Hebrews 4:1 - 16
NKJV - 1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
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This passage from Hebrews is quoting the words of Psalm 95:11, which, in turn, is paraphrasing the punishment that God imposed upon the Israelites in Numbers 14:34. As Israel neared the Promised Land (the land of Canaan) after the exodus from Israel's bondage in Egypt in the Old Testament, twelve spies (one man from each of the tribes of Israel) had been sent out by God's command (as related in Numbers 13) to scout out the land into which God was leading Israel, and to bring back a report of it to the people. The spies were in the land for forty days. They brought back a report that it was a good and bountiful land, but that it was inhabited by people who were very strong. In fact, the majority of the spies (ten out of the twelve) indicated that the people of the land were too strong for the Israelites to conquer. Only two of the twelve spies (Joshua and Caleb) said that the Israelites would be able to conquer the nations living in the land, because God was with Israel, and urged the people not to rebel against God by refusing to enter Canaan. The people refused to listen to Joshua and Caleb, and rebelled against Moses. They even spoke of returning to Egypt rather than continuing toward Canaan. At that point, God became extremely angry with Israel, since He had shown them multiple times during and since the exodus from Egypt that He was with them and that He would protect them and provide for their needs, but they had consistently refused to believe Him and obey Him. Because of the people's disobedience, and their unwillingness to believe Him, God killed the ten spies who had discouraged the people from entering Canaan. He then told Moses that the people were to turn back into the Sinai peninsula, and would have to wander in the desert for forty years (one year for each day that the spies had been in the Promised Land), until all the people who had rebelled against Him by refusing to enter the Promised Land had died. God swore that those people would never enter His rest (that is, the land where He had intended Israel to end its wanderings and to have a permanent home, where they could finally rest from their travels and their conflicts with surrounding nations). God has now provided a similar place of rest (in this case, eternally) in His presence for everyone who places their faith in the redemption that God's Son Jesus accomplished by His sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection, in order to receive God's forgiveness for their sins. As the author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:7, today is the day to heed God's call by accepting the forgiveness and eternal life that God is offering through Jesus.
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