Guard Against Unbelief

The Old Testament tells us about God and His plan for mankind.  It also describes the people of old with their successes and failures and how God dealt with them.  We can learn a lot from reading and studying the Old Testament.  From those who walked in faith, we can learn how we should walk.  From those who did not live as they should, we can receive warnings that apply to our lives today.  Consider this exhortation from Jude in Jude 5-7 “But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.  And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”  The examples Jude gives us are of angels who left the right way and of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with their sexual immorality who suffered the vengeance of God.  He also reminds us of the Israelites who were saved out of Egypt but later the whole generation was destroyed because of their unbelief; they did not enter the promise land.  We need to learn from these examples.

A similar warning is given in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.  But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.  Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.  And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’  Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.  Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  From the example of the Israelites, we learn that they initially were saved by Moses and were baptized in the cloud and in the sea.  But we also learn from them not to lust after evil things or become idolaters.  We learn that we must avoid sexual immorality.  We also learn not to complain against God.  Those who did these things were destroyed by the Lord.  The admonition is to let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  But the encouragement also is to remind us that God will provide a way of escape from any temptation.

We have another similar warning given in Hebrews 3:7-19 “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:  ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years.  Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’  So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’’  Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’  For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses?  Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

From this last passage of scripture, we learn a number of things.  We must not harden our hearts and be rebellious before God.  We must not test and try the Lord.  The result was that the Israelites did not enter into His rest.  I need to exhort you and you need to exhort me not to have an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.  Sin is deceitful so that we can harden our hearts and think that it is no problem to continue in our sin.  Instead, we need to repent and determine in our hearts to completely follow the will of God.  We need to be steadfast to the end.  When we continue to sin and do not obey, we may say that we believe, but our actions demonstrate that we don’t really believe.  We are not living by faith.  The Israelites who fell in the wilderness did not enter the Promised Land because of unbelief.  You and I will not enter our eternal home if we also have unbelief.

My encouragement to you is to strengthen your faith.  Learn from the bad example of the Israelites who fell in the wilderness because of unbelief.  Do not be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  Be steadfast to the end.