Hebrews 3: 7-end
Morning Prayer today continues the Epistle to the Hebrews that we started last Monday, and we shall read until the eve of Palm Sunday (5th April). The extract appointed for this morning is interesting in that it refers back to the latter part of Psalm 95, which has long been an integral part of Morning Prayer itself. This psalm is in two parts, the first seven verses form a call to worship, but the last four verses, that are frequently omitted, are a warning against disobedience. It is to these verses that the author of Hebrews refers. Why?
The reason becomes clear when we consider the early Christian interpretation of the Passion of Christ, and his work of redemption being likened to a second Exodus. He is the sacrificial lamb; baptism is seen as parallel to the passing through the Red Sea; the manna and water with which the Hebrew people were fed by God has its similarity with the bread and wine of communion, so the writer to the Hebrews brings the spectre of the wilderness before the Christian Church in his day and, using the admonitions of the last part of Psalm 95, calls on his readers to avoid being disobedient.
Psalm 95, in its preparation for worship, may be seen in its context of getting ready for the Sabbath, and hence its inauguration in the Christian Church to a regular place in Morning Prayer, as acts and words of worship are experienced within a need for sincerity and obedience. Very Lenten and sobering, when linked to the place of ‘trial’ and ‘dispute’, namely Massah or Meribah in the desert of the Sinai (mentioned in verse 8 of the Psalm). What the writer of Hebrews underlines, in verses 13 and 14 is the call to avoid the hardening effects of disobedience, but as Christ rather than Moses is our leader now, so in him we are led not just to the Promised Land of Canaan, but to the land that the meek inherit, and it is the place where God’s rest is experienced (we shall read of that tomorrow in Hebrews 4: 10).