************ Sermon on Hebrews 3:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This Old Years sermon was preached on December 31, 2015
"Today, If You Hear His Voice (2)"
Old Year's Service
We had seven deaths during 2015: Edythe Adams, Bill Billman, Jan Dias, Jane Jacobi, Bert Van Dyk, John Van Tol, Nellie Voortman. Did they hear His voice?
We had eleven baptisms during 2015: Christopher Anker, Joshua Bushnell, Sabastian Chapman, Pearce de Jong, Adriana Dieleman, Anne Godfrey, Iliana (iIll-ee-o-na) Jongsma, Cody Leyendekker, Kacie Leyendekker, Cole Rispens, Sadie Uriarte. Will they hear His voice?
We had five professions of faith during 2015 and seven weddings. Professions: Katie Brown, Enika Bushnell, Michael Hager, Jorge Uriarte, Becky Uriarte. Weddings: Eric & Ashley, Michael & Emily, Brian & Heather, Chris & Erin, Johnny & Katie, Dan & Shelly, Ryan & Katrina. Do they hear His voice?
A couple of weeks ago, when we had the Sunday School program, I asked our boys and girls if they hear God's voice. On this last night of 2015 and as we look forward to 2016 I want to ask the same question of all of us: Do we hear His voice?
I We Hear His Voice
A The night of the Sunday School program we heard a message from Psalm 95. Though I did not say it, that sermon was actually part of our Hebrews series because Psalm 95 is quoted by our Bible reading from Hebrews 3. So, that night was part one and tonight is part two. That's why the number 2 is behind the sermon title for this evening.
We used the opening verses of Psalm 95 as our call to worship on this last night of 2015. We use Psalm 95 because it celebrates the worship of God:
(Ps 95:1-2,6) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (2) Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song ... (6) Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our MakerDo you hear all the words reflecting our worship? Let us sing. Let us shout. Let us come. Let us extol. Let us bow. Let us kneel.
B Now let me ask, according to the psalmist what is the main thing we do when we gather together for worship? The main thing we do is hear the Word of God. Look at the quote from Psalm 95 in our text for this evening:
(Heb 3:7) So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice ..."That's the main thing we do every time we gather together for worship. Other churches may gather together for music and programs and entertainment but we gather together to hear the Word of God. We gather together to hear His voice. In fact, every time we come into the church for worship, we are going to hear His Word.
C Notice, according to our text, it is the Holy Spirit who spoke in Psalm 95.
(Heb 3:7) So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice ..." Yes, it is probably David who wrote the psalm, but it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him. Meaning what? Meaning that Psalm 95 is first of all God's Word.
We would be wrong if we say Psalm 95 is God's Word for His Old Testament people. We would be equally wrong if we say that about any or all of the Old Testament. Many Christians think this way; they think that the Old Testament has nothing to say to their lives.
Notice, first of all, that not just here but throughout Hebrews we see all sorts of Old Testament passages being quoted. Why? Because the Old Testament is also part of God's Word for Christians.
The second thing we notice is the use of the present tense. Not the past tense: So not "The Holy Spirit said ..." Not the future tense: So not "The Holy Spirit will say." But the present tense: "The Holy Spirit says ..." The Holy Spirit speaks and is speaking and is continuing to speak through the words of Psalm 95. So, these words aren't just said to David's original audience. They are also said to the original audience of Hebrews. And, they are said to you and me as well.
The third thing we notice is Hebrew's emphasis on today. Two times Hebrews quotes the words of Psalm 95:7. The first and most important word is the word "Today."
(Heb 3:7) So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice ...Today. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday. But today. Today, we are to listen to what the Holy Spirit says through the words of David in Psalm 95. Today. This is God's Word for us today.
(cf Heb 3:15; Ps 95:7)
I hope you realize God is not a silent deity. God still speaks directly to His people. And He does so through the sacred words of Scripture.
D So, what does the voice of God say? What does the voice of God say to the original audience of Psalm 95? What does the voice of God say to the audience of Hebrews? What does the voice of God say to you and me on this last night of 2015? It is all the same message. His voice speaks the fullness of the Gospel message. That is, His voice speaks of Creation, Fall, Redemption. His voice speaks of the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus Christ. His voice speaks about the deity, humanity, and righteousness of the Son. His voice tells us that our God saves, that our God redeems, that our God forgives, that our God shows love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. That's what the voice of God says yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Week after week during 2015 we have had the privilege of hearing this voice of God in worship. Week after week during 2015 we have had the privilege of hearing this voice of God in personal and family devotions. And, we can look forward to more of the same in 2016. So, we can only have the same response as the psalmist:
(Ps 95:1) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
II We Receive a Warning
A Our text not only tells us that we hear the voice of God but it also delivers a warning:
(Heb 3:7-8) So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts ..."I said a lot to our girls and boys a few weeks ago about hard hearts. I called them hearts of stone.
Here we come to the questions I asked at the start of this message: Do we hear His voice? Or, do we harden our hearts.
Through the Psalmist and through Hebrews, the Holy Spirit warns us that when we hear His voice "Today," we must be careful to have open and receptive hearts. We must not harden our hearts to the voice and Word of God.
B This is exactly what the Hebrew Christians were in danger of doing. In the face of great persecution, they were in danger of going back to their Jewish faith. They were in danger of abandoning Jesus for Moses. They were in danger of returning to the old covenant. They were in danger of hardening their hearts. These Hebrew Christians have come to share in Christ and all His blessings (Heb 3:14) and they were at the verge of throwing it all away. The author of Hebrews wrote to these Christians to keep listening to the voice of God. The author of Hebrews wrote to these Christians to persevere in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews gives them a warning:
(Heb 3:7-8) So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts ..."
C Quoting from Psalm 95, Hebrews reminds us that the people God rescued from Egypt did harden their hearts against the Lord in the wilderness:
(Heb 3:8-9) do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, (9) where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.
Specifically, Psalm 95 refers to Meribah and Massah. Meribah means "quarreling." Massah means "testing." Instead of submitting to the voice of God, they quarreled with and tested God. The people had seen the mighty plagues God had visited upon Egypt and Pharaoh. They saw God heal the waters and provide manna for them (Ex 15:22-16:36). Yet when they ran out of water, instead of coming to the Lord humbly and asking Him for help, they accused God and Moses of deliberately bringing them out of Egypt to kill them. In their pain they did not cry out to God; instead, they cried out against Him. They hardened their hearts. They went backward in unbelief instead of forward in faith.
If you page through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy you will see ten acts of rebellion just like Meribah and Massah. Ten of them. Ten. Quick, how many plagues were there? Ten! So, the children of Israel were no better than Pharaoh and the Egyptians. In fact, with eleven acts of disobedience they were worse. They heard the voice of God, they saw the miracles of God; yet, they hardened their hearts in rebellion. So hard was the heart of Israel that the people even wanted to return to Egypt! Imagine wanting to exchange freedom under God for slavery in Egypt!
"Hebrew Christians, do not be like Israel at Meribah and Massah." That is what Hebrews is saying. And, "Trinity's Christians, do not be like Israel at Meribah and Massah." That is what Hebrews is saying to you and me on this last night of 2015. Do not harden your hearts to the voice of God. Listen carefully to what God says. Listen attentively to what God says. Have open and receptive hearts when you hear the voice of God.
D Did you catch how Hebrews describes the behavior of the Israelites?
(Heb 3:12) See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.Ouch. That hurts. Hebrews cuts right to the chase. It minces no words. When we do not listen to God's voice we are sinful. When we do not listen to God's voice we have unbelieving hearts. When we do not listen to God's voice we turn away from the living God.
In the Greek language the word that is used here forms the basis for the English word "apostasy." What is apostasy? Apostasy is falling away from the truth. To commit the sin of apostasy, you must first of all be a professing believer, a member of the church. The Israelites as a nation committed apostasy in the wilderness -- eleven times they committed apostasy -- and God raised up a new generation to take their place. What happened to Israel can and does happen so easily to the church and to individual Christians as well. I have said before that the church -- any church -- is only one generation from apostasy. That's how quick it can happen. That's how easily it can happen.
There are different ways to commit apostasy. Obviously, the Hebrew Christians commit apostasy if they leave the Christian faith and go back to the Jewish faith; they commit apostasy by going from salvation by grace through faith to salvation by keeping the works of the law. Today, we commit apostasy by denying the basic truths of Scripture. We commit apostasy by disobeying God. We commit apostasy by not believing and trusting in God. We commit apostasy by neglecting God and the things of God. We commit apostasy by moving from a true Bible-believing and Christ-confessing church to a false church. We commit apostasy by leaving the Christian faith to become Mormon, Muslim, New Age, or whatever. However apostasy happens, it all comes down to one thing: you don't listen to the voice of God.
Consider, again, the lists of deaths, baptisms, professions, and weddings I read at the start of this sermon. Has everyone listened to the voice of God? As you think back on 2015, can you say you have listened to the voice of God? As you look forward to 2016, are you resolved to listen to the voice of God?
Do not harden your hearts, congregation. See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart, congregation, that turns away from the living God. Do not be hardened by sin's deceitfulness, congregation (Heb 3:13). Make sure that you listen to the voice of God.
III We Experience Judgment
A We end by looking at the consequences. What happens when the Hebrew Christians fail to listen to God? What happens when our hearts are hardened? What happens when we are like Israel at Massah and Meribah? What happens when we leave Jesus for Moses? What happens when we commit apostasy?
Two times we are told that Israel's sin of apostasy brought down God's intense anger (Heb 3:10,17). So God swore they would never enter His rest (Heb 3:11,18). You know what happened: everyone twenty years and older died in the wilderness and God raised a new generation to enter the Promised Land.
What is the message to the Hebrew Christians who are thinking of going back to the Jewish faith? Hebrews is warning them they will lose the promised rest. What is the message to you and me today? Hebrews is warning us that if we do not hear His voice we will lose the promised rest.
B Among Reformed churches and believers, one of the most abused doctrines is the perseverance of the saints. The Bible does not teach a simplistic "once saved, always saved" doctrine. Now hear me correctly: the Bible does not teach that a person can receive Christ and then live a godless life and still expect to be saved. Instead, the Bible teaches that true saints persevere to the end. Instead, the Bible teaches -- as Hebrews puts it -- that we are to "hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first" (Heb 3:14). Instead, the Bible teaches that true saints repent of their sin. Or, to put it negatively, the Bible teaches instead that unrepentant saints and false saints will suffer God's judgment.
Look back on 2015, my brothers and sisters. Have you listened to the voice of God? Have you repented of your sins? Have you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ? Or, have you hardened your heart and gone apostate and are now under the judgment of God?
We cannot end 2015 and start 2016 on such a negative note. So let me end with the one positive note of our Scripture reading. Did you happen to notice what is said in verse 13?
(Heb 3:13) But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today ...Encourage one another Today.
Encourage the little ones we baptized during 2015, by praying for them and their parents that God will guard and keep their souls and that they will respond in faith to the Gospel. Encourage those who professed their faith in 2015 to listen to the voice of God. Encourage those young couples who got married to serve God by making time for worship and family devotions. Encourage the aged saints and others facing the end of life to persevere to the end. Encourage the sinner to repent and the wavering and wandering to return to church.
As we end 2015 and start 2016 let us encourage one another daily to hear His voice and, by grace and through faith, we will all enter His rest.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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