The Word of the Lord
7/23 – If You Hear His Voice (Hebrews 4)
Introduction — Here the author encourages the followers of Christ to see Him as gloriously worthy of all worship and praise and obedience. The writer wants to make certain that those who hear God’s voice do not grow cold to God’s voice. Three times (3:1-4:13) the writer pleads with these folks, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” Those who hear God must obey God. How did the writer encourage them to obey God? First, they must continue to cultivate their faith in God. They must receive His rest. They must enter His rest. Second, they must see the power of God’s word. His word is living and active, able to judge the thoughts and intent of the heart. Third, they must realize that nothing Christ knows us fully. He is their high priest. He knows their struggles and He can fully sympathize with them. Fourth, they must hold fast their confession. Finally, they must draw ever closer to Christ through faith in Him. There they will receive mercy and find grace in their time of need. How about us? Do we hear God’s voice? And when we hear Him speak, how do we react? Do we shrug Him off? Do we harden our hearts? Or do we obey? Do we draw closer? Do we marvel at His word? Do we see the glory of Christ? Do we delight to hear His voice?
Today, if you hear His voice, [then] do not harden your hearts . . . to faith in God and obedience to God.
Do not harden your hearts to the promises of God. (1-11)
1 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.
11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
Comment: The author continues to point out the importance of staying faithful to God. He wants to make certain that no one even has the appearance of coming short—of not entering—God’s promised rest. He wants them to be diligent to enter that rest. He wants them to ensure that no one among them falls into a pattern of disobedience. In fact, just a few paragraphs before, the author reminds these Jewish Christians to “take care, brethren, that there not be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (3:12-13)The writer of this book wants these folks to have tender hearts to God’s promises. Question: Do we have tender hearts before God? Do we pay attention to God’s promises, especially the promise of rest in Him? Do we encourage each other to remain faithful to God? Application: Encourage a fellow Christian today, while it’s still today. Call that person. Send a text message to that person. Tell that person you’re praying for him or her. Urge him to keep on keeping on in the faith. Remind her not to even have the appearance of falling away from God, to avoid even the hint of unrighteous living. Tell this person you are praying for him. Be honest. Be bold. Be helpful. Be an encouraging friend and fellow believer.
Do not harden your hearts to the word of God. (12)
12 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.
Comment: The author now turns to a reminder about God’s word. The word of God is living and active. The word of God is sharp. The word of God is precise, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit. The word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Here the author shows that the word of God is able to cut through their hard hearts. The word of God is able to reveal where they might be falling into disobedience. The word of God is able to reveal their true motives. So, they must not close their hearts to the word of God. They must not turn away from the word of God. Question: Do we remain tender before God’s word? Are we cultivating a love for God’s word? Do we believe that God’s word is active and not antiquated? Do we believe that God’s word is sharp and not dull? Do we believe God’s word is powerful, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart? Application: Remind someone today that God’s word is powerful. Take him to this verse. Talk with him about this verse. Encourage one another with the word of God. Urge one another to keep on relying upon the word of God.
Do not harden your hearts to the Son of God. (13-16)
13 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. 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 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.
Comment: Here the writer draws these folks back to Christ. The writer shows them the supremacy of Christ. No creature hides from His sight. All things are open and bare before Him. All must give an account to Him. Christ is the high priest. He is the great high priest. He knows and can sympathize with our weaknesses. Christ was tempted in all things, yet He never sinned. He is the King. He extends mercy and grace to His brothers and sisters who seek Him. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory, and upholds all things by the word of His power (1:3). Jesus suffered death so that He might be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people (2:9-18). Jesus is the source of eternal salvation (5:9). Jesus is our hope, an anchor for the soul (6:19). Jesus is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him (7:25). Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant (9:15). Jesus is faithful (10:23). Jesus is the author and finisher of faith (12:2). He begins our faith and He completes our faith. Jesus sanctifies through His own blood (13:12). Jesus is the resurrected great shepherd of the sheep (13:20. Jesus Christ is Lord (13:20). All glory belongs to Christ forever and ever (13:21). Question: Do we remain tender before God’s Son? Do we see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6)? Do we long to know more and more of Christ? Do we think often about Christ? Do we cherish Him? Do we run to Him? Do we fix our eyes on Him (12:2)? Do we trust Him? Do we draw ever closer to Him? Application: Keep holding fast your confession of faith in Christ? Keep drawing near to Christ? Approach Him often. Approach Him boldly. Approach Him with confidence, knowing that He gives mercy and grace to us in our time of need. Come to Him. Behold Him. Listen to Him. Now. Today. If you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.
Word Study for Hebrews 4
1 rest (katapausis—resting place; cessation; sabbath day; a putting to rest)
2 united (synkerannymi—fit together; to be mixed with; blend with; combine; unite)
3 believed (pisteuo—believe; trust; put faith in; have faith in; entrust)
6 remains (apoleipo—leave over or behind; exists; allow)
6 disobedience (apeitheia—disobedience; refuse to believe; rejection of belief)
7 fixes (horizo—divide; separate from; decide; appoint; to act as boundary; decree)
7 today (semeron—this day; this very day; always)
7 if (ean—whenever; when; ever; whensoever; if)
7 hear (akouo—hear; be able to hear; receive news; pay attention to; understand)
7 harden (skleryno—be stubborn; cause to be stubborn; stiff; dry; inflexible; rigid)
7 heart (kardia—inner self; inside; mind; memory)
11 diligent (spoudazo—make haste; do quickly; be eager; apply oneself; devote oneself)
12 living (zao—be alive; life; to give life)
12 active (energes—effective; able to bring about; productive; powerful)
12 sharper (tomos—cutting incisively, keenly; sharpest)
12 piercing (diikneomai—go through; to reach (with missiles); penetrate)
13 hidden (aphanes—unseen; invisible; that is not manifest)
13 open (gymnos—naked; unarmed; unclad; easily known)
13 have to do (logos—word; statement; speech; message)
14 confession (homologia—agreement; profession; voluntary offering; acknowledgment)
16 draw near (proserchomai—approach; come to; seek association with; agree with)
16 time of need (eukairos—well-timed; suitable; favorable time; right moment; strategic; timely)
Application for Hebrews 4
Let’s continue to enter God’s rest.
Let’s continue to trust God.
Let’s continue to listen to God’s voice.
Let’s continue to have soft hearts toward God.
Let’s continue to remember that nothing is hidden from God.
Let’s continue to remember the power of God’s word.
Let’s continue to hold fast our confession.
Let’s continue to draw near to God.
Gospel Connections for Hebrews 4
Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus finished the work entrusted to Him. Jesus is our salvation. Jesus is our rest. Jesus is our great high priest. Jesus is living. Jesus is active. Jesus is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the hearts of all people. There is nothing hidden from His sight. Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus has been tempted in all things, yet He never sinned. Jesus speaks truth and comfort. Jesus speaks life now, today.
Thoughts and Quotes for Hebrews 4
Few people arise in the morning as hungry for God as they are for cornflakes or toast and eggs. ~ Dallas Willard, Hearing God
The willingness to obey every word from God is critical to hearing God speak. ~ Henry Blackaby, Hearing God’s Voice
We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior. ~ John R.W. Stott
While those around you are filling their minds with the bad news about man in their daily papers, steep yourself in the good news about God in His precious Word! ~ Billy Graham
We entertain God's Truth not as a guest but as master of the house. ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
Commentary for Hebrews 4
In this latter part of the chapter the apostle concludes, first, with a serious repeated exhortation, and then with proper and powerful motives.
I. Here we have a serious exhortation: Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, v. 11. Observe, 1. The end proposed-rest spiritual and eternal, the rest of grace here and glory hereafter—in Christ on earth, with Christ in heaven. 2. The way to this end prescribed-labour, diligent labour; this is the only way to rest; those who will not work now shall not rest hereafter. After due and diligent labour, sweet and satisfying rest shall follow; and labour now will make that rest more pleasant when it comes. The sleep of the labouring man is sweet, Eccl. 5:12. Let us therefore labour, let us all agree and be unanimous in this, and let us quicken one another, and call upon one another to this diligence. It is the truest act of friendship, when we see our fellow-christians loiter, to call upon them to mind their business and labour at it in earnest. “Come, Sirs, let us all go to work; why do we sit still? Why do we loiter? Come, let us labour; now is our working time, our rest remains.” Thus should Christians call upon themselves and one another to be diligent in duty; and so much the more as we see the day approaching.
II. Here we have proper and powerful motives to make the advice effectual, which are drawn,
1. From the dreadful example of those who have already perished by unbelief: Lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. To have seen so many fall before us will be a great aggravation of our sin, if we will not take warning by them: their ruin calls loudly upon us; their lost and restless souls cry to us from their torments, that we do not, by sinning as they did, make ourselves miserable as they are.
2. From the great help and advantage we may have from the word of God to strengthen our faith, and excite our diligence, that we may obtain this rest: The word of God is quick and powerful, v. 12. By the word of God we may understand either the essential or the written word: the essential Word, that in the beginning was with God, and was God (Jn. 1:1), the Lord Jesus Christ, and indeed what is said in this verse is true concerning him; but most understand it of the written word, the holy scriptures, which are the word of God. Now of this word it is said, (1.) That is quick; it is very lively and active, in all its efforts, in seizing the conscience of the sinner, in cutting him to the heart, and in comforting him and binding up the wounds of the soul. Those know not the word of God who call it a dead letter; it is quick, compared to the light, and nothing quicker than the light; it is not only quick, but quickening; it is a vital light; it is a living word, zōn. Saints die, and sinners die; but the word of God lives. All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever, 1 Pt. 1:24, 25. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words, which I commanded the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? Zec. 1:5, 6. (2.) It is powerful. When God sets it home by his Spirit, it convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It is so powerful as to pull down strong holds (2 Co. 10:4, 5), to raise the dead, to make the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk. It is powerful to batter down Satan’s kingdom, and to set up the kingdom of Christ upon the ruins thereof. (3.) It is sharper than any two-edged sword; it cuts both ways; it is the sword of the Spirit, Eph. 6:17. It is the two-edged sword that cometh out of the mouth of Christ, Rev. 1:16. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, for it will enter where no other sword can, and make a more critical dissection: it pierces to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit, the soul and its habitual prevailing temper; it makes a soul that has been a long time of a proud spirit to be humble, of a perverse spirit to be meek and obedient. Those sinful habits that have become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, and become in a manner one with it, are separated and cut off by this sword. It cuts off ignorance from the understanding, rebellion from the will, and enmity from the mind, which, when carnal, is enmity itself against God. This sword divides between the joints and the marrow, the most secret, close, and intimate parts of the body; this sword can cut off the lusts of the flesh as well as the lusts of the mind, and make men willing to undergo the sharpest operation for the mortifying of sin. (4.) It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, even the most secret and remote thoughts and designs. It will discover to men the variety of their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of them, the bad principles they are actuated by, the sinister and sinful ends they act to. The word will turn the inside of a sinner out, and let him see all that is in his heart. Now such a word as this must needs be a great help to our faith and obedience.
3. From the perfections of the Lord Jesus Christ, both of his person and office.
(1.) His person, particularly his omniscience: Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, v. 13. This is agreeable to what Christ speaks of himself: All the churches shall know that I am he that searches the reins and hearts, Rev. 2:23. None of the creatures can be concealed from Christ; none of the creatures of God, for Christ is the Creator of them all; and there are none of the motions and workings of our heads and hearts (which may be called creatures of our own) but what are open and manifest to him with whom we have to do as the object of our worship, and the high priest of our profession. He, by his omniscience, cuts up the sacrifice we bring to him, that it may be presented to the Father. Now as the high priest inspected the sacrificed beasts, cut them up to the back-bone to see whether they were sound at heart, so all things are thus dissected, and lie open to the piercing eye of our great high priest. And he who now tries our sacrifices will at length, as Judge, try our state. We shall have to do with him as one who will determine our everlasting state. Some read the words, to whom with us there is an account or reckoning. Christ has an exact account of us all. He has accounted for all who believe on him; and he will account with all: our accounts are before him. This omniscience of Christ, and the account we owe of ourselves to him, should engage us to persevere in faith and obedience till he has perfected all our affairs.
(2.) We have an account of the excellency and perfection of Christ, as to his office, and this particular office of our high priest. The apostle first instructs Christians in the knowledge of their high priest, what kind of high priest he is, and then puts them in mind of the duty they owe on this account.
[1.] What kind of high priest Christ is (v. 14): Seeing we have such a high priest; that is, First, A great high priest, much greater than Aaron, or any of the priests of his order. The high priests under the law were accounted great and venerable person; but they were but faint types and shadows of Christ. The greatness of our high priest is set forth, 1. By his having passed into the heavens. The high priest under the law, once a year, went out of the people’s sight within the veil, into the holiest of all, where were the sacred signals of the presence of God; but Christ once for all has passed into the heavens, to take the government of all upon him, to send the Spirit to prepare a place for his people, and to make intercession for them. Christ executed one part of his priesthood on earth, in dying for us; the other he executes in heaven, by pleading the cause, and presenting the offerings, of his people. 2. The greatness of Christ is set forth by his name, Jesus—a physician and a Saviour, and one of a divine nature, the Son of God by eternal generation; and therefore having divine perfection, able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him. Secondly, He is not only a great, but a gracious high priest, merciful, compassionate, and sympathizing with his people: We have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, v. 15. Though he is so great, and so far above us, yet he is very kind, and tenderly concerned for us. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities in such a manner as none else can be; for he was himself tried with all the afflictions and troubles that are incident to our nature in its fallen state: and this not only that he might be able to satisfy for us, but to sympathize with us. But then, Thirdly, He is a sinless high priest: He was in all things tempted as we are, yet without sin. He was tempted by Satan, but he came off without sin. We seldom meet with temptations but they give us some shock. We are apt to give back, though we do not yield; but our great high priest came off clear in his encounter with the devil, who could neither find any sin in him nor fix any stain upon him. He was tried severely by the Father. It pleased the Lord to bruise him; and yet he sinned not, either in thought, word, or deed. He had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in his mouth. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled; and such a high priest became us. Having thus told us what a one our high priest is, the apostle proceeds to show us,
[2.] How we should demean ourselves towards him. First, Let us hold fast our profession of faith in him, v. 14. Let us never deny him, never be ashamed of him before men. Let us hold fast the enlightening doctrines of Christianity in our heads, the enlivening principles of it in our hearts, the open profession of it in our lips, and our practical and universal subjection to it in our lives. Observe here, 1. We ought to be possessed of the doctrines, principles, and practice, of the Christian life. 2. When we are so, we may be in danger of losing our hold, from the corruption of our hearts, the temptations of Satan, and the allurements of this evil world. 3. The excellency of the high priest of our profession would make our apostasy from him most heinous and inexcusable; it would be the greatest folly and the basest ingratitude. 4. Christians must not only set out well, but they must hold out: those who endure to the end will be saved, and none but they. Secondly, We should encourage ourselves, by the excellency of our high priest, to come boldly to the throne of grace, v. 16. Here observe, 1. There is a throne of grace set up, a way of worship instituted, in which God may with honour meet poor sinners, and treat with them, and they may with hope draw nigh to him, repenting and believing. God might have set up a tribunal of strict and inexorable justice, dispensing death, the wages of sin, to all who were convened before it; but he has chosen to set up a throne of grace. A throne speaks authority, and bespeaks awe and reverence. A throne of grace speaks great encouragement even to the chief of sinners. There grace reigns, and acts with sovereign freedom, power, and bounty. 2. It is our duty and interest to be often found before this throne of grace, waiting on the Lord in all the duties of his worship, private and public. It is good for us to be there. 3. Our business and errand at the throne of grace should be that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Mercy and grace are the things we want, mercy to pardon all our sins and grace to purify our souls. 4. Besides the daily dependence we have upon God for present supplies, there are some seasons in which we shall most sensibly need the mercy and grace of God, and we should lay up prayers against such seasons—times of temptation, either by adversity or prosperity, and especially a dying time: we should every day put up a petition for mercy in our last day. The Lord grant unto us that we may find mercy of the Lord at that day, 2 Tim. 1:18. 5. In all our approaches to this throne of grace for mercy, we should come with a humble freedom and boldness, with a liberty of spirit and a liberty of speech; we should ask in faith, nothing doubting; we should come with a Spirit of adoption, as children to a reconciled God and Father. We are indeed to come with reverence and godly fear, but not with terror and amazement; not as if we were dragged before the tribunal of justice, but kindly invited to the mercy-seat, where grace reigns, and loves to exert and exalt itself towards us. 6. The office of Christ, as being our high priest, and such a high priest, should be the ground of our confidence in all our approaches to the throne of grace. Had we not a Mediator, we could have no boldness in coming to God; for we are guilty and polluted creatures. All we do is polluted; we cannot go into the presence of God alone; we must either go in the hand of a Mediator or our hearts and our hopes will fail us. We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. He is our Advocate, and, while he pleads for his people, he pleads with the price in his hand, by which he purchased all that our souls want or can desire.
God Has Spoken (1:1–3)
The author emphasized that God had spoken in the past through the prophets at many different times and in varied ways. He stated that the revelation God had given through Jesus was superior to that through the prophets. This was true because Jesus was the Heir, Creator, divine Reflection, Image of God, and Sustainer of the world. Jesus had cleansed our sins and then taken His seat at God’s right hand as a token of His finished work.
Our writer presented angels as servants God created to minister to believers. He portrayed Christ as God’s Son, who received the worship of angels and had an eternal existence. The superiority of Christ made the failure to believe on Him a fearsome experience. The author concluded that Christ’s incarnation and crucifixion enhanced His superiority and qualified Him to become a spiritual trailblazer for believers. This was true because the sufferings of Christ better equipped Him to help us as we suffer.
Christ was God’s Son who reigned over the household of God’s people. He was superior to Moses, who was merely a servant within God’s household. Jesus’ superiority to Moses made it a more serious matter to reject Jesus than to reject Moses. Our writer referred to the experience of Israel in Numbers 14:1–35 as an illustration of the seriousness of unbelief.
The writer showed that Joshua failed to lead the people of God to rest because of their unbelief. Jesus promised rest to His people if they believe and follow the promises of the gospel. This rest is not fully available in this life, but by faith we may experience a portion of its blessings now (see chap. 11).
Our High Priest (4:14–5:10). Our writer began with a summary of Christ’s work as our High Priest. Christ is our great High Priest who represents us in God’s very presence. God appointed Aaron as a high priest to represent people before God. Because Aaron was surrounded with weakness, he was able to have compassion on other weak, sinful people. Christ also faced hardship, and He learned the value of obedience by His commitment to God’s will. God called Christ to serve as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Our author explained this idea more fully in chapter 7.
1 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. 2 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. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,
“As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”
although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. 12 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. 13 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.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 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.
 Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 2386–2387). Peabody: Hendrickson.
 Lea, T. D. (1998). The General Letters. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (pp. 621–622). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Heb 4:1–16). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.