Hebrews 3:19
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
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(19) So we see.—Rather, And we see. It is not the general conclusion that is here expressed; but, as in Hebrews 3:18 we read of the oath of exclusion, this verse records the fact, and also states the cause under an aspect which is most suitable for the exhortation which is in the writer’s thought. There is force in “could not enter”:—not only disobedience, but cowardice and weakness, sprang from “unbelief.”

Hebrews 3:19. So we see, &c. — The conclusion we draw from the whole is, that they could not enter in because of unbelief — Though afterward they desired it. In looking over the whole story of the sins of the Israelites, and of God’s dealings with them, one would be apt to fix upon some other causes of their exclusion from Canaan, as the Jews, their posterity, do at this day. But our apostle here lays it absolutely and wholly on their unbelief, which he proves to have been the chief spring and cause of all their provocations. From this, in particular, proceeded that cowardice which made them refuse to march against the Canaanites, when the spies brought them information concerning the giants whom they had observed in the country, the sons of Anak, and the large and well-fortified cities. But how inexcusable was this their unbelief, considering the many astonishing miracles which God had wrought for them, before he gave them the command to enter Canaan! “The conclusion,” says Macknight, “of the apostle’s reasoning concerning the sin and punishment of the ancient Israelites, contained in this verse, ought to make a deep impression on every reader, since it shows, in the strongest colours, the malignity of unbelief, and teaches us that it is the source of all the sin and misery prevalent among mankind. Our first parents sinned through their not believing God, when he said, In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die; and their posterity sin through their not believing what God hath suggested to them by their own reason, and by revelation, concerning the rewards and punishments of a future state.”

3:14-19 The saints' privilege is, they are made partakers of Christ, that is, of the Spirit, the nature, graces, righteousness, and life of Christ; they are interested in all Christ is, in all he has done, or will do. The same spirit with which Christians set out in the ways of God, they should maintain unto the end. Perseverance in faith is the best evidence of the sincerity of our faith. Hearing the word often is a means of salvation, yet, if not hearkened to, it will expose more to the Divine wrath. The happiness of being partakers of Christ and his complete salvation, and the fear of God's wrath and eternal misery, should stir us up to persevere in the life of obedient faith. Let us beware of trusting to outward privileges or professions, and pray to be numbered with the true believers who enter heaven, when all others fail because of unbelief. As our obedience follows according to the power of our faith, so our sins and want of care are according to the prevailing of unbelief in us.So we see ... - We see from the direct testimony of the Old Testament that unbelief was the reason why they were excluded from the promised land. Let us learn in view of the reasoning and exhortations here:

(1) The evil of unbelief. It excluded that whole generation, consisting of many hundred thousand souls, from the land of promise - the land to which they had looked with ardent hopes, and with warm desires. It will exclude countless millions from heaven. A "lack of confidence in God" is the great source of evil in this world, and will be the cause of wretchedness to all eternity of unnumbered hosts. But surely that was not a small or unimportant thing which strewed the desert with the bones of that whole generation whom God had in so remarkable a manner rescued from Egyptian servitude. And that cannot be a small matter which will cause multitudes to sink down to infinite wretchedness and despair.

(2) let us who are professed Christians be cautious against indulging unbelief in our hearts. Our difficulties all begin there. We lose confidence in God. We doubt his promises, his oaths, his threatenings. In dark and trying times we begin to have doubts about the wisdom of his dealings, and about his goodness. Unbelief once admitted into the heart is the beginning of many woes. When a man loses confidence in God, he is on a shoreless ocean that is full of whirlpools, and rocks, and quicksands, and where it is "impossible" to find a secure anchorage. There is nothing to which he may moor his driven bark; and he will never find safety or peace until he comes back to God.

(3) let us live a life of faith. Let us so live that we may say with Paul, "The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." So living, we shall have peace. The mind will be at rest. Storms and tempests may blow, but we shall be secure. Others may be troubled in the vicissitudes of life, but our minds will be at peace.

(4) let us live expecting the future "rest" that remains for us. Let us keep our eye fixed upon it. To us there is a rest promised, as there was to the Hebrews whom God had delivered from the land of oppression; and we may by faith attain to that "rest" as they might have reached the land of Canaan.

(5) let us persevere to the end. He that draws back must be lost. He that does not endure to the end of life in the ways of religion can never have been a Christian. There is nothing which will furnish certain evidence of religion unless our piety is such as to lead us to persevere until death. The man who enters on the professed Christian life expecting to fall away, or who can look upon the possibility of falling away without concern, has never known anything of the nature of true religion. He cannot be a Christian. He may have had raptures and visions; he may be a loud professor and a noisy and zealous partisan, but he has no evidence that he has ever known anything about religion. That religion which is not connected with a firm and determined purpose by the grace of God to persevere to the end of life, is no true religion; and a man who expects to fall away and go back again to the world, or who can look at such an idea without alarm, should regard it as a settled matter that he has no true knowledge of God.

(6) no man should delay the work of salvation to a future time. today is the accepted time; today the only time of which we have any security. God speaks "today," and today his voice should be heard. No man on any subject should defer until tomorrow what ought to be done today. He who defers religion until a future time neglects his own best interest; violates most solemn obligations; and endangers his immortal soul. What security can anyone have that he will live to see another day? What evidence has he that he will be any more disposed to attend to his salvation then than he is now? What evidence can he have that he will not provoke God by this course, and bring condemnation on his soul? Of all delusions, that is the most wonderful by which dying people are led to defer attention to the concerns of the soul to a future period of life. Nowhere has Satan such advantage as in keeping this delusion before the mind; and if in respect to anything the voice of warning and alarm should be lifted loud and long, it is in reference to this. O why will not people be wise "today?" Why will they not embrace the offer of salvation "now?" Why will they not at once make sure of eternal happiness? And why, amidst the changes and trials of this life, will they not so secure the everlasting inheritance as to feel that that is safe - that there is one thing at least that cannot be shaken and disturbed by commercial embarrassment and distress; one thing secure though friends and kindred are torn away from them; one thing safe when their own health fails, and they lie down on the bed where they will bid adieu to all earthly comforts, and from which they will never rise?

19. they could not enter—though desiring it. The execution of the matter sworn was felt by these Hebrews, which should make them and all that read it to dread both their sin and punishment, which the gospel would as justly inflict on them, if unbelievers. It is to be seen in God’s written record of it, and the experienced downfal of such, that God’s oath had shut the door as to their entrance there, and his judgments consumed them in the wilderness, because of their denial of resting on God’s word, and the impious practices that issued from it, in their rejecting promises, rebelling against precepts, and murmuring against providence. God is no respecter of persons; if we sin so against his Son and gospel, how much sorer punishment will overtake us! Hebrews 10:27,29.

So we see that they could not enter in,.... To God's rest, the land of Canaan, for they died by the plague before the Lord, and their carcasses fell in the wilderness, before they came to it, Numbers 14:37 and the reason was,

because of unbelief; their distrust of God, his power, and his providence; this instance is produced by the apostle, to show the evil nature of unbelief, and the sad effects of it; to deter persons from it, and that they might take heed of encouraging it; and which instance he further improves in the following chapter.

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Hebrews 3:19. Closing result from Hebrews 3:15-18.

καὶ βλέπομεν] thus we see then. Grotius (to whom Carpzov and others assent): “Ex historia cognoscimus.” But more correctly Seb. Schmidt (with whom Owen, Bleek, Alford, and others agree): “βλέπομεν non de lectione aut cognitione historiae, sed de convictione animi e disputatione seu doctrina praemissa.”

διʼ ἀπιστίαν] on account of (their) unbelief. Placed with emphasis at the end.

Hebrews 3:19. They did not believe God could bring them into the promised land in the face of powerful opposition and so they would not attempt its conquest when commanded to go forward. They were rendered weak by their unbelief. This is pointed out in the concluding words καὶ βλέπομεν … where the emphasis is on οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν, they were not able to enter in, the reason being given in the words διʼ ἀπιστίαν. The application to the Hebrew Christians was sufficiently obvious. They were in danger of shrinking from further conflict and so losing all they had won. They had begun well but were now being weakened and prevented from completing their victory; and this weakness was the result of their not trusting God and their leader.

19. So we see] Lit. “and we observe.” The translators of the A. V. seem by their version to regard the words as a logical inference from the previous reasoning. It is better, however, to regard them as the statement of a fact—“we see by the argument,” or ex historia cognoscimus. Grotius. See Psalm 106:24-26.

that they could not enter in] They did make the attempt to enter, but failed because they lacked the power which only God could give them (Numbers 14:40-45).

Hebrews 3:19. Οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν, they were not able) though they afterwards had wished it.


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