“I Believe. Help My Unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:7-19)

“…Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.” (Heb 3:6). I’m going to say that again, “Christ is faithful.” Let that wash over you for just a moment. If you’re like me, you live much of your Christian life operating under the idea that it’s you who has to be faithful. But let me tell you this: any faithfulness you have flows out of Jesus’ faithfulness to you—and he is faithful to those who belong to him. So, when we “hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” we are demonstrating our belonging to him; we are assured we are in his house.

With verse 6 in mind, we can look at verse 7, which starts with a hearty “therefore” and proceeds with a warning taken from Psalm 95. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” And the writer of Hebrews will say this two more times. He is reminding us that we’ve seen this story before—we know how this plays out. God’s people, Israel, were in the desert testing him (Exodus 17:1-7), and God patiently proved himself time and again. But they didn’t listen; they didn’t trust him. “They went astray in their hearts and did not know his ways.” (v. 10)

If you’re like me, you live much of your Christian life operating under the idea that it’s you who has to be faithful. But let me tell you this: any faithfulness you have flows out of Jesus’ faithfulness to you.

In the desert, the people focused on their circumstances rather than believing God’s promise. (Am I alone? Or does this sound familiar?) They even wanted to go back to their slavery because somehow that seemed better—at least slavery was predictable. The road to redemption is never easy. Ask anyone who has wrestled to bring some shameful, besetting sin to the foot of the cross. Ask Jesus, who walked the road of redemption through his suffering creation to pay for all those sins. That generation did not enter God’s rest—not because they couldn’t tough out their situation, but because they didn’t believe.

Unbelief. It’s a surprisingly benign word for such an insidious heart condition.

My husband is a firefighter-EMT. There are some professions that give you a very real sense of how broken this world is, and firefighter-EMT is one of them. One season, he went on several particularly tragic calls in a row—two sets of parents who lost children, a young man who took his own life, a marriage so sick that it ended in a scene Quentin Tarantino couldn’t conjure. “Career-enders” as they call these types of calls. I saw my husband trying to white-knuckle his way through that season, trying to tough it out and forgetting that God could be trusted. He was buried in the circumstances, and he dreaded going to work. But by God’s grace, through the exhortation of some of his brothers in the faith, and by holding to his original confidence in God and His goodness, my husband came through that season.

Unbelief. It’s a surprisingly benign word for such an insidious heart condition. It’s not an ugly word like rape, murder, gluttony, or deceit—words that instinctively register as negative in the conscience of most people. In John 6:29, Jesus says the work of God is to believe in the one he has sent. In Luke 9:24, the father of a demon possessed boy says to Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” And here in Hebrews 3, the author says Israel was unable to enter God’s rest because of unbelief. One of our biggest struggles (maybe it is our biggest struggle) is to believe—to believe that Jesus is who he said he is, to believe that he has forgiven us of all our sin, to believe that he is ruling and reigning even when things don’t make sense to us, to believe that he loves us with a,

“Never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”
—Sally Lloyd-Jones

Therefore, the warning, “take care my brothers…” is very necessary—there is a precedent for it. Sin is deceitful; it can harden our hearts; it can cause unbelief; it can rob us of God’s rest. And instruction is necessary too:

God has spoken by his Son, so our hearts cry, “Jesus I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Your Turn

  • What sin are you a slave to or do you keep going back to? What might it look like to walk the road of redemption in regard to that sin?
  • What circumstances are you toughing out on your own? Who might you call on to exhort you?
  • What are some promises God has for his children? How do they encourage you?

Consider Jesus (Hebrews 3:1-6)

“Jesus was a hippie who got good press.” I’m not sure who coined this phrase, but it captures what a lot of people think about who Jesus was—a long-haired, barefoot guy who walked around talking about love, and who someone wrote a book about. In the first part of Hebrews 3, the writer invites those “who share in a heavenly calling” to “consider Jesus”.

A heavenly calling

If you are a follower of Jesus that calling is heavenly. It originated from God—not from your own conscience or creativity, but from God. He chose you before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God who, as the hymn writer, Walter C. Smith, says is

Immortal
Invisible
The only One who is wise
Blinding light
Most blessed
Most glorious
The Ancient of Days
Almighty
Victorious
Worthy of praise

And that’s just the first verse. Your calling is heavenly—it came from heaven, it is the hope that you have in Christ in this life, it is the home you will go to when your time here is done. Praise Jesus!

Then when on earth I breathe no more
The prayer oft mixed with tears before
I’ll sing upon a happier shore
Thy will be done.
—Charlotte Elliott

The writer of Hebrews tells those of us who have this calling to consider Jesus—we are to consider him more than just a great moral teacher, more than just a historical figure, more than a prophet or priest.

  • He is the apostle and high priest of what we believe.
  • He is worthy of more glory than Moses.
  • He is the builder of all things.
  • He is the faithful Son.

Greater than Moses

Undeniably, Moses was a great man. Exodus 33:11 says, “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Wow! But God chose Moses to be His servant by his grace, and the purpose of Moses’ life was not to become a great man, but to give testimony to Jesus. Just like Jesus, Moses

  • Was born under the threat of death but protected by God.
  • Was raised in splendor, but he came down from his position of honor to be with his people.
  • Delivered his people from slavery and led them to the Promised Land.

But unlike Jesus, Moses was a sinful man. He had great need for the savior he was pointing to—just like we do. This is why the writer of Hebrews tells us to “consider Jesus”.

Your Turn

  • Who is Jesus to you? Has this view changed over the course of your life? Why does what you believe about him matter?
  • Have you ever thought of your calling to relationship with Jesus as heavenly? How does this encourage you?