrews 3:1-6)
As the writer of Hebrews sought to persuade his readers to be faithful to God, he used two examples: Moses and Jesus. The picture of Moses appealed to the Jews, because he was the great leader who led Israel out of slavery in Egypt. However, Jesus’ example was more impressive, for Jesus Christ was faithful to God in a higher position.
Hebrews 3:1 addressed the readers as “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” Christians have been called by God to become His people. Believers’ holy standing before God isn’t the result of their personal goodness, but is a gift of God’s grace. They are holy because He has imputed Christ’s righteousness to them. When they received Christ as Savior, they became children of God (John 1:12) and brothers of one another. Best of all, they were partakers of salvation. The writer of Hebrews challenged his readers to “consider Christ Jesus. He was the apostle and high priest of their Christian profession. As an apostle, Christ represents God to humans, and as a priest He represents humans before God. Christ is the perfect mediator between God and His people.
What particularly distinguished Christ was His faithfulness to God (Hebrews 3:2)? The writer described this faithfulness in a way that was especially significant to his Jewish readers. Just as Moses was faithful to God as he served Israel, so Christ was faithful to God in His ministry to God’s people. However, Jesus has a higher status than Moses (Hebrews 3:3-4). As great as Moses was, and as good an example of faithfulness as he was, he could not match Jesus. Moses was essentially God’s servant, while Christ is servant to no one. He is creator of all and He is far superior to all.
Moses served God faithfully (Hebrews 3:5). Within the system that God established, Moses did what God called him to do. He showed through his obedience how God’s servants should live. He was an outstanding example of faithfulness under extreme pressure; therefore, the readers could follow the pattern of his life. Nevertheless, Moses is not the greatest example of faithfulness, and the readers were not to fix their attention on him.
Moses served in God’s house, but Jesus is the Son of God Who is over God’s house (Hebrews 3: 6). If Moses was worthy of esteem, then certainly Christ is even more worthy. As Christians, the readers belonged to God’s household and lived under Christ’s rule. Their responsibility was to hold fast their confidence in Christ, not wavering or letting go of their hope in Him. They were to rejoice and glory in Christ, Who excelled Moses and the law.
PATTERN OF UNBELIEF – (Hebrews 3:7-11)
Hebrews 3:7-11, “So, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.'””
After presenting the positive examples of faithfulness in verses 1-6, the writer of Hebrews gave a negative warning in verses 7 to 11. He quoted from Psalm 95:7-11, which was a reminder of Israel’s disobedience in the wilderness (Numbers 13; 14).Because Israel refused to trust God when He told the nation to enter the Promised Land of Canaan, the people failed to experience the blessing that He had intended for them. The writer recalled this negative pattern of unbelief to warn his readers of Israel’s tragic mistake. Their faith needed to be genuine, or they, too, would fall short of what God had prepared for them. This sad reminder sets the stage for the call for serious discipleship, which follows in Hebrews 3:12-19.
God had told the Israelites to enter Canaan and claim the land that He had promised to their forefathers. However, Israel hardened her heart, refusing to act in faith and obedience to God’s promise (Hebrews 3:8). This disobedience provoked God to judgment, for He made that generation of the Israelites wander in the wilderness until they died. Only Joshua and Caleb, who trusted God’s word, were able to enter the Promised Land with the next generation. Israel’s unbelief did not end with that tragic decision.
Throughout the forty years in the wilderness, the people continued to doubt God, refused to obey Him, and complained about His provision (Hebrews 3:8, 9). Though God gave them manna to eat each day, they complained about their diet. Though He led them through the desolate desert, they murmured against His direction. Nothing that God did satisfied the people who refused to trust and obey Him.
The people’s persistent pattern of disobedience grieved the Lord (Hebrews 3:10). Their problem was not just on the surface; it reached to the depths of their hearts. In the center of their thoughts, emotions, and decisions, they deviated from God. Instead of following obediently the way God had charted for them, they closed their hearts to His instruction. They refused to value what God said above their personal preference.
The Israelites’ disobedience meant that they failed to obtain what God had prepared for them (v. 11). He had promised to them a safe and secure place for dwelling, a place of rest and tranquility. Their unbelief forfeited the promised blessing and received in its place the hardship of wandering and dying in the wilderness. Israel paid a high price for her failure to believe God. As that unbelieving nation demonstrated, disobedience toward God leads to spiritual failure. Israel was a sobering pattern of what the Hebrew believers were not to do.
PREVENTION OF FAILURE – (Hebrews 3:12-15)
Hebrews 3:12-15, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion”
These Hebrew Christians could help their assembly from the kind of spiritual failure into which Israel had fallen by faithfully encouraging one another. Some of these Christians were vulnerable to unbelief and could very easily depart or drift away from God and His Word. Israel failed because the people refused to believe God’s Word. Rather than trusting in what God said, they acted on what they saw! The fears of the Israelites undermined their faith, so they could not enter the Promised Land of Canaan until after wandering in the desert for 40 years.
In light of this, the writer warned his readers to be careful lest an evil heart of unbelief would cause them to turn away from the living God (v. 12). If the children of Israel could remain in unbelief after witnessing God’s miracles on their behalf, then the professing Hebrew Christians could also remain in unbelief in their refusal to trust God. It is the same for many Christians today who profess salvation in the living Savior.
The writer challenged the Hebrew Christians to make a daily habit of encouraging one another (v. 13). Sometime ago I read a story concerning a man who had become so despondent that he was going to take his own life by jumping off a bridge not far from where he lived. While walking toward the bridge, he decided if he met one person who smiled and appeared to be friendly, he wouldn’t jump. Strangely, the story ended without telling what happened, but the writer asked some very penetrating questions … suppose that man had passed you or me on that dark day:
(1) Would he have changed his direction?
(2) Or would he have carried out his desperate plan?
I know the chance of encountering an individual in that state of mind is very small. Yet, every day we come in contact with many people in diverse walks of life who are carrying heavy burdens, facing trying situations, or worrying about the future. They long for a kind or encouraging word, a sympathetic ear, or a warm friendly smile that reflects a caring heart.
The temptation to return to Judaism was a struggle for some of the Hebrew Christians, so the group needed continual strengthening of their faith by being encouraged. The challenge in Hebrews 3:13 is reinforced in verse 15, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion”. Israel hardened her heart in unbelief, disobeyed the Lord, and received the painful consequences of His judgment. The readers needed to learn from Israel’s mistakes. They had to sense the urgency of the situation, listen to God’s voice, and obey His instructions. They needed to be aware of possible unbelief in themselves and in one another and not to return to Judaism, which they had been saved from.
THE STANDARD FOR SUCCESS – (Hebrews 3:16-19)
Hebrews 3:16-19, “Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief”
Although Hebrews 3:16-19 is expressed in negative terms as it assessed Israel’s past failure, the readers could learn a positive principle from it. Israel failed to enter God’s rest, His promised blessings in Canaan, because of the people’s refusal to believe and obey Him. If the people had trusted God, they could have enjoyed all that He intended for them in the Promised Land. Those who led the nation of Israel into unbelief had ample reason to believe God (Hebrews 3:16).
They were among the multitude of Israelites who left Egypt under Moses’ leadership. They knew of the ten miraculous plagues the Lord used to demonstrate that He is indeed God. They had walked through the Red Sea on dry land when it parted, and then they had seen God drown the Egyptian army. They belonged to Israel, and they knew what God had done, but their knowledge was no guarantee against spiritual failure. They failed because they refused to act on what they knew.
The problem was their sin and unbelief (vv. 17, 18). Their refusal to obey God brought needless tragedy. The whole generation of Israelites who refused to trust God had to taste His judgment in the wilderness. Instead of delighting in Canaan, they died in the desert. God does not give His rest to rebels (v. 18). When Israel in her unbelief spurned God’s offer, she spurned the blessing that He had prepared for the people. Though they had a blessed heritage, their unbelief counteracted that great advantage. Their unbelief prevented them from entering into the land where they could have enjoyed God’s rest (v. 19).
The Old Testament account found in Numbers 14:39-45 shows that Israel’s sin had long lasting consequences. When the Israelites realized that they had made a mistake in refusing to follow God’s lead into Canaan, they regretted their decision. They tried to enter Canaan by their own strength, but they were soundly defeated. Their unbelief set the course for forty years of frustration, wandering, and death in the wilderness. How different this story could have been if Israel had just believed and obeyed the Lord!
If unbelief prevented the people of Israel from entering Canaan, then belief would have paved their way. If unbelief led to regrets, then belief would have given rest. If unbelief brought emptiness, then belief would have brought blessing. The key to blessing is genuine faith in God, following the examples of Christ and Moses, and definitely not the disastrous failure of Israel.
BEING FOUND FAITHFUL
The Bible contains many incidents of helpfulness by individuals whose names are not given. In 1 Samuel 30 we read that David’s soldiers found a young man who had been left behind by a retreating enemy army. The Egyptian slave is not named, but he provided key information that helped David to rescue his family. I also think of the young boy whose lunch of bread and fish was multiplied by Jesus to feed thousands (John 6:9), the owner of the colt on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Luke 19:33), and the owner of the house in which Jesus and His disciples ate the last Passover (Luke 22:11). Then there was the boy who saved Paul’s life (Acts 23:12-22).
Much of our attention and praise is usually directed toward highly visible and successful individuals; however, occasionally we read about an ordinary and maybe obscure person being honored for many years of faithful service. It may be a school custodian, a cafeteria worker, a handyman, or a clerk in a store who has served others in a dependable and unselfish way. In our world today, there are countless people who receive no recognition, who never get their names published nor hear the applause of others.
Many faithfully pray, sacrificially give, and patiently suffer for Christ. Countless mothers quietly care for their families, and men and women courageously witness to co-workers and neighbors. They may be unnamed and un-praised here and now, but in heaven the last shall be first (Matthew 19:30). That kind of reliability often goes unnoticed, but I believe it’s a powerful picture of how we as Christ’s faithful servants are to live. Although consistency may not be flashy, days add up to a life of great significance in the eyes of God.
The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” So, if we live faithfully for Christ, God has promised to reward us at His appointed time. When the Lord comes, He “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the heart. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” When we long for success, God says, “I will reward you.” When we ache for recognition, God says, “I see you.” When we are ready to quit, God says, “I will help you.” Whether your service is public or private, your responsibility is still the same, to be faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has been faithful to us.
We should have observed from these three chapters of Hebrews the following: (1) Listen and pay careful attention to God’s Word (Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:1-4); (2) Don’t become hard hearted and disobedient due to unbelief (Hebrews 3-4); (3) The consequence of unbelief is failure to enter into God’s “rest” as the Israelites found out (Hebrews 3:11, 18).
Furthermore, I believe verses 12 and 13 indicate to us that every believer has some responsibility for the spiritual well-being of his fellow believers in Christ. We are to gather together faithfully to encourage one another and to watch for signs of spiritual ill-health. I fear that many churches aren’t living up to their responsibilities with respect to caring for one another’s spiritual health. We need to be faithful to gather for worship, exalting God for His greatness, recalling His acts of mercy, grace and salvation. That is the kind of fuel which promotes faith.
We need to be more aggressive in admonishing our brothers and sisters as we see spiritual dangers ahead. This is why we believe the gathering of the church each Sunday is so important. It provides us with the opportunity to encourage one another. That is the reason why we have regular services, because we need to be ministering to one another so that we enter into rest, rather than drifting toward rebellion and discipline as the Israelites did. May God give us the grace to do better as we gather as a church body every week?
A young missionary in Central America was tempted to give up. He wrote to friends and family, “I go about on fishing boats through the day. At night I sleep on piles of hides on the deck. The people do not seem to be interested in the gospel message I bring. Sometimes the adversary tempts me to discouragement in the face of seeming lack of success.” But then he added, “I take courage and press on anew as I remember that God does not hold me responsible for success but for faithfulness.”
The prophet Isaiah also may have been tempted to give up his most difficult assignment. The Lord told him that the result of his efforts would be that the people would hear but not understand, and see but not perceive (Isaiah 6:9). Their hearts would be dull, their ears heavy, and their eyes shut (Isaiah 6:10). Put yourself in the shoes of Isaiah or the missionary. Would you have pressed on or given up? Is faithfulness enough or do you think your work must be recognized as successful before you feel satisfied in serving the Lord?
The prophet Isaiah and the missionary did what God asked them to do. They preached God’s Word and trusted in His purposes. You too can be a faithful servant. Do your best and leave the results in the hands of the Lord.
Oh, let us be faithful to Jesus,
The faith we confessed let’s renew,
And ask Him this question each morning:
“Lord, what will You have me to do?”
The world crowns success; God crowns faithfulness.