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Hebrews 3:12

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you - Take warning by those disobedient Israelites; they were brought out of the house of bondage, and had the fullest promise of a land of prosperity and rest. By their disobedience they came short of it, and fell in the wilderness. Ye have been brought from the bondage of sin, and have a most gracious promise of an everlasting inheritance among the saints in light; through unbelief and disobedience they lost their rest, through the same ye may lose yours. An evil heart of unbelief will head away from the living God. What was possible in their case, is possible in yours. The apostle shows here five degrees of apostasy:

  1. Consenting to sin, being deceived by its solicitations.
  • Hardness of heart, through giving way to sin.
  • Unbelief in consequence of this hardness which leads them to call even the truth of the Gospel in question.
  • This unbelief causing them to speak evil of the Gospel, and the provision God has made for the salvation of their souls.
  • Apostasy itself, or falling off from the living God; and thus extinguishing all the light that was in them, and finally grieving the Spirit of God, so that he takes his flight, and leaves them to a seared conscience and reprobate mind.
  • See Leigh. He who begins to give the least way to sin is in danger of final apostasy; the best remedy against this is to get the evil heart removed, as one murderer in the house is more to be dreaded than ten without.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Take heed, brethren - In view of the conduct of the rebellious Jews, and of their fearful doom, be on your guard lest you also be found to have had the same feelings of rebellion and unbelief. See to it, that under the new dispensation, and in the enjoyment of the privileges of the gospel, you be not found to manifest such feelings as shall exclude you from the heavenly world. The “principle” has been settled by their unbelief that they who oppose God will be excluded from his rest. That may be shown under all dispensations, and in all circumstances, and there is not less danger of it under the gospel than there was when the fathers were conducted to the promised land. You are traveling through a wilderness - the barren wilderness of this world. You are exposed to trials and temptations. You meet with many a deadly and mighty foe. You have hearts prone to apostasy and sin. You are seeking a land of promise; a land of rest. You are surrounded by the wonders of Almighty power, and by the proofs of infinite beneficence. Disobedience and rebellion in you will as certainly exclude you from heaven as their rebellion did them from the promised land; and as their great sin was unbelief, be on your guard lest you manifest the same.

    An evil heart of unbelief - An evil, unbelieving heart. The word “unbelief” is used to qualify the word “heart,” by a Hebraism - a mode of speech that is common in the New Testament. An unbelieving heart was the cause of “their” apostasy, and what worked their ruin will produce ours. The root of their evil was “a want of confidence in God” - and this is what is meant here by a heart of unbelief. The great difficulty on earth everywhere is a “want of confidence in God” - and this has produced all the ills that man has ever suffered. It led to the first apostasy; and it has led to every other apostasy - and will continue to produce the same effects to the end of the world. The apostle says that this heart of unbelief is “evil.” Men often feel that it is a matter of little consequence whether they have faith or not, provided their conduct is right; and hence, they do not see or admit the propriety of what is said about the consequences of unbelief in the Scriptures. But what do they say about a want of confidence between a husband and wife?

    Are there no evils in that? What husband can sleep with quietness on his pillow, if he has no confidence in the virtue of his wife? What child can have peace who has no confidence in a parent? How can there be prosperity in a community where there is no confidence in a bank, or an insurance office, or where one merchant has no confidence in another; where a neighbor has no confidence in his neighbor; where the sick have no confidence in a physician, and where in general all confidence is broken up between man and man? If I wished to produce the deepest distress in any community, and had the power, I would produce the same want of confidence between man and man which there is now between man and his Maker. I would thus take away sleep from the pillow of every husband and wife; every parent and child; and make every man wretched with the feeling that all the property which he had was insecure. Among people, nothing is seen to be productive of greater evil than a want of confidence or faith - and why should not the same evil exist in the divine administration? And if want of confidence produces such results between man and man, why should it not produce similar, or greater, miseries where it occurs in relation to God? There is not an evil that man endures which might not be alleviated or removed by confidence in God; and hence one great object of the Christian religion is, to restore to man his lost confidence in the God that made him.

    In departing from the living God - Manifested in departing from him; or leading to a departure from him. The idea is, that such a heart of unbelief would be connected with apostasy from God. All apostasy first exists in the heart, and then is manifested in the life. They who indulge in unbelief in any form, or in regard to any subject, should remember that this is the great source of all alienation from God, and that if indulged it will lead to complete apostasy. They who wish to live a life of piety should keep the heart right. He that lives “by the faith of the Son of God” is safe; and none is safe but he.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Days of temptation are often days of provocation. But to provoke God, when he is letting us see that we entirely depend and live upon him, is a provocation indeed. The hardening of the heart is the spring of all other sins. The sins of others, especially of our relations, should be warnings to us. All sin, especially sin committed by God's professing, privileged people, not only provokes God, but it grieves him. God is loth to destroy any in, or for their sin; he waits long to be gracious to them. But sin, long persisted in, will make God's wrath discover itself in destroying the impenitent; there is no resting under the wrath of God. "Take heed:" all who would get safe to heaven must look about them; if once we allow ourselves to distrust God, we may soon desert him. Let those that think they stand, take heed lest they fall. Since to-morrow is not ours, we must make the best improvement of this day. And there are none, even the strongest of the flock, who do not need help of other Christians. Neither are there any so low and despised, but the care of their standing in the faith, and of their safety, belongs to all. Sin has so many ways and colours, that we need more eyes than ours own. Sin appears fair, but is vile; it appears pleasant, but is destructive; it promises much, but performs nothing. The deceitfulness of sin hardens the soul; one sin allowed makes way for another; and every act of sin confirms the habit. Let every one beware of sin.
    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 377

    Some have given a willing ear to the tempter and have talked out their unbelief and wounded the cause. Satan has claims upon them, for they have not recovered themselves from his snare. They have conducted themselves like children who were wholly unacquainted with the wiles of the tempter. They have had sufficient experience and should have understood his workings. He has suggested doubts to their minds, and, instead of repelling them at once, they have reasoned and parleyed with the archdeceiver, and listened to his reasonings, as though charmed by the old serpent. A few texts which were not perfectly explainable to the satisfaction of their own minds have been sufficient to shake the whole structure of truth and to obscure the plainest facts of the word of God. These men are erring mortals. They have not perfect wisdom and knowledge in all the Scriptures. Some passages are placed beyond the reach of human minds until such a time as God chooses, in His own wisdom, to open them. Satan has been leading some on a trail which ends in certain infidelity. They have suffered their unbelief to becloud the harmonious, glorious chain of truth, and have acted as though it was their business to solve every difficult passage of Scripture, and if our faith did not enable them to do this, it was faulty. 1T 377.1

    I saw that those who have an evil heart of unbelief will doubt and will think it noble and a virtue to doubt the word of God. Those who think it a virtue to quibble can have plenty of room to disbelieve the inspiration and truth of God's word. God does not compel any to believe. They can choose to rely upon the evidences He has been pleased to give, or doubt, and cavil, and perish. 1T 377.2

    I was shown that those who are troubled with doubts and infidelity should not go out to labor for others. That which is in the mind must flow out, and they realize not the effect of a hint or the smallest doubt expressed. Satan makes it a barbed arrow. It acts like a slow poison, which, before the victim is made sensible of his danger, affects the whole system, undermines a good constitution, and finally causes death. It is just so with the poison of doubt and unbelief of Scripture facts. One who has influence suggests to others that which Satan has suggested to him, that one scripture contradicts another; and thus, in a very wise manner, as though he had found out some wonderful mystery which had been hid from believers and the holy in every age of the world, he casts midnight darkness into other minds. They lose the relish they once had for the truth and become infidels. All this is the work of a few words spoken, which had a hidden power because they seemed involved in mystery. 1T 377.3

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    Ellen G. White
    SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 928

    3. See EGW on John 1:14. 7BC 928.1

    6. See EGW on ch. 4:14; Revelation 3:3. 7BC 928.2

    12 (ch. 11:6). No Encouragement Given for Unbelief—There is no encouragement given for unbelief. The Lord manifests His grace and His power over and over again, and this should teach us that it is always profitable under all circumstances to cherish faith, to talk faith, to act faith. We are not to have our hearts and hands weakened by allowing the suggestions of suspicious minds to plant in our hearts the seeds of doubt and distrust [Hebrews 3:12 quoted] (Letter 97, 1898). 7BC 928.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Patriarchs and Prophets, 294

    Do we well to be thus unbelieving? Why should we be ungrateful and distrustful? Jesus is our friend; all heaven is interested in our welfare; and our anxiety and fear grieve the Holy Spirit of God. We should not indulge in a solicitude that only frets and wears us, but does not help us to bear trials. No place should be given to that distrust of God which leads us to make a preparation against future want the chief pursuit of life, as though our happiness consisted in these earthly things. It is not the will of God that His people should be weighed down with care. But our Lord does not tell us that there are no dangers in our path. He does not propose to take His people out of the world of sin and evil, but He points us to a never-failing refuge. He invites the weary and care-laden, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Lay off the yoke of anxiety and worldly care that you have placed on your own neck, and “take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:28, 29. We may find rest and peace in God, casting all our care upon Him; for He careth for us. See 1 Peter 5:7. PP 294.1

    Says the apostle Paul, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12. In view of all that God has wrought for us, our faith should be strong, active, and enduring. Instead of murmuring and complaining, the language of our hearts should be, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” Psalm 103:1, 2. PP 294.2

    God was not unmindful of the wants of Israel. He said to their leader, “I will rain bread from heaven for you.” And directions were given that the people gather a daily supply, with a double amount on the sixth day, that the sacred observance of the Sabbath might be maintained. PP 294.3

    Moses assured the congregation that their wants were to be supplied: “The Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full.” And he added, “What are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.” He further bade Aaron say to them, “Come near before the Lord: for He hath heard your murmurings.” While Aaron was speaking, “they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” A splendor such as they had never witnessed symbolized the divine Presence. Through manifestations addressed to their senses, they were to obtain a knowledge of God. They must be taught that the Most High, and not merely the man Moses, was their leader, that they might fear His name and obey His voice. PP 294.4

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 355

    “Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” TM 355.1

    When finite, erring man gives evidence that he regards himself as of greater importance than God, when he thinks himself righteous, yet does not manifest the tenderness of spirit that characterized the life of our Lord Jesus, we may know that unless he repents, the candlestick will quickly be removed out of its place. All heaven is astonished at the terrible indifference of the human agents. Men who are themselves tempted to fall into sin, and need pardon, are yet full of self-sufficiency, and are unfeeling toward a brother who is ensnared by the enemy, and whose need and peril should call out Christlike sympathy and effort to plant his feet on the solid Rock. TM 355.2

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