I had to read this chapter a couple of times. Let’s set the context. The letter to the Hebrews was written probably a bit later in the 1st century when the Christian community was really feeling the persecution and the pressure from the Roman Empire. As a result there were a number of believers who were falling away because they felt like the cost of discipleship was simply too high to maintain an association with this group of people who loved Jesus. I would rather not be with them and keep my life than lose my life but somehow get some spiritual benefit out of it. You can understand that, right? But the author of Hebrews does not have too many kind words for them as a result.
He speaks about those in the past, the Hebrews of the past, who turned their back on God. God then declared that “they shall not enter my rest.” This is a direct quote from Psalm 95:11. In that psalm the author lays out the traitorous example of the Israelites in the wilderness who turned their back on God. He speaks about the ancestors who tested God and so as a result were not able to enter into the promised land. The author of Hebrews equates the testing in the wilderness with the current testing that was taking place in the 1st century AD. I really can’t do the same with us. We do not face any of the type of testing that they faced either in the wilderness or in the 1st century. Our testing comes from our own lack of discipline since we have all that we need right in front of us. We are not persecuted to death. We are not starving in the desert. We are self-content, dumb, and happy with all the wealth that we need and all the niceties that come from being an American in the 21st century. Wait, did I just say that.
I refer you to Hebrews 4:12 you will see a quote that is often used to describe the power and the authority of Scripture. It is a two edged sword. Just when you feel like you are getting comfortable with it and it is starting to justify your actions and your approach to life, it cuts the other way and identifies ways in which to improve and rearrange your life so that it more closely resembles a life that God would want from us.