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Hebrews 3:7-12 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:55 mins

Hebrews Lesson 33  November 10, 2005


NKJ Psalm 25:21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You.


We are continuing our study in Hebrews. We are in Hebrews 3. We will touch on Hebrews 3 briefly in order to get our bearings this evening to make sure that we know where it is that we are headed, where the writer of Hebrews was headed, and why he is saying what he is saying. Beginning in Hebrews 3:7, the writer of Hebrews enters into his second major exhortation and warning section.


NKJ Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice,


I have made the point several times as we have gone into our study here that the writer has a didactic section and that didactic section concludes with an exhortation and warning. In some of these as we get a little further into the epistle, the warning section is not identical with the exhortation section. For example in this section the exhortation and the warning are the same. The entire section from 3:7 down through the end of chapter 4 is both an exhortation and a warning. The emphasis is placed on the quotation that comes out of Psalm 95.


NKJ Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you will hear His voice,


That is a direct quote from Psalm 95:7. Just as the writer of the psalm was challenging his readers and hearers in Psalm 95 to utilize the example of the rebellion of the Old Testament believers at Kadesh to be an example to them in their spiritual life in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, so the writer of Hebrews picks this up and by using that same word "today" he is modernizing the application bringing it into his presence. He says, "Today you need to listen." He is addressing his hearers in the first century. In the same way it makes the application more significant for us because the same principle holds true that is contained within these verses.  So he draws the exhortation. 


NKJ Hebrews 3:8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness,


That's the major idea that hangs throughout this passage. We are not to harden our hearts. Now we have to come to an understanding of what that means – to harden your heart. That is part of why I am going to do some background study this evening so that we can start to pick up a little more of an appreciation for exactly what is meant by this and what is not meant by this. 


NKJ Hebrews 3:9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.' 11 So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' " 12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;


The Lord is speaking.


The quote from Psalm 95:7-11 ends in verse 11. So he is drawing an application in verse 12. So if we follow his line of thinking he draws a conclusion out of the didactic section. 


Therefore understanding the significance of Christ's role as the one who sets the precedence for our spiritual life and the one who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross and then is elevated to the right hand of God the Father as our high priest and He has suffered being tested, He is able to aid those who are being tempted back in 2:18. He is drawing all that he has taught related to the role of Christ in His present high priestly ministry at the right hand of the Father. He says, "Therefore in light of that don't harden your hearts." Then there is a quote that refers to the example from the Old Testament. So he will make an application from the Exodus generation and then he drives the point home in verse 12.

NKJ Hebrews 3:12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;


The word there for departing is the word apostasy. It is where we get our word apostasy in the Greek, apostosia. That brings a lot of questions to a lot of folks' minds. There are basically three positions that are taken on these warning passages. There are three positions.


  1. This is referring to these are Old Testament generation as people who thought they were saved, but they weren't. They thought they were saved but they fell into unbelief and apostasy. The fact that they don't enter into God's rest indicates that they weren't ever saved. 
  2. The Arminian position is the position that they weren't ever saved to begin with. That is that the Exodus generation was not saved.  That is why they don't enter into the rest. The apostasy here is considered to be the fact that they are not saved. 
  3. They are saved but they don't enter into the rewards and blessings that God had for them in time in the Old Testament. That is how we understand the passage in the context of Hebrews. This is a warning to genuine believers who are born again, who are redeemed yet they failed to go forward in their spiritual life and failed to take advantage of all the blessing and privileges that God has given us. As a result of that the Old Testament generation didn't enter into the land. The Old Testament generation didn't realize the blessings that God had promised them in terms of entry into the land.  The point of warning for us is that we are to pay attention that and not fall into unbelief and not depart from a life of walking by the Spirit in obedience to the Lord and application of doctrine lest we jeopardize those blessings in time that God has already established for us  or the blessings in the Millennial Kingdom. 


So that is the backdrop. The problem is that for many of us that we get into conversations with folks and get into questions with people. They ask, "What you do with this passage?" Or they will talk about especially Hebrews 6. We will get there. They go to these passages and say, "Well doesn't that mean that you can lose your salvation?" So we have to understand how to answer those questions. Remember that Peter says that we always have to be ready to give an answer to the hope or the confidence that is in us. 


That is for every believer - not just for pastors or evangelists. We can't just say that it is in the Bible. We have to be able to give an answer, a defense, a logical rational defense based on the Scripture for why we believe what we believe. If someone asks, "Why do you believe that a person can't lose their salvation?  What about people who claim to be believers or Christians but they are murders or they commit this act or they commit that act. How can you say that that person is a Christian?" So you go to passages like this to help understand God's grace. God's grace is never dependent on what we do, how we act or the sin in our life because the sin is paid for completely by Christ on the cross.


In order to work our way through this passage and also to provide background for the rest of chapter 3 and all of chapter 4, in fact this is going to provide you with the Old Testament background for the next several chapters. I thought it would be good to do an review and overview of what happened to Israel at the time of the Exodus.  So we will go through several points to trace out what happened in the Old Testament.


First of all, Israel was in slavery. After Jacob and the boys moved from Judea in the land of Canaan down to Egypt at the time of the famine when Joseph was the vizier or the second in command in Egypt, they were ensconced and protected in the land of Goshen.  The Egyptians hated the Jews. The Egyptians were some of the most arrogant, racially proud people in the ancient world. They didn't want to intermarry with anybody else. They couldn't stand to be around any other races.  They thought they were just hardly a notch removed from deity. They didn't want these Semites from up in the land of Canaan coming and living with them and eating in their restaurants or shopping in their stores or anything else. So they isolated them in the land of Goshen. For some 300+ years the seventy that came down into Egypt with Jacob were increased exponentially by the Lord in His grace. Within that period of time and it has been demonstrated mathematically to be possible the population of the Jews increased from 70 to somewhere between 2 and 3 million. You have to grasp that number. 


What is Houston now? I think Houston is about 3 ½ million. So that is a little bit larger than the number of Jews that came out under the Exodus. That is a huge number of people. Moses really had his hands full. You think of all the logistics of trying to move 2 ½ to 3 million people through the wilderness. Now how do we come up with those numbers?  We come up with those numbers because a census was taken at the beginning of the book of Numbers that enumerates all of the adult males over the age of 20 so they know how many will be in the military. They are getting ready to go into the land to conquer it. There is a census taken at the beginning of Numbers. There is a census taken at the end of Numbers. There are approximately 650,000 males between the ages 20 or over.  If there are 600,000 male and if there is one female for every male that means you are up to 1.2 million. If every couple has just one child you are up to 1.8 million. If every couple has two children you are up to 2 ½ million. So that seems to be a fairly conservative estimate for the population of the Jews.  People question that because of the horrendous logistics, but remember God was in the business of working miracles through the desert areas. The Scriptures make it clear that their shoes didn't wear out. Their clothes did not wear out. God provided them with food on a daily basis so that Moses didn't have to figure out where the closest Safeway or HEB was.  He didn't have to figure out how to provide food for people. God miraculously took care of them on a day to day basis.  When they came out of Egypt, they came out as a result of God's discipline on the Egyptians for the way they treated Israel and their refusal to release them from slavery. 


General structure of events at this time


  1. There were 10 plagues to deliver or redeem or save (Those words are used in various passages.) the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Each one of the plagues became increasingly more horrific for the Egyptians.
  2. The final plague was the angel of death. God said that this would be the final plague. The angel of death would come and pass over or go through the land and the firstborn of every household would die. However if someone were to take a lamb that was without spot or blemish and sacrifice the lamb and spread the blood on the door posts of the house, then the angel of death would pass over that house. That is the origin of the word Passover. It goes back to the event where the angel of death passed over the house. So the households where there were believers trusting God to deliver and save them from that event, they would take a lamb without spot or blemish and sacrifice it and put the blood on the sides of the doorposts and across the top and a picture of how Christ would come as the lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. If you were to connect the dots you would have a cross. It is a type of the cross and it is a picture of how Jesus Christ would come as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. So anybody who trusts in the lamb at the Exodus event would not experience death in their household. In the same way anyone who trusts in Christ as their savior has eternal life and will not die.  In the final plague the angel of death would take the life of the firstborn. For those who applied the blood of the lamb there was the Passover. This is described in Exodus 10 and Exodus 11.
  3. As a result of that and the loss of his first born, the pharaoh releases the Jews from slavery. He just about commands them to leave the land.  So they depart but he has second thoughts and starts to pursue them. They get their back up against the Red Sea.  In the Hebrew it is actually the Reed Sea so we don't know its exact location.  It's not identical what you see on a map when you see the Red Sea. 
  4. God led the people by way of the Reed Sea when they had their back up against the water, no place to go. Then pharaoh and all of his chariots have them trapped. They were chasing them. The people panicked and complained to God. God delivered them. Throughout this time God is guiding them with a pillar of cloud by day and of pillar of fire at night. Think of yourself as a Jew. I want you to put yourself in their position. What are you are seeing empirically on almost a daily basis? You are seeing the miracles of God.  All through these consecutive plagues you are seeing God's judgment on the Egyptians because these plagues are not affecting the Jews in Goshen. It is selective. So their animals are protected. Their flocks, their herds are protected. Their sons are protected by the blood of the Lamb. So it's clear that God is protecting them. Once they are released and they are going through the wilderness, there is this miraculous supernatural guidance that takes place. You could stand there and see the cloud during the daytime and the fire at night. 
  5. The Pharaoh pursed them. The people are complaining to Moses. "Why did you bring us out here to be destroyed by Pharaoh? He's going to wipe us out. We are all going to be killed now." It shows that despite the fact that they see these miraculous events on a day to day basis, as soon as adversity comes, they start complaining groaning and griping to Moses and to God. They don't trust Him. But God rescues them anyway by parting the Red Sea. So they escape by God's miraculous deliverance. Now that must have been an awesome thing to see. The wind comes and blows the water back.  Instantly the ground is dry. Now that must have taken some time to get 2 ½ to 3 million people across the Red Sea and then to the other side. Then pharaoh's army pursued them. God stopped the wind and the waters came back and wiped out pharaoh's army. It was a tremendous thing to see. What's the people's response? Well, they were trusting God at this point.  We will come back to that in a minute. 
  6. From the Red Sea they spent three days in the wilderness of Sur. So they have to move through the wilderness for three days.  They arrive at a place called Marah, which is from the Hebrew word meaning bitterness. There the waters are bitter, probably some sort of alkaloid substance that has made the water bitter. What did the people do? They start groaning and complaining again. They put the Lord to the test. The Lord had Moses throw a tree into the water to make the water sweet. So Moses takes his tree and throws this tree into the water and all of a sudden it is drinkable. There is a lot of water here. This is not some small well. This is a huge watering hole where the water has turned alkaline. Now again this is described as a test. God is testing them. These are various adversities that the people are encountering along the way. Of course the purpose of a test is to reveal the doctrine that is in their soul. With them it is the lack of doctrine in the soul and their failure to trust the Lord. 
  7. From there they go to a place called the 12 Palms. Then they pass from there on to the wilderness called Sin. That is not sin that you think of in terms of disobedience to God. That is the short form for Sinai. In modern times we would probably call this the wilderness of Sinai down there in the Sinai Peninsula. A third time they complain. They start griping and moaning about the food.  "God there just isn't enough food here." So God provides manna in Exodus 16:2f . Not only that, He also tells them that in the evening He would bring them quail. In the morning they would have manna. I like to think that manna would taste like a good hot Shipley donut. It was fresh every morning and it was good. People who don't live in Houston have no idea what I am talking about. But if you are a native Houstonian and you ever move away from here you know what it is like to come back and have a nice Shipley donut. I used to wake up some mornings when I was in Connecticut and my mouth would water. I couldn't wait to get back to Houston and have a Shipley donut. It got kind of boring after awhile because day in and day out they had the same thing for breakfast. So once again they complained.
  8. As they continued on their journey to Sinai, they came to the next place called Rephidim. Now there is another test related to water. Notice how many of these tests relate to logistical grace provision – food, water and daily sustenance. The people complained again. We read in the text that they were testing the Lord. Exodus 17:3. It is at this place that two names crop up that are important for understanding the long range history of Israel because they always go back to this event. This place is called Massah and Meribah. Massah comes from the Hebrew word that means despair. The LXX translates it with the Greek word peirasmos. It is the Greek word for testing or temptation. It is a place of testing. God is testing them with the fact that there is no water. Another word that is used to describe this place is Meribah. Meribah means a place of strife or contention.  The LXX translated this with the Greek word loidoresis a place of reproach abuse or reviling. So Massah indicates the fact that God is testing them and Meribah reveals their response. They were complaining and griping and contending with God over the fact that they didn't have any water. God at that point directs Moses in Exodus 17:3 to strike the rock in order to get water. He is to strike the rock in order to get water. He is to take his staff and to hit the rock to get water. The text simply says that he did it. He took the staff and he struck the rock and out came water. Now this must have been a pretty significant flow of water. This isn't like going out in the back yard and turning on your garden hose. A garden hose wouldn't do a lot for 2 ½ million people. This is a significant flow of water. There is a river coming out this rock that is going to flow out into the desert. It would provide enough sustenance for all the people. This is a major miracle. Think about what the Jews have seen. You are one of these 2 ½ million people and you are going through the desert and you have already seen the ten plagues in Egypt. You have had your back up against the Red Sea. You have seen God deliver you miraculously at the Red Sea. You have seen the daily provision of manna every morning and the quail every night. You have seen God turn the water that was bitter into water that is now pure. Now you have come to Massah and Meribah and God is going to provide water out of a rock. Day after day almost, they are experiencing God's gracious provision in phenomenal ways. Yet they continue to complain. 
  9. After they leave Meribah and they are on their way to Sinai, they have a problem. They immediately run into one of the most hostile groups of people in the ancient world. This is a marauding band of terrorists. The size of the Amalekite hoards was quite large – several hundred thousand. Ancient records indicate that they migrated across the northern part of what we call Saudi Arabia today. They were moving in the direction of Egypt. Some people think that these are the Hyksos that eventually after this battle move on into Egypt and wipe out what is left of pharaoh's army. It has already been decimated.  The Egyptians were in a state of extreme weakness after losing their crack troops in the Red Sea. That's another story. The Amalekites are constantly a problem for Israel up until David finally defeats them. Saul almost wipes them out in I Samuel 16 but he doesn't do a full job. For that he is punished. That is the episode (I just love it) that Samuel lops the king's head off.  The Bible is so vivid. I just love these images. People today in political correctness wouldn't put any of this fun stuff in the Bible. So God gives them this great victory. This is the place where God tells Moses that as long as he raises his arms the Jews will have victory. But if he drops his arms then they will lose. So Aaron stands on one side and Hur stands on the other side they prop his arms up. He would hold his arms up for awhile and the Jews would win. It is almost like a football game. Things are going this way and then his arms get tired. Then the Amalekites are winning and he picks them up and it goes the other way. Finally they prop him up so the Jews have victory. It is another picture of God's miraculous deliverance.  Here is one of the worst most evil most vicious experienced military forces in the ancient world that come across a bunch of ex-slaves that couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag. No military training and very little organization yet they are defeated because the battle is the Lord's and the Lord gives them victory. The picture that I want you to see is that there is adversity after adversity and what happens? God provides the solution. What do they do every time they face the adversity? They gripe and complain. I know that it doesn't remind you of anybody that you know, but every now and then it reminds me of a few people that I know. Remember it is only a test. It's only a test.
  10. Then after defeating the Amalekites they come to Sinai. That is where they hear the voice of God delivering the law. If they would have had one of those Olympus digital recorders like I have in my briefcase, they could have plugged it into their laptop and recorded the voice of God in mp3 and preserved it for posterity. This isn't something that they are hearing in their heads. It is no some subjective experience that in their morning devotions. God spoke to them in their heart. That's not what is going on here. They hear the voice of God. It scares them to death. They are so fearful that they tell Moses that they can't handle this. They tell Moses to go up the mountain to get the rest of the law because they were scared to death to even hear the sound of God's voice. So there is empirical evidence of God's relationship with them. While he is up on Sinai they complain again and they fall right back into carnality. Aren't they a lovely bunch? They aren't any different from the rest of us. 
  11. They rebel by having Aaron build the golden calf. They worship the golden calf.  God comes down and there is another episode where God disciplines those who worship the golden calf. That's in Exodus 32:1-35. Then they move out from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea and the land that God graciously promised them because He gave it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
  12. Then we come to Numbers 11. As they are approaching the land there is this episode outside the camp where the people start complaining again. God punished them with this series that appears to be grass fires and brush fires that surround the camp.  It seems to threaten them with destruction. So they immediately turn to Moses and cry out for deliverance. Moses prays and God stops the burning. This place is called Taborah. Numbers 11:1-3. Not much is said about that particular incident. It is another instance where they are complaining about God's provision. 
  13. Then they start complaining about food again. They complained about food every time they turned around. They wanted to go back. The Egyptians must have had tremendous cuisine at that time because the Jews wanted to go back and have the tasty meats, leeks, garlic, and seasonings. It was sort of like when I was living in Connecticut I was always wanting Mexican food. You couldn't get good Mexican food up in New England. So I was always complaining that we couldn't get good Mexican food. Then I would think about this episode. They would complain about the food. God graciously supplies food for them. It was an overabundance of quail. They all get sick. In the process Moses recognizes that there is an administration problem so God gives him authorization to establish a chain of command to delegate various responsibilities to various leaders. The people become ill because of their hunger lust.
  14. Just after that Miriam and Aaron lead a little rebellion against Moses. God zaps Miriam with leprosy. Some sort of bacteria that starts eating her skin away. She becomes a lovely sight. Almost instantly within a nanosecond Aaron repents. He confesses and gets right back with God before it hits him. Once again Moses intercedes and prays. God says He will relent on Miriam but she must be outside the camp for a week. It is another instance of the people rebelling against God's provision of leadership. 
  15. Then you come to the major failure which is what took place at Kadesh Barnea. They are on the southern border of the Promised Land. This is it. This is the big event. So God tells them to send in spies – one spy from each of the 12 tribes. They were to go on a long range reconnaissance patrol and find out what the lay of the land was – not to see if they could take it as I pointed out last time. God said, "I have given this land to you." But 10 of them don't know how to exegete the Word of God and they don't know how to interpret it literally. So what they hear is God telling them to go into the land to see if they can take it. So they come back wining and complaining and thinking that they can't do it. There are giants in the land. There are too many people. Their cities are all fortified. They don't realize as we learned later from Rahab that the inhabitants of the land know all about how God brought them out of Egypt They know all about the Red Sea. They know everything that has been going on in the wilderness. The people in the land are scared to death that they are getting ready to get completely wiped out and destroyed by the God of the Jews. But the Jews have no trust in God and they wimp out. So God finally swears at that point as we saw last time that this generation will not enter the land. It is an accumulative effect. There has been disobedience and complaining and grumbling all the way along. It is not over yet.
  16. There are two more failures that occur. There is the rebellion led by Korah, Nathan and Abiram covered in chapters 16-22 which God has to discipline greatly. God has to kill several thousand of people in that rebellion. 
  17. Then the last rebellion is the sin of Moses and Aaron. Because Moses and Aaron disobeyed God in the same way that the rest of the nation has, God is going to punish them the same way. They are going to be prohibited from going into the land.  In this particular incident they do not have water. Moses goes to God and God says to speak to the rock. Instead of speaking to the rock he comes back to the people and he gets angry. He speaks out of anger. That is not what happened in Exodus.  Exodus says that he was to strike the rock and he struck the rock. Here he gets angry. He accuses the people. That is not what God told him to do. He speaks of himself and Aaron with the pronoun "we". He implies that it might not happen by putting it in a subjunctive case. It casts doubt on whether God will actually provide the solution. It makes it look like it is up to him – Aaron and himself - rather than God. The way that he structures his statement implies that it might not happen.  Then he disobeys God. Instead of speaking to the rock, he strikes the rock. But God in His grace still provides the water.  There are consequences for his sin and failure. They are prohibited from entering into the land.


That gives us a framework for understanding the history of Israel of their movement from the Exodus up to the time of the beginning of the 40 years in the wilderness. That is roughly what happens in the last two events. That's the beginning of 38 more years that they are going to spend wandering in the wilderness before they are allowed to enter the land. That's what provides the back-drop for understanding the psalms that is quoted in Hebrews 3. 


Now I pointed out the last time that the rebellion that is referred to here is that final act of disobedience and disbelief that takes place at Kadesh Barnea. 


The question is in light of all of this failure in light of all of these years of grumbling and complaining and every time they had an opportunity to trust God it seems like they failed, were the Jews in the Exodus generation saved? Are these people saved and not getting rewards or are they unsaved? That is the real issue that comes up. It is a major issue in this whole debate between people who hold to free grace which is our position. That is the current theological terminology for what we believe – that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. It's not enhanced by good works in the beginning. It's not necessarily demonstrated by good works on the back side. That is how lordship salvation seduces people. It says that if you are really saved then you will produce works that are in keeping with your salvation. But all that does is introduce works into the back door. It is a back door works oriented system. It's not really faith alone. If it is real faith, you have to have works accompanying it on the backside. That's not grace. That is work oriented salvation. 


So now we have to answer the question that I raised in the beginning. How do we know that the Exodus generation was a generation of mostly believers? How do we know that? They don't act like believers like most people do. That's what you will hear. Did you hear what so and so did? How can he be a Christian? They may not have any theological training or understanding but what they have just articulated is the lordship salvation position. How can that person be saved? Look at what they did? They lied. They had an affair. They performed some criminal activity. They're homosexual. How can they be a believer? Very easily. They trust in Christ as their savior. Christ died for all those sins just like He died for all of your sins. Some people don't have overt sins that are socially unacceptable. They get away from their self righteousness but not before God. So how do we know that the Exodus generation was a generation of mostly believers?


First of all, we have to understand what salvation was based upon in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament salvation was based upon faith alone in Christ alone just as it is based on faith alone in Christ alone today. Today though, we look back on a historically accomplished salvation that took place on the cross in approximately 33 AD. Jesus Christ died on the cross. He paid the penalty as a substitute for our sins so that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. But what about all those people who lived before Christ?  Some people think that they were saved by obeying the law. Some people think that is why God gave the law. 


I remember when I was just a young pastor in my first church I made the point that the Ten Commandments had nothing to do with today and I thought half the church was going to take me out and crucify me. I thought everybody understood that. I didn't realize how poorly most Christians are taught in relation to the Ten Commandments. If we just look at the events that have gone over in Israel's history from a perspective related to salvation, it is in the Exodus event that they are delivered from slavery that they are given the law. It is only after they are delivered from slavery that they are given the law. The deliverance from slavery, as we will see in a minute, is a picture of redemption from the nation. They are only given the law and the Ten Commandments after they are "saved" as a nation. 


The Ten Commandments weren't given to them in slavery but for their life style after being delivered from slavery. So in the Old Testament salvation was a matter of faith alone in the future promise of a deliverer. Remember that we say faith alone in Christ alone. Christ is the anglicized form of the Greek word christos, meaning the anointed one. Christos in the Greek is the translation of the Old Testament word mishyak which we anglicize as Messiah. 


  1. So their salvation was based on the anticipation of deliverance of the Messiah - that God would provide a deliverer, a prophet like Moses but greater than Moses. It was through that deliverer that they would be saved. It is still faith alone in Christ alone. It is just that they are looking forward to salvation and we are looking backward to salvation. But the object of faith is still the same. It is always the object of faith that has the power. It is not the faith itself that has power. It is the object of faith that has power. It is the promise of God that you believe. It is the work of Christ that you believe. It is the object of faith that has the power. The Mosaic Law was never given to provide justification. Justification is Paul's favorite word to describe salvation. It was never used that way. A couple of verses that you can latch on to to focus your thinking. Galatians 2:16 begins with a causal adverbial participle. It should be translated, "Because we know that a man is not justified by the works of the law." 


NKJ Galatians 2:16 "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.


A man could never be justified by the works of the law. It would be impossible is what Paul is saying. It is the object of faith that is important.  It is what Christ did on the cross. It is not expressing doubt on Paul's part. It is expressing the potential result of the faith that we have believed than we might be. There is a certainty there. To believe is to be justified by faith in Christ. Can he make it any clearer? Three times in there he says that the works of the law can't justify. No matter how good we are not matter how obedient we are it doesn't cut any ice with God. The issue is do we possess the same righteousness that God possesses. That means absolute perfection not the tiniest flaw. This is clear in Philippians 3:8-9. 


NKJ Philippians 3:8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;


In the previous context he described all the things that he achieved as a Pharisee. He was born into Judaism in the tribe of Benjamin. He has gone through the most excellent training of the Pharisees. He is a Pharisee of the Pharisees. No one had a reputation that surpassed Paul's. No one had a mind that was sharper than Paul's. No one understood the law better than Paul. He counted everything he did on his own as lost. That's not rubbish. That is an anemic word in the English for what the Greek says. Horse manure is a polite way to put it. It counts everything as dung. All those good works, all that morality and all that religious ritualism is nothing but dung compared to what Christ gives us. Phil 3:9. It is not what we do. At the instant of salvation God gives you Christ's righteousness. That's why He justifies you. It is justification by faith alone. Because you trust in Christ God imputes to you Christ's righteousness and declares you just because you possess the righteousness of Christ. Were these Old Testament believers coming out of Egypt justified? Let's look at what the Old Testament says. 

  1. When the people first heard Aaron they believed and they bowed low and they worshipped. We see this in Exodus 4:30-31. That's really a summation at the end of the chapter. This is when Aaron and Moses first come to the people. Aaron is Moses' mouthpiece. Moses describes how God called Moses to be their deliverer. Aaron spoke. 


NKJ Exodus 4:30 And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people.

NKJV Exodus 4:31 So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.


So once again there is empirical data supporting his position, his contention that Moses is going to be the deliverer. How do the people respond? The people believed. This is something interesting. We touched on this a little bit Tuesday night when we saw the faithful servant of Abraham go back to the homeland to find a bride for Isaac. Every time God answered a prayer he bowed his head and worshipped. He prostrated himself literally. The word means to worship. It is the idea of expressing gratitude to God for His provision. That attitude where we express thanks to God when He provides for us and answers our prayers is worship. That's worship. We get such crazy ideas today that worship is singing a bunch of songs that make you feel a certain way and make you emote a certain way. But you don't find that in the Scriptures. It has to do with orientation to God and His grace and humility and expressing what God has provided for us. The people here believed God. The word that is translated believe is a word that's familiar to us. It is the Hebrew word aman. We relate it even in our language today as the word amen. It has a cognate in almost every language in the world by the way. I think it is evidence that an early form of Hebrew was probably the original language spoken in the garden and through ancient history before the Tower of Babel.  It's a hiphel imperfect. It means to trust, to believe, to rely upon something. It's used throughout the Old Testament to express a condition of salvation. In fact in Genesis 15:6 we are reminded that Abraham had already believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness. That's the Old Testament foundation for the doctrine of justification. It is the same principle that we saw Paul describing in Galatians 2:16 and in Philippians 3:8-9. That is that when we trust Christ whether it was in anticipation as in the Old Testament or looking back in the New Testament, when we trust Christ God imputes or reckons to us His righteousness and declares us to be righteous. This is the same terminology that is used in Genesis 15:6. In fact six times the word aman occurs in Exodus 4. At the beginning of the chapter, Moses doubts the people would believe him.  But by the end of the chapter they do believe him. They believe and that is indicative of their salvation.

  1. Their belief is followed by worship and obedience. This indicates that they are trusting the message of God. That's the foundation for salvation. You see this in Exodus 4:13 and 12:27.
  2. Again they believe at the Reed Sea. This time you have it connected with the word jesua. Jesua is the Hebrew root word for the name Jesus. In fact Jesus in Hebrew is jeshua. Jeshua is another form of Joshua. This is only the second time that the word jeshua is used in the Old Testament. It's the noun salvation. The significance is emphasized here by the lack of usage.  The conclusion in that event is that God saved Israel that day. So they believed God at the Red Sea and He delivers them.  He saves them.
  3. They believed when they saw the deliverance. 


NKJ Exodus 14:31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.


Now what is interesting about this phrase is that again you have that same word aman. The New King James says that they believed the Lord. But literally in the Hebrew it says that they believed and then there is this little preposition b. The Hebrew word preposition for "in" is a single letter b. If you take that and put it into Greek it is the phrase pisteuo eis. Pisteuo eis is the phrase that John uses over and over and over again in John to express the condition for salvation - to believe in the name of Jesus. So the Old Testament terminology that is used in Exodus is the same terminology used in the New Testament. That indicates that the people believed in YHWH. They are indeed saved.

  1. In the song of Moses we see that Moses connects this salvation with the words for redemption and the word for being purchased. He connects these together in his song of praise given in Exodus 15. These three ideas of salvation redemption and being purchased are linked together. 


NKJ Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will exalt Him.


NKJ Exodus 15:13 You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation.


NKJ Exodus 15:16 Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O LORD, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased.


That is the Hebrew word qanah that means to buy, purchase or acquire something. Incidentally that is the root word for the name of Cain back in Genesis 3. Eve called her son Cain because she had acquired a man from the Lord. It is a synonym for redemption and purchase. So once again Moses is linking all of this together. The people are redeemed. They are a generation of saved Jews. 

  1. Now the final comment that locks all of this together comes out of the New Testament with the writer of Hebrews. This is in Hebrews 11:29 All the way through you are talking about believers. You have Adam. You have Noah. You have Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Joseph. They are all believers. Then we get down to 11:29.


NKJ Hebrews 11:29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.


He puts them in the company of a whole mass of believers down through the history of the Old Testament. They are understood by the writer of Hebrews to be a saved generation. They have passed through the Red Sea by dry land. 


Our conclusion is that they are a generation of saved people. They are believers. But they are a rebellious bunch of believers. They don't want to trust God on a day to day basis. Whenever adversity hits they complain, they gripe and they do anything but trust God. So the warning for us is not to be like the Exodus generation; but when we hit adversity in our life, we are to trust God and He is going to provide the solution for us. He is always going to handle the adversity. That's what provides the backdrop for understanding the principle in this chapter. 


Now we will close in prayer.