Do Not Refuse To Obey
The challenge for God's people has always been the same. It is not enough to acknowledge that He is the Lord: we must obey Him. That tension is seen throughout Israel's history, and in all the key leaders such as Abraham, Moses and David. It is our struggle too. The writer gave this warning as he concluded his letter and wanted his Jewish background readers, and those from a Gentile background too, to stop resisting the Lord and wake up to God’s call to true discipleship.
The background to this verse is in the awesome presence of God at Sinai when He gave the Law to Moses. At that time, the mountain seemed alight with fire, covered by a threatening cloud and howling winds (Hebrews 12:18). The people and their animals were prohibited from going anywhere near on pain of death (Hebrews 12:20). The terrifying sights and sounds were too much for the people, and they begged that God should stop speaking (Hebrews 12:19). It was not long after that they invented their own god which could not speak; and in getting Aaron to create a golden calf, like one of the idols of Egypt, God's judgement was unleashed (Exodus 32:19-28).
So, the writer says, do not turn away from God's voice. The Israelites' wilderness journey was a catalogue of deaf ears and disobedient hearts which resulted in judgement. Of all the men, aged twenty and over, who left Egypt (Exodus 38:26) – only Joshua and Caleb survived to go into the Promised Land. All the others died at God's hand. Even Moses was excluded because of His disobedience (Deuteronomy 1:37). If that was true for such examples of faith and failure, how much more we should listen and obey – we who have the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the efficacy of His shed blood, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the complete Scriptures, the witness of the church and the hope of heaven.
But perhaps this verse pivots on, "… see to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks". While all sin is rebellion against God, the impact of 'refuse' indicates a malignant spirit, a considered decision, a choice to reject the principle that the Lord has the right to speak into our lives. It is the bitter spirit of Esau who ruthlessly rejected God's honour (Hebrews 12:15-17) because he wanted to satisfy himself. But when we allow the Lord to satisfy us, we can be joyful; when we let Him speak to us, we are in communication; when we stop fighting Him, we are at peace. So, at home and at work, in private and in the community, in the market place or the church – heed this warning, and do not refuse to hear and obey the voice of the Lord God Almighty.
© Dr Paul Adams