SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2014
WE should not split our head over the authorship of the Letter to the Hebrews, as the debate about it is open ended. It is true, a school of thought attributes it to Paul and goes ahead to say that Timothy was a friend to the author (Heb. 13:23). Another school of thought, particularly scholars in Alexandria led by Origen, had their doubts about Pauline authorship because it differed from the Pauline letters in literary style and theological language. However, we must agree that this letter is challenging and strengthens Christian faith in every generation.
It should be noted that the author of the letter to the Hebrews took his quotation from Psalm 95:7(d). Earlier in verses 1-6 of the same Psalm, David the author had invited God’s people to come into His presence to worship Him. He reminded them that God is the Creator of all things and that the whole creation lives by His bounty. But most important of all, that He is their God and they are His people, the sheep of His pasture. It was only after this recital of the goodness of God and the invitation to worship that the solemn warning was given.
Recall that during Israel’s wilderness experience, the evidences of God’s goodness and care surrounded it. When Israelites were hungry, He fed them with manna and when they were thirsty, He gave them water to drink by asking Moses to speak to the rock for water. And yet, many of the people, who witnessed these, missed the encounter with God. Their problem was not the gross carnal appetites, but ‘hardness of heart’ or, as we might render it, insensitivity. ‘They simply had too many things on their minds to give heed to the presence of God among them’ (Warren A. Quanbeck).
At the time of the writer of Hebrews, he was still faced with the same situation Moses faced in his own days. It compares the readers to Israel in the wilderness and suggests that their lukewarmness would cause them to fall away from the living God and eventually miss their deliverance. It has been suggested that the letter to the Hebrews was targeted at a Jewish community. Certain apostles and prophets had visited this Jewish community. Under the preaching of these apostles and prophets that had heard the gospel, some had believed unto salvation, others had believed, but had not committed themselves to that belief. Rather, they were hanging on to the edge of believing, not willing to commit themselves because of the fear of persecution and the love of their own sins; then a third group was not convinced at all, as it was just there.
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There was an urgent call unto them to turn unto God for the salvation of their souls. It is never in the mind of God that any should perish as the scripture confirms: ‘for I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the sovereign Lord. Repent and live!’ (Ezek. 18:23, 32). The writer says today, if you hear His voice…harden not your heart. I think it is also a warning unto the present generation of Christians not to take God for granted. As the word of God is being preached, we need to urgently respond to it.
Therefore, the hour of grace is now, today, immediately and so men are called upon to return to Him. The writer is particularly concerned and would wish that the Jews and by extension believers of today, should hear the voice of God and respond immediately. Read these Bible passages: Deut. 8: 1, 6 11, 19-20; Prov. 12:24, 13:4; Matt. 25:1-13; Lk. 12:40, 19:5-6; Col. 3:23-24; James 4:13-14. It is important we make the decision to respond now.
We are not to repeat the mistake of the great preacher L. Moody when he preached one night in Chicago, he said: “Go home and think about what I have said, come back tomorrow night ready to make a decision.” That night, the Chicago fire broke out and half of his congregation died.” That was the last time he said, ‘I ever told anybody to go anywhere and think about it.’ Now is the moment of salvation. And so, the word of God says, “Harden not your hearts, but today hear his voice.”