…the message they heard was of no value to them,
because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.
“They,” in this case, are those who Moses led out of Egypt. In the previous chapter, the author shares what God said about that generation and how their refusal to trust in and obey Him resulted in them not being able to enter into the rest that God had promised to give them in Canaan. They heard the same message that the next generation heard, but they only heard it; they failed to mix the message with faith, with action.
Some think that faith is merely believing, that if they hear a message and believe that message, then they have mixed the message with faith, but the Bible speaks otherwise. A message mixed with faith results in action. In the case of the Israelites who had fled from Egypt, the action would have been the taking up of arms and conquering of Canaan. They only heard the message, however. They did not really believe. Their faith, such as it was, was dead, useless.
James reminds us…
2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
2:17 …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead
2:20 …faith without deeds is useless…
2:26 …faith without deeds is dead.
I had to fight the temptation to copy all of James 2:14-26 here. It reveals so very clearly that faith and action absolutely must work hand-in-hand.
I do not want to miss out on that rest my God has promised me. I want all that He has set aside for me. I refuse to miss out!
Having made that decision, what is required of me now? Action! As I hear the message, if I do not want it to be of no value to me – do not want to be counted as no more worthy than that group of faithless Israelites – then I absolutely must combine the message with faith, faith that steps out and does whatever the message calls me to do.
It was that combining of message and faith that resulted in my salvation in the first place. Who knows how many times I’d heard the message previously? All those earlier hearings had been of limited value, however, because I did not act on them, did not combine them with faith. Yet on that one, specific day, while I probably heard the very same message spoken in much the same way, I reacted differently. I combined the message with faith and took a step toward the altar, I accepted all that Jesus did for me when He offered His life up as the sacrificial substitute for mine, and I was forever changed. Far from being of no value to me, that morning’s message was priceless.
Remembering this – the moment and the results of what happened in that moment – how can I fail to ensure that the message always is of value to me? Yet I do fail. There have been far too many times in my life when I’ve heard a message and done nothing with it, not even mixed it with a tiny bit of faith, a little bit of action. What have I missed as a result? What seeds did God try to plant that I let die before they bore fruit, killed by my own negligence, my own lack of faith-based action?
I can’t change the past. I can only repent and commit to a changed future…and I do.