Updated: Mar 9, 2022
WHAT THE HEBREWS TEACH US ABOUT DEFYING YHVH
REVIEW: 1. Defiance or Rebellion against God through willfully despising His Word often leading to disobedience and/or rejecting Him, making the perpetrator God’s enemy. 2. Defiance to God has one outcome...Death. 3. Rebellion or Defiance is rooted in arrogance and wickedness and is no different than idolatry and divination. 4. Men like David were distinguished before God in Scripture because they did His will.
Right now your general perception of defying God should be a pretty bleak one. This is not something we can hope to survive if it persists in our life. Remember, none of these verses we just read make any allowance for why we are being defiant or rebellious. There is no form of this behavior that God excuses and no method given to tune it in such a way that is acceptable.
Often we aren’t deliberately scheming how to deceive God when we defy Him. It is more likely we are trying to justify our deliberate defiance of YHVH. We may even lie to ourselves to try and make it appear that we aren’t actually defying God or that it's not as bad as the Bible clearly tells us it is. I’m sure the Hebrews weren’t sitting around plotting away trying to figure out how to defy God and get away with it. No, they reacted out of emotion to their suffering and oppression. It could even be that they didn’t even recognize their rebellion when they did it. How then can we recognize our own defiant behavior when it’s beginning to rise up in us? Let’s go back to Exodus 6 to figure it out.
Exodus 6:9 9 So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency/impatience and cruel bondage.
What key factors cause the Hebrews to defy God? 1. Their external circumstances overwhelm them, even though they had God’s promise. 2. They are controlled by their emotions, not by faith in God. 3. Their expectation of God is motivated by their personal, immediate benefit, they were impatient. We too can get lost in defiance against God when we find ourselves in these same circumstances. It is important that we remain vigilant for these same circumstances in our own lives. We need to understand how to respond when these similar factors appear in our own lives.
1. Overwhelming Physical Circumstances:
The Hebrews found themselves in a difficult situation. Their affliction was already hard in Egypt , but after Moses’ first appeal to Pharaoh their situation worsened when Pharaoh mercilessly increased their workload. The people responded with frustration, that’s natural, but that led them to not hear and believe God’s word to them. We can’t allow ourselves to participate in the same kind of response. The Bible tells us how to respond in these situations. Hebrews 11:6-8 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. The author of Hebrews opens the door for us to reflect on what the Hebrews were lacking in their time of crisis, it was faith. We know they lacked faith, because they did not believe Moses' words. Their lack of faith and trust revealed they did not have confidence in YHVH's existence, nor did they believe He would reward them if they sought Him with all their hearts as Hebrews teaches. Can you imagine what the Hebrews would have done had they believed these two characteristics about YHVH at this point in their story? Just like the Hebrews we face this decision on a regular basis as well. The Hebrews must have have felt like YHVH had been silent for generations reinforcing their doubts. The vast majority of us do not have hundreds of years of doubt reinforcing our response. In some ways we have far less reason to fall into despair than the Israelites did. Yet, we all experience those times of frustration, doubt, and even silence from YHVH. These two critical belief statements "YHVH is real" and "He will reward me if I seek Him with all my heart" are critical foundational beliefs that enforce our conviction to follow and obey Him even when things look impossible. After 9 miraculous wonders performed against the Egyptian gods and Pharaoh, the people saw first-hand just how real YHVH was, and they respond to His final instruction much differently than they did to His early messages. Take a look.
Exodus 12:24-28 "24 And you shall keep this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which YHVH will give you, as He has promised, you shall keep this rite. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ 27 then you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to YHVH because He passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped. 28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as YHVH had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did." After repeatedly hearing the Word of YHVH and seeing Him act upon His word, they finally
believe that He does in fact exist, and they have faith to trust that He will reward those who seek Him. The Hebrews bow and worship, then they go and do exactly what YHVH had told them to do. What a difference in response. Do not forgot YHVH has given us every reason to believe He exists and to trust that He will do what He said He would do, but we must train ourselves to believe these two truths. Without the belief that YHVH is real and that He will follow through with His promise, then we have no reason to draw near to God whether our lives are good or we are facing difficulty like the Hebrews. As we learn and develop faith in line with these two faithful truths in our lives our confidence to run to God and abide with Him even in the darkest of sufferings or despair will grow exponentially. This is a lesson, unfortunately, we learn too slowly just as the Hebrews did millennia before we arrived.
Where does this faith begin? How do we develop it? Answering this question is critical for us to understand and learn from the Hebrews example recorded in Exodus 6. Romans 10:16-17 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Paul, an expert in the Scriptures, tells us exactly where this faith comes from. It comes from continually hearing and seeking YHVH in His word. This is the very thing that gives us the faith to believe and obey. Why is it that so many don't obey the Gospel? It's because their lives are not centered, built upon, and rooted in the Word of YHVH. Remember, it is in rejecting the Word of YHVH that the Hebrews found themselves being impatient with YHVH in Exodus 6. However, after hearing His word and watching Him act over and over they developed enough faith to act when the final plague was on their doorsteps. What makes this revelation so much more impactful is the realization it was not just the Hebrews watching YHVH during those 10 plagues. The Egyptians were watching too, and guess what, as they heard the Word of YHVH and saw Him work, they too began to believe. How do we know, because the Bible tells us that some of them began to obey YHVH.
Exodus 9:18-21 "18 Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 So now, send word, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every person and animal that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.”’”20 Everyone among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring his servants and his livestock into the houses; 21 but everyone who did not pay regard to the word of the Lord left his servants and his livestock in the field. Even in the final plague, the Bible records a "mixed multitude" left Egypt with the Hebrews. These were people for better or for worse heard the Word of YHVH and saw Him work. It does not say those people didn't suffer, or that their firstborn sons weren't killed during the final plague, it says they left to go into the wilderness with the Hebrews to worship and draw near to YHVH, because they finally believed He was real, and that He would respond to those who seek Him. We cannot deny the power of burying ourselves deep into the unchangeable Word of God and to seek Him with our whole hearts. This is the very root of faith we must develop to persevere in our walk and draw near to God even when we face insurmountable turmoil. Psalm 73:23-28 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
David is informed by God’s “counsel”, His Word. Just like it says in Romans 10, the Word of God is what gives him and us confidence to believe in God enough to fervently draw near to Him as a result of our belief. Without committing ourselves to YHVH's Word we lack the knowledge that is necessary to believe in God and trust that He truly rewards those who seek Him. If we don’t believe in God, then He cannot be our refuge when we are distressed. This is precisely what we see with the Hebrews. After hundreds of years in captivity, the Hebrews clearly lacked the same fortitude Joseph had when it came to faith in YHVH. However, YHVH faithfully gives them evidence, just as He does with us. We must open our eyes, dig into His word, and develop the faith He readily provides us when we seek Him.
2. They are controlled by their emotions, not by faith in God Like we see with the Hebrews in Exodus 6, as we abandon the Word of God, our confidence in YHVH is weak and frail in our times of distressed. Where then do we turn when we are distressed? The Israelites too had no where to turn if they continued to lack faith because they did not believe YHVH's word. For many people their feelings or their emotions become the primary catalyst for how they decide what to do. You’ll hear advice like: “Follow your heart” or “Trust your gut”. However, our feelings are easily manipulated and never guide us to truth. When we allow ourselves to be guided by the rudderless inconsistencies our feelings and emotions provide, then we find ourselves hopelessly thrashed about by every wave and wind in our life’s circumstances. It is the Word of God, leading to faith, that provides a constant and controlled peace rooted in tested truth. Our feelings are a part of our flesh, not a part of God’s spirit, they cannot lead us into Truth, only the Word of God through the direction of the Holy Spirit can accomplish that work in our lives.
Colossians 3:2-8 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. We only overcome the unstable whims of our emotions and feelings by putting those things away and picking up and dwelling on the "things that are above." What are those things? It is the Word of God. He recorded the Scriptures to focus us and instruct us on those things from above. Without being grounded in this truth we cannot reach the finish line of this race. When the Hebrews heard the Word of YHVH in Exodus 6:9, their minds were not set on
things above, no more than Pharaoh's was, or King Saul when he rejected the Word of God. It is impossible to have our minds set on things above without the Word of YHVH which contains the things that are from above. The lack of the Word in the Israelites lives led them to rejecting YHVH, just like it does with us all, and will only lead us deeper in despair and hopelessness. The Hebrews doubted God because their minds were not fixed on Him. They couldn’t, wouldn’t fix their minds on Him, because they took their eyes off of the Word of God. Just like Hebrews 11 informs us, it is impossible to please YHVH without faith, but we cannot develop that faith without His word.
How can we overcome doubt that leads to following our flesh and emotions? James 1:2-8 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
We overcome this constant instability of being driven about by our emotions by asking God for wisdom and then allowing Him to teach us in His Word. Think about your own life, how often do you ask God for direction or wisdom where you pray once or twice then quit? For so many out there, this is the case. We throw out some half-hearted prayer of an unbeliever, with no confidence He exists or that He hears us, but we still expect an answer. James tells us, we should not expect an answer. Why? Because we aren't asking out of our firm belief, we are asking because we are desperate and in our emotions we throw something out into the universe. The Bible says that YHVH heard the cries of His people. How long had they been crying out before He sent Moses? Days, years, decades, centuries? It is in the Word of YHVH we learn the art of seeking Him relentlessly in His Word which gives us the faith to continually bring our petition before Him until He answers us in His time, just like He did with the Israelites in Egypt. This was my life as a believer for so many years. I would get desperate, reach out to God, but did not have the Word in me, nor did I abide with God, and I was anxious and uncertain every time I had to make a decision under stress. You can see this same pattern for the Hebrews, and if you look closely you will likely see similar patterns at points in your own life. These patterns are there to guide and inform our lives and call us back to full faith in YHVH.
3. The Israelites expectation of God was not motivated by faith in Him, but for their personal, immediate benefit, they were impatient
When we lack grounding in the Word of God, we have no confidence in God, so when difficulty comes we grow impatient and do not have the faith necessary to wait on God and allow Him to answer in His time with His righteous solution. We rush about trying to solve our own problems which leads us to being unstable and double-minded as James points out.
The crazy thing is the Hebrews had already cried out to God, God had listened and sent them Moses, if they chose to hear and to listen, they could have seen the plan was already in the works. Instead, they made the request with their own, immediate answer in mind. When God didn’t give the immediate answer they desired, they accepted defiance toward God and rejected His word and potentially His promise. We see this similar scenario played out throughout the Bible with the Israelites and others as they struggle with their suffering or their fleshly desires and expectations.
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James reveals the real issues which often lead to prayers going unanswered.
You desire, but you do not ask
You ask wrongly to spend on your own passions
In the Hebrews' case, their passion was immediate relief, not even freedom necessarily. Their passion wasn't to serve YHVH and worship Him, they were tired of the suffering and oppression. Moses is the only one who mentions worshiping YHVH during this entire process, it was His motivation and it was the expectation of YHVH, but the people themselves never express that desire until they receive the final instructions on the final plague. Then and only then do they bow low and worship YHVH. James continues his letter by teaching his readers how to deal with these passions that dictate their lives.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
We properly adjust our motives by submitting to God and resisting the devil. James gives us very clear language what a life submitted to God looks like. He says the only way we can submit to YHVH and resist the devil is to:
Draw near to God
Cleanse your hands
Purify your hearts
There is no magic 5-step plan to a more confident faith. It is hard work, investment, seeking YHVH, and making His Word the foundation of our lives. We cannot draw near to Him, identify what we must cleans from our hands and purify from our hearts, we cannot mourn and weep over our sin in repentance, and we will never humble ourselves to YHVH without the knowledge and the truth the Word of God which is the foundation for each of these actions James mentions. The Hebrews in Exodus 6 are broken and faithless. They are crying out to YHVH, but clearly have no faith to trust Him for an answer, because the answer, Moses, is standing right in front of them and they still do not believe. At first, they lack the Word of God and their faith is suffering. As they continue to hear the Word of God, and see Him act upon it, their faith is strengthened for their appointed time of salvation. This takes work, it takes investment, it does not come naturally to us, yet it is the very thing that anchors our hope and develops the faith we need to persevere through every adversity and suffering.
Thank you for reading the "Fine-Tuning Defiance" series, check out more articles just like this one.