“…hold firmly to the faith…” Hebrews 4:14
When the believer’s thoughts are fixed upon Jesus, the Treasure of Life Eternal, the heart is kept from becoming hardened by sin. The writer introduces this imagery when quoting from the 95th Psalm, where we find the powerful five word phrase, “…do not harden your hearts…” (Ps. 95:7; He.3:15) This command is written to warn the follower of Christ on the consequences of sin and its pattern of drawing the heart away from God’s way, leading to the destruction of one’s testimony, family, work, influence, etc. The picture drawn by the author is that of not entering into God’s rest and peace… the promised land of a fulfilled life.
The writer recalls the disobedience of the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for forty years... all because they allowed their faith to wander into idolatry, bitterness, and complaining. An entire generation died without ever entering their ‘place of rest’ because of their disbelief, turning from God time and time again. At this point, the reader is introduced to God’s mercy in providing ‘today’ - the gift for any person to turn from sin and toward Jesus Christ. That's why it's called, The Present!. And, again, the imagery of a hardened heart is brought to the reader’s attention. (4:7) Just as calloused hands lack the ability to feel heat or pain, so a heart hardened by sin lacks in: sympathizing for others; understanding one’s own slavery to sin; and realizing one’s negative influence upon others. (v.11)
The urgency is compelling: the writer develops the argument of a Sabbath rest available to all who embrace God’s provision of rest through Jesus Christ. The rest experienced by the Believer is a rest from one’s personal works – efforts of personal achievement toward an eternal reward. All the ‘work’ was accomplished through Jesus Christ and any righteous or good work we accomplish in our flesh is only because of the good work begun in us at salvation. Our works cannot and will not qualify any of us for entrance into heaven’s security and rest… only God’s grace allows for such through the atoning work of the cross. (read Ep. 2:8&9) The earnest appeal to the reader is one of immediacy… tomorrow is not guaranteed… today is the day of salvation (v.7; 2 Co.6:2).
Serendipitously, the writer provides one of the most beautiful descriptions of God’s Word… like an oasis in the middle of a desert, God breathed these words through the writer’s heart and hands:
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword; it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (v.12)
The words are given to relate the source of God’s rest. The one searching for the promised land need to look no further than God’s Word, as it was The Word that became flesh (Jn.1) The writer exhorts the reader to “make every effort to enter that rest”. This is not to infer working for it, only to discover it. Where will it be discovered? In the Word that will never pass away. (read Is. 40:8; 1 Pt. 1:25; Mt. 24:35) The entire Word points to Jesus Christ, His promised arrival, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His still awaited return.
The Word also reveals to the searching heart, those things God uncovers to expose one’s need for healing and restoration. Immediately following verse twelve, the writer describes the power of God’s Word to expose our sin, our need, and our duplicity:
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.” (v.13)
Anything we try to coverup will be exposed; everything we expose before Him, He covers with His grace and mercy. (1 Jn. 1:9) This is why the discipline of time in God’s Word is so vital to the Believer. Not only does it act as a mirror for us to see ourselves as God sees us, but also to provide comfort in times of brokenness; direction when we’ve lost our way; exhortation for times we are tempted to wander; and affirmation of God’s way. Do you sometimes squirm as you struggle to understand the meaning for your life within the context of a portion of scripture? Or do you struggle to stay awake each time you open your Bible? It is a discipline which the enemy does not want any Believer to develop. Satan desires to disarm you, making you ineffective in your spiritual pursuit of holiness – rendering you unproductive for God’s service… a lie the devil wants you to believe. However, God can and will make all things new. He is the God of a second chance; the Mender of broken vessels; the Healer of broken hearts; the Restorer of fractured lives; and the Light to those who’ve lost their way in the darkness of their own sin.
Then a lifeline is thrown out to the reader. Five powerful words… to encourage and command the follower to never give up. It’s where we find today’s five understandable words:
“…hold firmly to the faith…” (v.14)
Why should any Believer hold firmly to his/her faith after failing God for the umpteenth time? Because we have a high priest who understands our weaknesses, and has experienced temptation’s lure – yet without sin. We are invited to draw near to God throne of grace with confidence… in doing so, we receive mercy and are given the grace to empower us in our very time of need. (read v.’s 14-16) He is able to continue the work He began in you, and to complete it in His time.
Hold firmly to the faith.... God is the author and finisher of our faith (He. 12:1); and it is the faith to which we cling in the tempest of life. Hold firmly to Him, as if you were being tossed in a huge torrent of life's wrestless sea... as if your life depends on it; because it actually does. Do not let go under any weakness on your part. Hold fast to your confession and He will see you through to your promised rest... your promised land of peace.
He must increase,
steve (John 3:30)