Hebrews 3:12

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”

This charge by the writer of the book of Hebrews comes after a lesson from the history of the Israelites. Verses 7 through 11 are a quote from Psalm 95, and speak of a specific event in the travels of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land.

It is recorded in Numbers chapters 13 and 14. A few months after they left Egypt, after the LORD had fought for them against Egypt, and even dried the Red Sea for their travel convenience, Israel arrived at Kadesh Barnea, in the south of the Promised Land. Twelve spies were sent search it out and see what kind of a land it was.

The spies reported that the land was fruitful, even bringing back a cluster of grapes that was so big that it was carried by two men using a pole. But ten of the spies reported that there were giants in the land, and they that were not able to take the land that God had promised to them. Because of their report, the people rebelled against Moses, and against the LORD, and decided to return to Egypt.

The other two spies tried to turn the hearts of the people back to the task at hand. The LORD had told Israel that He would give them the land. He had told them that He would fight for them. All of them had seen Him do that before in Egypt and at the Red Sea. All of them had heard God’s voice tell them His ten commandments from mount Horeb and they saw His glory and His power. They now faced the unknown with God’s promise that He would take care of them. And they did not believe Him. They tried to go back.

As the story continued, because of their disbelief, God told them that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years. The army that came to Kadesh Barnea and refused to go into the land would die in the wilderness, and their children would come into the Promised Land.

After hearing God’s judgment, the army decided that they would go into the Promised Land. Previously they showed disbelief in God by refusing to go into the land. Now they were showing disbelief in God by trying to go into the land, after He had told them to wander in the wilderness. Their unbelief in God was revealed in both situations. He told them to go into the land, and they refused. He told them to go into the wilderness, and they refused. Would they ever listen to what He said?

Parents know about this. They tell their children what is expected of them, and when they are young they generally do what they are told, though they still steal cookies and put keys into electrical outlets. As they get older, the likelihood that they will obey their parent’s word reduces. For the parents this is a source of anguish because they want what is best for their children. They want them to not make the same mistakes that they had made. Almighty God knows what is best for His creatures, and gives commands with only their best in mind.

The story of Israel at the edge of the Promised Land was an example of unbelief, from which the writer of Hebrews wanted his readers to learn. He wanted them to avoid the same error. The Israelites were frightened by the prospect of war against giants, and concluded there was nothing they could do except go back to Egypt. Even the good advice of the two spies, and the promises of God didn’t stop them from succumbing to their fears. Life brings us into contact with difficulties that bring fear.

In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Jesus is saying that the most fundamental of our needs, food, drink, clothing, and shelter are not things about which we should fear. The Father knows that we need them. Do we believe Him? Or do we fear.

In Hebrews 13:5 we read, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Every situation in life is another opportunity for us to determine to believe God. Do we believe that He knows what we need? Do we believe that He will never forsake us? Do we go forward and trust Him? The writer of Hebrews warns his readers away from an evil heart of unbelief, turning away from the living God.

Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.


Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Brightly does His Spirit shine
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall;
Trusting Jesus, that is all.


Singing if my way is clear,
Praying if the path be drear;
If in danger for Him call;
Trusting Jesus, that is all.


Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth be past;
Till within the jasper wall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Refrain (Edgar P. Stites)