13 Nov 2020

We have looked at “unbelief is the most dangerous sin”. Two passages from Scripture illustrate this very clearly:

“Take care,brethren lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God (Heb. 3:12)…And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief (Heb 3:18-19)”.

“For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Heb. 4:2).

The author in the book of Hebrews recalled the plight of the Israelites when they failed to enter the promised land because of unbelief, and the unwillingness to trust God and to exercise faith in Him. That generation which rebelled against God in unbelief ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years until all of them (except Caleb and Joshua) perished; only the next generation was allowed to be led by Joshua into the promised land and to enter God’s rest. The promised land is a ‘type’ of the ultimate rest in God in the new heavens and new earth, the rest promised to all those who believe in Jesus. We who believe in Jesus have this hope and rest to look forward to, even in the midst of living in a broken world with broken relationships and much ‘unrest’.

Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt in the exodus; led and sustained by God in the desert and at the point when they were to enter the land of promise, they were fearful of the ‘giants’ in the land and they forgot all that God had done for them before that. The past events and deliverances by God should have stirred and kept alive their faith in God and helped them to recall God’s faithfulness and their need to obey Him and trust HIm; yet the people focused on the hindrances and impediment before them and lost their focus on God even though God had promised to fight on their behalf and to give them the land. The Israelites’ unbelief ought to be an important lesson for us today as God’s people. We must remember God’s goodness and deliverance in the past as we focus on God’s promises for the future. Disobedience and unbelief often follow when faith, hope and memory in God ‘recede’.

“But if some of the branches were broken off and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the roost, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in. That is true.They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not be proud but stand in awe’ (Romans 11:17-20).

Notice that Paul was referring to the Israelites as God’s people and comparing them to the Gentile believers. Paul was saying that some of the branches (the believers among Israel) were broken off from the olive tree because of unbelief whilst the gentile believers who were likened to a wild olive shoot were grafted in because of their faith and they ought to continue to exercise faith in God and not be arrogant and end up in unbelief, and be similarly cut off from the olive tree. To belong to God’s people requires the exercise of faith; unbelief may end up being ‘cut off’; but the subsequent verses also reveal that the cut-off branches can be grafted in again if they do not continue in their unbelief.

We see here the importance of exercising faith in God and in what He had accomplished for us in Christ and to continue in faith, and not allow unbelief to ‘surface’ in our lives as God’s people. The Scripture clearly teaches this truth.

Our future depends on how faithfully we maintain faith in, and fidelity to, Jesus Christ the only Saviour. The way is clear; the only question is whether we will walk in it. We must understand the Christian’s present life as a journey home, and we must look ahead with faith and hope and set our hearts on what is to come. Our faith and hope (faith in the future) would grant us the power to resist whatever discouragement and distractions present circumstances may produce and ‘propel’ us forward to the glory that awaits us with realism and joy.