Hebrews: God Speaks. Do We Hear?
Adult Bible Classes April 17 & 20 - Hebrews 4
“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” (Hebrews 4:2)
One theme interwoven throughout the book of Hebrews is the relationship between God speaking and our hearing. Acknowledging God’s authority, our response to His word and believing in the word’s power are all essential for our hearing to be profitable.
The Word of God is inspired or “God-breathed.” It is an intimate picture of how He chooses to communicate with His hearers. It will profit us well if we remember WHO is speaking. God is sovereign: “Forever, O Lord, Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89). Only God is capable of directing our paths. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
As hearers, do we respect God’s Word, or are we offended by it? Our response tells the story. Through the word, we see God and how God sees us. God uses His Word to show us our sin and the unbelief in our hearts. Hearing God’s Word with a soft heart will result in continual growth that desires to know Him more fully and be ever pleasing to Him. Are we open to being changed by God’s word? After hearing the Word, we have a choice in our response.
Notice the response of Christians after the apostle Peter preached the gospel on the the day of Pentecost. "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart." This response in hearing the Word was profitable to them because it led them to action, asking Peter and the other apostles, “ ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38).
In contrast, the Jews of the Council, after hearing the Word spoken through Stephen, responded in a much different way. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him” (Acts 7:54). Their hard hearts were shown in their resulting action of stoning Stephen to death.
The writer of Hebrews encourages his hearers not to have hardhearted response but let the hearing of God’s word be a blessing to them and not a curse. “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).
The Word of God is powerful to change hearts to be pleasing to Him. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
In Hebrews, God encourages these newly converted Christians from Judaism to be diligent that their hearing of His Word yield profitable results. He warns them not to be like those of the past whose hearing was not useful to them because it was not joined with faith. The Hebrew writer describes a physical example as seen in nature of the varied results of hearing God’s word: “For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned” (Hebrews 6:7-8).
Just like these new converts to Christianity, we too need encouragement to correctly hear God’s Word so that it can yield the useful results of growing our faith. This correct hearing will profit us and them as seen in an active personal relationship with God, holding fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm to the end.
When we recognize God for who He is in relation to who we are, we readily accept His authority and the authority He has given Christ, for speaking to guide us in our lives. We respond to His word and strive to make and keep our hearts soft and tender before Him. We allow the power of His word to pierce us in such a way to change us to be more aligned to His will and His purposes and not that of our own.
Profitable hearing allows us to say, "Not my will, Lord, but Yours be done" (Matthew 26:42). When our hearing of the Word yields useful results for growing our faith, we will receive blessings from God. “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
As we prepare to enter chapter 4 this week, think about these questions concerning Hebrews 4. Bring your thoughts, your Bible and a friend to our next class--we would love to have you with us!
- What do we know about the “rest” that God has prepared for us?
- In what ways can we be diligent to enter God’s rest?
- What examples of disobedience are given in the text as to why some did not enter God’s rest?