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Personal studies for Lent

1st Week of Lent

TEMPTATION

Readings (for 2019):- Romans 10 v. 8b 13 and Luke 4 v. 1 – 13

'For, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”' Romans 10 v. 13

Since Christmas, our Housegroup has been studying the Epistle to the Hebrews. It seems appropriate to use that material in some personal reflections for Lent. Beginning this week with Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 which deal directly with the problem of temptation.

For those of us of a certain age, the words of the Venite (Psalm 95) were a familiar part of Morning Prayer. In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the whole of the Venite was said or sung. In the expurgated modern version it can end at verse 7, thus omitting the warnings about temptation and rebellion.
The writer to the Hebrews has no such inhibitions!


A Call to Worship and Obedience: Psalm 95

1. O come, let us sing to the Lord;
  let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
  let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3. For the Lord is a great God,
  and a great King above all gods.
4. In his hand are the depths of the earth;
  the heights of the mountains are his also.
5  The sea is his, for he made it;
  for his hands formed the dry land.

6. O come, let us worship and bow down,
  let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7. For he is our God,
  and we are the people of his pasture,
  and the sheep of his hand.

[ O that today you would hearken to his voice!
8.  Harden not your hearts, as at Mer′ibah,
   as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9. when your fathers tested me,
  and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

10. For forty years I was grieved with that generation
   and said, “They are a people who err in heart,
   and they do not regard my ways.”
11. Therefore I swore in my anger
   that they should not enter my rest.]


There is no way in this life to totally avoid temptation! This week we are reminded that Our Lord Jesus Christ was “tempted as we are, yet without sinning.” (Hebrews 4, v.15).It is wise not to place ourselves deliberately in its path; however, so many times it creeps up on us unawares and we hear a whisper “Are you sure God really said or meant this?

Read Hebrews Chapter 3, v.7 to Chapter 4, v. 13.

Warning against Unbelief

7. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
Today, if you hear his voice,
8. do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    as on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9. where your ancestors put me to the test,
    though they had seen my works for forty years.
10. Therefore I was angry with that generation,
and I said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts,
    and they have not known my ways.’
11. As in my anger I swore,
    ‘They will not enter my rest.’

12. Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  14. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.  15. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16. Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? 17. But with whom was he angry forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18. And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? 19. So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

The Rest That God Promised

4 1. Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“As in my anger I swore,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. 4. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5. And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6. Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7. again he sets a certain day—“today”—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8. For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. 9. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; 10. for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. 11. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
12. Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.


The writer to the Hebrews uses the example of the falling away of the Israelites, the ancient people of God, in the testing time of their journey through the wilderness. All the Children of Israel left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. However, only Joshua and Caleb made it all the way into the Promised Land. All the rest perished in the wilderness. (Numbers 14, v. 20 - 24)

Why?

  • Because of sin.
  • Because of unbelief.
  • Because of lack of faith.

During this Lent we need to remind ourselves that “Before God, no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Maybe the words of an old hymn will be useful as a prayer:-

Be Thou my guardian and my guide,
And hear me when I call.
Let not my slippery footsteps slide
And hold me lest I fall.


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