Two Unique Generations: Hebrews 3:7-11
“7) Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, 8) Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9) Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, And saw My works for forty years. 10) Therefore I was angry with this generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they did not know My ways’; 11) As I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”” Hebrews‬ ‭3:7-11‬
Notice the emphasis on the generation that came out of Egypt in these verses. That generation witnessed a major change in the times. The Law and the full sacrificial system was ushered in during that generation under Moses. As the previous verses state, he was faithful in his generation as a servant.
I maintain the book of Hebrews was written to another unique generation. They were the generation that witnessed the earthy ministry of the Messiah and the new wine skins He brought. That generation faced some very unique challenges. It was to them the book of Hebrews was originally written.
It is at this point that I need to make two very broad observations. First, notice the extensive quoting of Old Testament Scripture in the book of Hebrews. Why do you suppose that is? I surmise as the name of the book indicates, this was a defense of the person and work of Christ as Messiah to the Jewish nation. It was a book uniquely written for the “Hebrews.”
The second observation now becomes important as well. When was the book written? It must be noted that it was written to the generation Jesus had personally ministered too. They were the generation who beheld the events surrounding His birth. They beheld the ministry of John the Baptist introducing Jesus as the Lamb of God to Israel. They heard the teaching of Jesus, witnessed His miracles, watched his betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection. They tasted of Pentecost and the early ministry of the Apostles in the book of Acts. They also became the first wave of persecuted Jewish believers who lost everything for following Jesus. (See Hebrews 10:32-39). It was a very confusing time for that generation.
Many of them were tempted to fall away from Jesus as the Messiah and return to Orthodox Judaism. I will deal more with this concept when we get into chapters six and ten. Here is my point, the context of the book of Hebrews is not talking about Gentile Christians that backslide and fall into sin. It is not dealing with the question of whether or not a Christian can fall into sin and loose their salvation. It is dealing with the issue of what happens to the Messianic Jewish believes who were tempted to forsake Jesus as the Messiah and were then trying to go back and embrace Old Testament Judaism.
Just a brief point of history that is important to keep in mind when studying the book of Hebrews. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. Up to that point, Orthodox Judaism was in full swing in Jerusalem. It included everything written in the Law of Moses including the priesthood, the Levites, the sacrificial system, Jewish holidays, festivals, keeping the Passover and Pharisees who were diligently trying to be justified by keeping the works of the Law.
In a very real sense, Jesus was born into the renaissance age of Judaism. The whole system was alive and thriving in His time. The temptation for persecuted Jewish believers to turn away from Jesus as Messiah and go back to Orthodox Judaism and think they were still worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses was huge and very real.
When the book of Hebrews is read and applied outside of this historical context, much confusion and many errors of interpretation quickly follow. How liberating was the day when the Holy Spirit open my mind and heart to the above historical context interwoven into the book of Hebrews. That generation faced very unique challenges.
The book became even more crucial for the nation of Israel after the destruction of the temple. Suddenly, all of the types, patterns, festivals, offices like the priesthood, absence of the sacrificial system and Old Testament shadows of the heavenly realities came into focus. It was written to be the cloud by day and fire by night to guide the nation of Israel through another wilderness and into a new promised land.
Christians from a Gentile background are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to understanding the book of Hebrews. This is the book the Holy Spirit uses to take away the veil for Jewish believers. (See 2 Corinthians 3) It unlocks the mysteries of the whole Old Testament and repaints it in technicolor.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global