An Allegory of the Christian Life: Hebrews 3:14-19
“14) For we have become partakes of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end: 15) while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.” 16) For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17) And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18) And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19) So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” Hebrews‬ ‭3:14-19‬
We are now confronted with sober truth about the Jewish people who left Egypt under Moses. Many of them were sinful, rebellious and disobedient. They wanted political freedom from slavery to Egypt, but they didn’t want God to be Master over them. They constantly opposed Moses and lived openly sinful and rebellious lives. They grumbled and complained. They repeatedly tested and provoked God. They were immoral and even carried idols with them.
It took forty years in the wilderness for God to purge and purify that generation. I often say that it took God one day to bring Israel out of Egypt, but it took forty years to take Egypt out of His Israel. God was angry with them. Verse 17 says; “their bodies fell in the wilderness.” Very few of the adults who left Egypt entered the promised land.
What was the problem? According to verse 15, they had hard hearts. Verse 16 notes that they provoked God. Verse 17 indicates they were given to sinful living. Verse 18 adds they were disobedient, and verse 19 says they were filled with unbelief. As chapter four begins, we discover they had no fear or reverence for God.
Keep in mind, this was the generation that witnessed the signs and wonders God performed through Moses in Egypt. They saw all the plagues as the false gods of Egypt were humiliated. They crossed the Red Sea on dry land while the army of Egypt perished. They were led by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Yet they grumbled and complained. God provided water from the rock and daily manna. When they stood before Mount Sinai and the glory of the Lord descended, the whole mountain quaked and smoked while a loud trumpet sounded.
But when Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, they pressed Arron into making a golden calf. It soon deteriorated into a drunken orgy. God was so angry He wanted to destroy all of them, but Moses stood in the gap and pleaded for restraint. Many did die in the plagues that followed. For the next forty years God put up with that rebellious generation until they all perished. It was their children who grew up in the wilderness and learned the ways of God that eventually entered the promised land.
This story becomes a New Testament allegory of the Christian life. Salvation is pictured as Israel leaving Egypt. Sanctification is pictured by God cleansing and purging His people in the wilderness. We are called to crucify our flesh and put to death our sinful ways. And maturity and walking in the Spirit are illustrated by Israel entering the Promised Land. We are reminded that salvation is an event, but full conversion and sanctification are ongoing processes.
There is a daily need to learn, feed on the manna of the Word, confess and repent of our sinful ways, ask God to soften our hearts, put off the old self and put on the new self. We need to yield to God and learn to obey Him. Every believer needs to take self off the throne and make Jesus Christ Lord and Master of their life. Like Moses, we are called into daily fellowship with God.
But the big difference is that we live after the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We are living in a different age. We are living in the church age. We are living in the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are living in the age of grace, inner strength and Divine enablement. Our journey need not take forty years. There is a big difference.
In the Old Testament, God worked on people from the outside through the Law. In the New Testament, God works from inside every believer through His Holy Spirit. The dynamics have radically changed, but the process is not forced. Every believer needs to walk in faith, obedience and submission to God through the process. As Paul said in Philippians 1:12, every believer needs to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” They need to corporate with God through the sanctification and conversion process. Notice that I view conversion and the sanctification process as synonymous.
Where are you in the process? Are you still in Egypt and in need of putting your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation? Are you in the wilderness and wrestling through the sanctification process of putting off the old and sinful self and putting on the new self? Or have you entered the Promised Land and learning how to live in submission and obedience to God and enjoying His rest? Are you living in moral freedom? Are you learning how to walk in faith by His Spirit? Are you starting to produce abundant fruit for the glory of God? Has God radically changed your life? Have you made Jesus Christ both Master and Lord of your life? Are you living with a holy fear and reverence for God?
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global