Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 48
Coming Up Short of God’s Promise
So now let’s just go right back to where we left off in the last lesson and that will be Hebrews chapter 4, and verse 1.
Now then, in Hebrews chapter 4, we are still emphasizing the fact that Hebrews was written primarily, not exclusively, but was written primarily for Jews who were on the fence. They still had one foot in Judaism with all of it’s legalism and the Mosaic Law but on the other side they were contemplating Paul’s Gospel of Grace and so the whole idea of the letter is to prove to these people, beyond a shadow of doubt, who Jesus of Nazareth, as they understood Him, really was.
He was God the Son. He was the Creator. He was the Sustainer. And He was also, of course, the Redeemer. Not just of Israel but of all mankind. And consequently Paul uses the verse that He tasted death for every man, not just Israel. But for the whole world.
And so, as we’ve come through these first three chapters, this has been the emphasis, of Who God the Son really is and what He has done and how even we, as non-Jews, must understand. Now, in the last program we were in, in chapter 3, the Apostle is using the horrible dilemma of Israel’s refusing to go into the Land of Promise at Kadesh-Barnea, in particular, when as you all know the account, in unbelief. What God said they could do, Israel said, no we can’t. I guess if there was any one act of disobedience in all of Israel’s history that perturbed God the most, that was it. They could have fallen as they did at Mount Sinai into idol worship around that golden calf. They went into various other times of rank disobedience, but nothing pops up over and over in Scripture as an example of abject disobedience brought about by unbelief as Kadesh-barnea.
And again, I just have to remind folks, especially out there in television where we have so many people that have just never, never read or studied the Bible before, so remember, I always have to keep those folks in mind when I repeat and repeat and repeat. You want to remember that as Israel was there at the gate of the Promised Land, Kadesh-barnea, God had told them distinctly, explicitly that He would drive the enemy out. He would use hornets. He would use whatever He would have to use and all Israel had to do was walk in and occupy without raising a sweat. Without losing a drop of blood, just go in and take it.
But you see, Israel’s first step of unbelief was when they said, well, at least let us go in and spy out the land. Let us see if we can do it. And you know, God in His goodness, and I think those of us who are believers, the older we get the more we realize the goodness and the grace of God. And so, God in His grace and His goodness, says, “Well, alright. Pick out twelve men.”
Now, most people think that God told them to do that. No He did not! If you’ll go back and recap the whole chain of events, God didn’t say send in twelve spies. God says, “Go in and take the land!” But Israel in their first step of unbelief said, “Well, can’t we send in spies.” And then God said, “Yes, go ahead and appoint one from each Tribe and let them go in and spy out the land.”
And then you know what happened. Those twelve men came out with a majority report of ten to two. The ten said, “We can’t do it.” The two said, “Yes we can!” So who did the nation listen to? The majority. What have I said for the last ten years? In Spiritual things, in the things concerning this Book, the majority is usually, I didn’t say always, but the majority is usually wrong. Don’t go by the majority. Because Jesus pointed out the majority all too plainly Himself when He said, “Wide is the way and broad is the gate and many there be that go therein, but narrow is the way and few there be that find it.”
Now, you see, the two then, represented the narrow. They said, “Yes we can.” But Israel, listening to the majority of the ten, in abject unbelief said “We can’t do it.” That’s all it was. Total unbelief. And God then responded in His wrath and sent them out into the wilderness for the next thirty-eight years.
And so this is constantly brought up in Scripture, as an example not only to Israel, but to everyone of us, that there is nothing that God detests like unbelief. He can forgive a lot of things. And He can, you might say, in His Grace, put up with a lot of the wickedness and the unbelief in other areas, but when it comes to abject unbelief of something that is so easily understood as our Gospel is, then the wrath of God is kindled. And so when you stop and realize that the vast majority of the human race is headed for the lake of fire, don’t blame God. A lot of people do. They say, “How can a Holy God send people to a place like that?” Listen, God didn’t send them. They chose to go. And how did they choose to go? By refusing to believe something so simple as Paul’s beautiful Gospel, that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and all we have to do is believe it for salvation.
And so this has been the whole emphasis now, especially in chapter 3 and even as we come in to chapter 4. Don’t forget what Israel did at Kadesh-barnea, as they failed to believe what God told them. Alright, verse 1. So it starts out with one of Paul’s favorite words, “therefore.” Because of what we’ve already covered in these first three chapters.
“Let us therefore fear,…” Now that’s not the kind of a fear that just simply sends you out of your common sense. but rather this is a fear that makes you stop and take notice. This is a fear that makes you stop and really listen to what God is trying to say. And so he said:
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise…”
Now you know, I can almost stop with every word in Hebrews, can’t I? And I have been lately. What’s a promise? Well a promise is something that God has backed with His Omnipotence, with His Sovereignty and yes, with His grace. And when God makes a promise, you and I can trust it. Because God will not lie. God will not play games. And so here again we have the evidence that God has given promises, promises, promises, not only to Israel but to the whole human race. So he says, let us take up and be serious and take note:
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise (one of the promises of God) being left of us of entering into His rest that any of you should seem to come short of it.”
What do you suppose he’s driving at? You know, so many of us had a criteria that we thought people had to go through to be genuinely saved. And unless they went through our circumscribed criteria, we had doubts. And I’m sure that almost every group looks at some of these things this way. They’ve got their own idea of what God expects a person to do before God can save him.
And listen, God isn’t going to set up a whole bunch of restrictive rules and regulations for a sinner to go through before He’ll save him. God will save a person with, I suppose, so little going to him that most of us would say, hey, he could never be saved, and that’s exactly what Paul is saying. Now look at it again.
“…lest, a promise being left us…”
Now if something has been left to you, what does that mean? It’s still yours. It hasn’t yet slipped away from you, it’s still there for you to cash in on. And so this is what he’s appealing. Lest some of these people have been wavering and yes they’re considering what Paul has got to offer, but they’re still being drawn by all the ramifications of legalism and Judaism. Paul says, God hasn’t given up on you. God hasn’t yet crossed you off.
I know, many of you have heard sermons, I know I have, more than once, where a preacher will get up and he will just make a horrible example of someone who just stood out on a public square and shook his fist in God’s face and cursed God, and then they like to make a great big sensational event of it. And how that thirty minutes later, he was violently killed. Well, that may make good preaching, but it’s not Scripture. God never gives up on even a man who will shake his fist and curse God. You know why? Because even where sin abounds and that would be sinful, no doubt about it, but where that sin abounds, what’s even greater? God’s Grace! And so don’t you ever believe that kind of stuff that God gives up on a sinner. No, God never gives up until this soul departs. And so, this is again what Paul is saying, don’t you forget that God has not given up on you. There is still a part and parcel of His promises that are enough for you to latch on to and still escape that wrath to come. Alright, now let’s move on.
“…let us fear, lest a promise being left (that’s still there to take a hold of) that of you (even the worst) should come (what?) short of it.”
Now what’s the danger when someone tarries and lingers and fails to latch on to the promise of Salvation? Well let me give you a good example. Come back with me to Acts 24, and we’ll just start with verse 24. Here, Paul, of course, is dealing with Felix.
“After certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.” (now verse 25.) And as he reasoned (Felix did. Just a rank unbeliever and as he reasoned) of righteousness, (in other words, God’s saving grace) temperance, and judgment to come,…” What does that tell you? Paul laid out the whole picture. Paul didn’t refrain from telling him what his doom was going to be if he did not come into salvation. And so he reasoned of all these things that Paul had covered. The judgement to come.
“…Felix trembled, (that’s how much he considered it and he answered what? Paul, I’m ready to believe? No, but rather) answered, Go thy way for this time;…”
What does that tell you? Felix hadn’t crossed it off. He hadn’t just adamantly told Paul – take off! I’ll never listen to you again. But he was postponing it. See? Postponing it, and that just exactly what Paul is warning these Jews and Hebrews. Don’t postpone it for today. See that’s the word throughout these chapters. Today, harden not your hearts as they did, and as Felix did. And you see, every time that Felix would listen to Paul, what happened to his heart condition? Softer or harder? Well, harder. And now, read on and we’ll see what evidently happened to this man.
“…Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” In other words, when I’m more in line to step out of my wicked lifestyle and become a believer. When a more convenient season comes along, I’ll call for you. And then verse 26. On top of that, his wicked mind was looking for a bribe.
“He (Felix) hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him; wherefore he sent for him the oftener,…”
So it wasn’t just once. Not even twice. Several times this Roman authority reasoned of righteousness and judgment to come. And every time, no doubt, his heart became harder and he says, “Well Paul, if you’re not ready to pay for your way out of here, then be gone.” But now the reason I know that Felix never came to the place of salvation, he put it off and put it off, is because of verse 27. What’s the first word?
“But (he never responded.) after the two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room; and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.”
What happened to the man? Just exactly what Hebrews is warning against. Felix had every opportunity to yet become a believer, but what does he say? Not now. Maybe later. Now come back to Hebrews and see how apropos this is.
“…(oh be careful) “lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, (that is salvation, that) any of you (even a Felix) should seem to come short of it.”
And he did, you see, as far as we know, he came short. He never did step in to that which he saw was the right way and I think we see this throughout all of human history. How that mankind is either absolutely destitute of spiritual insight, or they play around like a cat with the mouse. Until finally, what happens invariably? That little mouse slips away.
I saw my old cat do that same thing just the other day. He had a mouse and played with it and played with it and I almost was getting frantic. Kill the poor thing! But, what do they do? They fool around and they fool around with it, and all of a sudden it gets away. Well, you see, that’s what happens to many people with God’s plan of salvation. They play around with it – oh, they consider it, they talk about it but they will never give in and accept God’s saving grace and consequently, they come short of it. Well, that’s not God’s fault. God has done all He can do. And you want to remember, God never forces His salvation on anybody. It’s a matter of the free will, as God inspires us with the Spirit.
Alright, I guess we’ve got time. I hated to go into verse 2 unless I had a little more time, but I think maybe we can cover it. Here Paul continues the thought.
“For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them:…”
Now don’t lose sight of your pronouns here. Who are the “them?” Israel at Kadesh-barnea. See that’s our whole idea of the lesson. Don’t forget Israel at Kadesh-barnea, when they had all the promises of God to go in and take Canaan without a drop of sweat or losing a drop of blood and because of unbelief turned away. Alright, Paul is using it again.
“For unto us (today in this Age of Grace under Paul’s Apostleship) was the Gospel preached.”
Well, that’s easy enough to understand. We all know from Paul’s Gospel, that Christ died, was buried and rose from the dead, that that’s the means of salvation.
For unto us was the Gospel preached as well as unto them:…”
Now we have to be careful here. What does the word Gospel always mean? Good news! Now how far back in human history does good news go? Well all the way back to Genesis chapter 3. But how far back does Paul’s Gospel go? Back to Paul’s ministry, naturally, because it’s his Gospel, that was only given to him. Alright, so now, if you look at this word Gospel as good news, then all of the garbage just falls away and you’ve got nothing left but bare truth.
And so, when the good news was presented in Genesis 3:15, what was it? Let’s go back and look. Here we have good news, but not the Gospel of the grace of God. It’s not Paul’s Gospel that you must believe that Christ died and rose from the dead. But it’s still good news! My, it’s good news. Genesis chapter 3. Most of you should know what this verse said, and the Lord is dealing with Satan, right after the fall of man, as they have just eaten of the forbidden fruit. And what’s the good news? That God is going to defeat Satan. Now that’s good news! Alright, look at it. Where the Lord says to Satan:
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, (who’s in control here? God is.) and between thy seed and her seed; (well, Who’s her seed? Jesus Christ!) it (the seed of the woman, Jesus the Christ) shall bruise thy head,…”
Now how do you kill a serpent? On the head. And so, what’s the implication here? That one day the Seed of the woman, Jesus the Christ, would defeat and put out of commission, Satan. And what is that? That’s good news! It’s the only thing that the human race had left. Adam and Eve had now eaten, and the race has fallen, and Satan is seemingly glowering in his victory. But, God comes back and says, “No, I’ve got good news. I’m going to provide a way back into fellowship with the Creator.”
And so here we have the first instance of good news. Now let’s go up a little further to Genesis chapter 12. I’m skipping a bunch of them in between here. But, here in Genesis chapter 12. Oh, some more good news! Now we don’t ordinarily think of it as Gospel, but it was. My, I don’t know what else it could have been so far as Abram was concerned. It was Gospel! It was good news!! And what was it? Let’s look at it:
“Now the Lord had said (back in chapter 11. He had said) unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:” And now, here we come. Promises! I just got through telling you at the opening of the program, what are promises? Hey, they’re good news!! They’re Gospel. And what are these promises that God is making to Abram?
“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee (because through Abram would come the Christ) shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Now if that wasn’t good news I don’t what else could have been. In order to put the frosting on the cake, let’s jump all the way up to Romans chapter 4 and see what believing this good news did for this man Abraham. Now remember what I’ve got you thinking. What has been the good news? Oh, God’s means of bringing salvation to various segments of the human race. They didn’t all believe that Christ would die and be resurrected from the dead. They couldn’t. Hadn’t happened yet. The Roman cross wasn’t even invented, until the Roman Empire. But, these people had the good news of God’s promises. So remember God’s promise to Abraham was to “leave Ur and I will make of you, I will do this and I will do that.” Now, when Abram responded to that Word of God by his faith, look what God did here in verse 3.
“For what saith the scriptures? (not what Moses said. Not what Abraham said. Not what anybody else said. What does the Word of God say? The Word of God says) Abraham believed God,…”
Do you see that? Abraham did not do like Israel did at Kadesh and say, “No God, I don’t think you can do this. I’m a hundred years old. Sarah is ninety. I can’t do this.” But you see Abraham believed God, as impossible as it may have seemed. And what did God do? Saved him!! That’s all! Saved him out of paganism. Out of idolatry. How do I know? Because it says:
“… Abraham believed God, (it was his believing, his faith) and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
Now that didn’t make Abraham sprout wings. Abraham didn’t suddenly become a sinless individual. Abraham failed miserably after all this, but did he lose his salvation? Heavens no! He merely showed how human he really was. But, in spite of all his failures, God reckoned him, what? Righteous. And why was he righteous? Because he BELIEVED God!