Friday, 10 June 2016

Hebrews 3: 7-11 - Harden not your hearts

Today the first half of St Thomas' exposition of Psalm 94 in Hebrews 3:
7 Come, then, the Holy Spirit says, If you hear his voice speaking to you this day, do not harden your hearts, 
Quapropter sicut dicit Spiritus Sanctus: Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra, 
Aquinas: The authority of the words consists in the fact that they were not uttered by human lips, but by the Holy Spirit; hence, he says, Wherefore, as the Holy Spirit says.

The time is today, i.e., day time. For the time of the Old Law was called night, because it was a time of shadows: ‘For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come’ (below 10:1). But the time of the New Testament, because it repels the shadow of the night of the Law, is called day: ‘The night is passed, the day is at hand’ (Rom. 13:12). That time is called day, because it witnessed the rising of the sun of justice: ‘But unto you that fear my name, the Sun of justice shall arise’ (Mal 4:2). This day is not succeeded by night, but by a clearer day, namely, when we shall see the Sun of justice with His face revealed, when we shall see Him by His essence.

And in this day a benefit will be given to us. For he continues, when you hear his voice, because we hear His voice, which was not true of the Old Testament, in which the words of the prophets were heard: ‘In times past God spoke to the Son’ (Heb. 1:1); ‘Therefore, my people shall know my name in that day, because it was I myself that spoke, behold, I am here’; ‘Let your voice sound on my ears’. For in this the benefit so long desired is shown to us: ‘If you had known and in this your day, the things that are to your peace’. is the admonition, harden not your hearts. For a hard heart smacks of evil. That is hard which does not yield, but resists and does not receive an impression. Therefore, man’s heart is hard, when it does not yield to God’s command nor easily receive divine impressions: ‘A hard heart shall fear evil at the last’ (Sir. 3:27); But according to your hardness and impenitent heart, you treasure up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath’ (Rom. 2:5). But this hardening is caused by two things: first, by God not offering grace: ‘He has mercy on whom he will, and whom he wills, he hardens’ (Rom. 9:18); secondly, by the sinner hardening himself by not obeying God and by not opening his heart to grace: ‘And they made their heart as the adamant stone, lest they should hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts sent in his spirit by the hand of the former prophets’ (Zech 7:12). Therefore, harden not your hearts i.e., do not close your hearts to the Holy Spirit: ‘You always resist the Holy Spirit’ (Ac. 7:51).
8 [do not harden your hearts], as they were hardened once when you provoked me, and put me to the test in the wilderness. Your fathers put me to the test, made trial of me, and saw what I could do, all those forty years. So I became the enemy of that generation; These, I said, are ever wayward hearts, these have never learned my lessons. And I took an oath in my anger, They shall never attain my rest.
8 [nolite obdurare corda vestra], sicut in exacerbatione secundum diem tentationis in deserto, ubi tentaverunt me patres vestri: probaverunt, et viderunt opera mea quadraginta annis: propter quod infensus fui generationi huic, et dixi: Semper errant corde. Ipsi autem non cognoverunt vias meas, sicut juravi in ira mea: Si introibunt in requiem meam.

Then he presents the resemblance when he says, as in the rebellion. This is a resemblance based on a past event: for the faithful are instructed about the things to be done in the New Testament from the things that occurred in the past, as Rom. (15:4) testifies: ‘What things soever were written, were written for our learning.’ In regard to this he does two things: first, he gives an example in general by citing their guilt; secondly, he gives specific examples (v. 9).

Thus we read that among others there were two sins committed by the Jews which were severely punished: one was the disobedience of the spies mentioned in Numbers (13&14), for which the Lord wished to wipe out the people. Hence, He swore that no one but Caleb and Joshua would enter the promised land. He calls this a rebellion, because, although they had offended God in other ways, this sin was particularly bitter; for just as bitter fruit, not being ripe, is not suitable for eating, so then God’s anger was inflexible: ‘How often did they provoke him in the desert, and move him to wrath in the place without water’ (Ps. 77:40)? ‘You have provoked him who made you’ (Bar. 4:7).

The other sin was that of tempting God. For they frequently tempted Him, sometimes for water, sometimes for meat, and sometimes for bread, so that they tempted Him ten times: ‘They have tempted me now ten times’ (Num. 14:22); ‘Behold, these ten times you confound me’ (Jb. 19:2). Hence he says, in the day of testing. But someone might suppose the signs of rebellion and testing are the same, and that the Apostle should say: ‘Harden not your hearts as in the rebellion, which occurred in the day of testing.’ But this does not agree with the Apostle’s explanation. Therefore, we should say, Harden not your hearts as in the rebellion, and again, as in the day of testing, so that there are two sins; hence, Ps. 77 (v. 41) says: ‘And they turned back and tempted God; and grieved the Holy One of Israel.’

Then he considers their specific sins. In regard to this he does two things: first, he mentions the sin of testing; secondly, the sin of rebellion...

The sin of testing: Here it should be noted that temptation is an act of testing about something one does not know. Hence, it is from unbelief that a person tempts God, yet it should be noted that sometimes one tempts God, not with the intention of trying and testing, although it is done after the manner of testing...if someone were to expose himself to danger, compelled by necessity in the hope of divine help, he would not be tempting God; but if without necessity, he would be tempting God; hence the Lord says in Mt. (4:7): ‘You shall not tempt the Lord, your God’, because there was not need to cast Himself down...

He says, therefore, ...They always go astray in heart: ‘You have always been rebellious against the Lord’ (Dt. 31:27); ‘If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his spots: you also may do well, when you have learned evil’ (Jer. 13:23). Thus, therefore, a person provokes God in one way, when he obstinately clings to evil; in another way when he scorns the good. Hence, he says, They have not known my ways, i.e. not with simple ignorance, but affected. The sin, therefore, is this: they have not known, i.e., they refused to know: ‘We desire not the knowledge of your ways’ (Jb. 21:14); ‘He would not understand that he might do well’ (Ps. 34:4). Or, they have not known, i.e., they have not approved, as the Apostle says: ‘The Lord knows who are his’ (2 Tim. 2:19).

The gravity of the sin: ...For the greater the benefits one receives from God and the greater the certitude he has of God’s power, if he later doubts, he sins more gravely. But they had seen signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, the dividing of the sea, and other miracles, and yet they did not believe..

The punishment: ..For which cause, i.e., for which sin, I was provoked, i.e., outraged: not that there is anger in God except metaphorically, because He punishes as one in anger does. This punishment is frequently mentioned in Exodus and Numbers, for they were often prostrated. Hence in 1 Cor. (10:5) he speaks of the punishment of that sin. Or I was near, namely, by punishing them. For when the Lord helps the good and punishes the wicked, He is near them; but when He conceals men’s sins because they repent, and dissembles the affliction of the just in order that their merit may increase, then He seems to be far away: ‘The clouds are his covert, and he does not consider our things, and he walks about the poles of heaven’ (Jb. 22:14). Or, near, in regard to divine mercy, because the fact that he punishes them in this life is a sign of great mercy: ‘Here burn, here cut, but spare me in eternity’ (Augustine).

They shall never enter my rest: In these words he suggests immutability; for when God or an angel swears, it is a sign of the unchangeableness of that concerning which He swears: ‘The Lord has sworn and he will not repent’ (Ps. 110:4). Yet at times He swears only conditionally, because if He did not repent, these evils would come upon them. Then he suggests that that punishment is not given as a threat but is aimed at their destruction, because he says, in his wrath: ‘Lord, chastise me not in your wrath’ (Ps. 6:2). Therefore, He swore in His wrath, they shall never enter my rest. Now there is threefold rest: one is temporal: ‘You have much goods laid up for many years: take your rest; eat, drink, make good cheer’ (Lk. 12:19). The second is the rest of conscience: ‘I have labored a little and have found much rest to myself’ (Sir. 51:35). The third is the rest of eternal glory: ‘In peace in the self-same. I will sleep and I will rest’ (Ps. 4:9). Therefore, what is stated here can be explained in each of these ways, namely, they have not entered the rest of the promised land or the rest of conscience or the rest of eternal happiness.

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