The Entreaty of the Holy Spirit
May 31st, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
THE ENTREATY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-31-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message entitled The Entreaty of the Holy Spirit. In our preaching through the Word of God, we are in the third chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And the text is Hebrews 3:7-8: “Wherefore as the Holy Spirit saith, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts . . .” And then, the rest of the passage is an expatiation of that text from David, quoting from the ninety-fifth Psalm: “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Psalm 95:7-8]. Then he continues:
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of trial in the wilderness:
When your fathers tried Me . . .
Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known My ways.
So I sware in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest.
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;
While it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts…
For some, when they had heard, did provoke. . .
But with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?
And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Then he repeats that text again in the next chapter and the seventh verse: “Again, He limiteth a certain day, saying in David”—and then, he quotes again the ninety-fifth Psalm—“Today, after so long a time; as it is called, “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 4:7].
The Entreaty of the Holy Spirit—Hebrews 3:7: “As the Holy Spirit saith, Today if ye will hear His voice.” So there is a voice to hear, for God speaks. The Holy Spirit speaks: “As the Holy Spirit says,” God speaks. The Holy Spirit speaks: “As the Holy Spirit saith [Hebrews 3:7]—and he quotes from the ninety-fifth Psalm [Psalm 95:7-8]. So the Holy Spirit speaks in the Scriptures.
When we read the Word of God, God speaks to us from the Scriptures. It is the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking to us when we read the Scriptures, for the Scriptures are God-breathed. The men of old time spake not of themselves, but “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. He speaks in the Holy Spirit. God speaks in the Scriptures.
When we reject the Scriptures, we reject the apostles. We reject the prophets. We reject the Lord Jesus Christ. We reject the voice of God. The Holy Spirit speaks in the Scriptures. When we read the Word of God, we hear the voice of God: “As the Holy Spirit saith . . . ” [Hebrews 3:7]
The Holy Spirit speaks in a thousand other ways. He has a thousand several tongues. The Holy Spirit speaks in the services. He speaks through this pastor. He speaks in the sermon. He speak in the appeal and the exhortation.
The Holy Spirit speaks in the singing of the congregation. How many have passed by on the outside of the church, in the streets, and have been constrained to come inside by the listening to the hymns of the church of God?
The Holy Spirit speaks in the spire of the church, that points up to heaven. God is here in this world. God is in these streets. He is in these homes. He is in these houses. He is in these places of business. He is here.
God speaks in a thousand, several tongues. As the Holy Spirit says, God speaks in the heart. God speaks in the conscience. God speaks in a still, small voice. God speaks to our souls. He knocks at the human heart. He woos. He convicts. He pleads. He begs. He entreats. “As the Holy Spirit says” [Hebrews 3:7].
And the Holy Spirit speaks in the present tense: “As the Holy Spirit legei,” as He continues to say, as He speaks and keeps on speaking. There may be a doctrine that the Holy Spirit will reveal at a certain season. There may be a deeper truth that the Holy Spirit will reveal at another period of time. There may be an added revelation in a generation yet to come. But, the Holy Spirit speaks this always, continually. “As the Holy Spirit says,” as He said yesterday, as He says this moment, as He shall continue to say. “As the Holy Spirit says” [Hebrews 3:7].
There is a voice to hear and He speaks now. He speaks in our hearts. He speaks to us in the Scripture and from the mouth of this pastor. There is, then, a voice to hear: “As the Holy Spirit says: Today if ye will hear His voice—akousate, if you will hear His voice,” not if you can hear His voice.
He speaks to us in our hearts. He knocks at the door of our souls. “As the Holy Spirit says: If ye will hear His voice” [Hebrews 3:7]. God invites us to hear: “Incline thine ear, and come unto Me: hear and your soul shall live” [Isaiah 55:3]. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God” [Romans 10:17].
We sometimes hear and hear and hear and, then, upon a day, we hear. We listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit of God. And it is the mark of a fallen man that he hides himself from the voice of the living God:
And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves when they heard the voice of the Lord.
And the voice of the Lord said: Adam, Where art thou?
And Adam said… I was afraid; and I hid myself in the garden.
When a man hides himself from the appeal of the voice of God, it is the mark of a fallen and a depraved nature. God speaks and God bids us to listen and to hear. God invites us to hear. God invites us to come: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters… yea, come, buy without money and without price” [Isaiah 55:1]. God bids us: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden” [Matthew 11:28]. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17].
God invites us to listen and to come. God pleads with us to listen and to come: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be red like crimson, they shall be white as snow” [Isaiah 1:18]. God pleads with us to come: “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live:turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11].
The voice of God not only invites us. The voice of God not only pleads with us. But, the voice of God threatens us: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” [Hebrews 2:3]. And the voice of God weeps over us:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and you would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
[Luke 13:34, 35]
Then the voice of God promises: “Hear, and I will give unto you the sure mercies of David” [Isaiah 55:3]. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” [Romans 10:13]. To him that believeth, the reward is everlasting life [John 3:16]. “As the Holy Spirit saith: Today if ye will hear His voice” [Hebrews 3:7]. So there is a voice to hear. God speaks in the soul and in the heart and he speaks continuously: “As the Holy Spirit saith” [Hebrews 3:7],.
What does the Holy Spirit say? “As the Holy Spirit saith: Today if ye will hear His voice” [Hebrews 3:7]. “And again: He limiteth a certain day, saying: Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear His voice” [Hebrews 4:7]. So the cry of the Holy Spirit in the heart is always now, today, this moment, this minute, this hour—in this appeal, in this service, in this song of invitation—“As the Holy Spirit saith, Today,” today, today” [Hebrews 3:7].
“Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” [Isaiah 55:6].
I beseech thee brethren, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
For He saith: I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now—
is the accepted time; behold, now—
is the day of salvation.
[2 Corinthians 6:1, 2]
He speaks now. And He pleads now: “As the Holy Spirit saith, Today, He limiteth a certain day, saying in the Psalm, Today, after so long a time… if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 4:7; Psalm 95:7-8].
So He speaks and He pleads and he pleads now—“Today.” While the Holy Spirit is granting us mercies of God, you open your hand and your heart to receive them. While God is abroad in the land on errands of mercy, you go forth to meet Him. While the showers of blessing are falling, look up to receive the raindrops of mercy. While the wind is blowing, hoist the sail and away with the Lord. While heads are bowed in prayer, while the godly are interceding, open your heart and your soul to the appeal and to the voice of the Spirit of God.
I one time heard a man preaching about the unpardonable sin. And he described it in a way that stayed in my memory. He said, “In communities where I have grown up,” and my mind went back to communities in which I had lived, smaller communities in which I have preached. He said, “In those small communities, there will be seasons of revival, seasons of prayer and intercession. And there will be men whose names are called before God’s throne. And they are men whose souls are a burden to the godly of the community. And they prayed that they might be saved. And they weep over them. And they—and they invite them. And their souls are burdened, in behalf of them.”
Then he said, “The day of the revival appeal is gone, and the day of the intercession is past, and the years multiply. And the names of those men are never called again. There is never any burden again. They’re never named in intercession again. The great day and hour and time of their opportunity is past forever.”
And when the preacher said that, my mind went back to revivals and to prayer meetings and to services in which I had seen God’s people bowed in prayer, naming these who were lost, and the burden of their souls on the hearts of God’s people. In their refusal, in the hardening of their hearts, the days passed and the years passed and they’re never named again. They’re never prayed for again. There is never any burden again. It is gone and lost forever and forever.
“The Holy Spirit says, Today if you will hear His voice” [Hebrews 3:7]. “After so long a time; as it is saith, Today if you will hear His voice.” And again: “He limiteth a certain day” [Hebrews 4:7].
On that text, one of the famous poems of religious time and tide has been written on this text, “He limiteth a certain day, saying, after so long a time… if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart” [Hebrews 4:7]:
There is a time, we know not when,
A point, we know not where,
That marks the destiny of men
To glory or despair.
There is a line, by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s mercy and his wrath.
To pass that limit is to die.
To die as if by death—
It does not quench the beaming eyes
Or pale the glow of health.
The conscience may be still at ease,
The spirit lithe and gay;
That which is pleasing still may please
And care be thrust away.
. . .
Oh, where is that mysterious bourn
By which our path is crossed;
Beyond which God Himself hath sworn,
He who goes is lost.
How far may we go on in sin?
How long will God forebear?
Where does hope end, and where begin
The confines of despair?
An answer from the skies is sent,
“Ye that from God depart, repent,
While it is called today,
And harden not your heart.”
[from “There Is A Time,” Joseph Addison Alexander]
“God limiteth a certain day, saying, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts”; “after so long a time, as it is written” [Hebrews 4:7].
“After so long a time”—some of you, for forty years have said No, for twenty years have said No—for ten years have said No. For a year the Lord has been speaking to you, and you say no. “As the Holy Spirit saith, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8] “Holy Spirit of God, why today, today, the insistence on today?” “God limiteth a certain time, saying; after so long a time; as it is called, Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart” [Hebrews 4:7]. “Today”—the Holy Spirit says “Today” [Hebrews 3:7]. The reason is because of the provocation. The Holy Spirit is grieved, representing God our Father, representing God our Savior. The Holy Spirit is grieved [Hebrews 3:10]. He is provoked. The Holy Spirit is quenched when we say no to the appeal of the Father and to the sacrifice of the Son. The Holy Spirit expects, when He speaks to us, an immediate yieldedness and an immediate obedience.
One of the most striking things that we read in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis is this: when the Lord spake and when the Lord commanded, there was an immediate obedience: “And God said: Let there be light: and there was light” [Genesis 1:3]. “And God said: Let the earth bring forth” [Genesis 1:11]. “And the earth brought forth” [Genesis 1:12]. “And God said: Let the waters swarm.” And the waters were filled with creatures [Genesis 1:20-21].
Shall the insensible earth be more obedient and responsive to the voice of God than we? Shall the beasts of the field, shall the grass of the ground hear the voice of God and obey, and a man hear God’s voice and harden his heart? It was a pathetic cry of the prophet Isaiah, in his first chapter: “Yea, the ox knoweth his master’s crib and the swallow her nest: but My people, My people, know not the Lord” [Isaiah 1:3].
Why it is unthinkable that the stars in the sky, and the grass of the field, and the waters of the sea obey the voice of their Maker, but a man, created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], can listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and harden his heart. “As the Holy Spirit saith: Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8].
And that leads to that final thing in the text: there is a heart to soften. There is a heart to heal. “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8].
There is an especial danger that the author of this text is pleading for: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you a heart of unbelief… But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened” [Hebrews 3:12-13]. This is an inevitable and a certain consequence when a man hears the voice of God and he refuses to yield, to obey: his heart is hardened. It is an inevitable consequence.
The voice of God speaks and, when the voice is not obeyed, the heart is hardened, always—always. When we reject the voice of God, when we reject the Holy Spirit, when we reject the Scriptures, when we reject the appeal of the Word of the Lord, there is no other way. There is no other hope. There is no other plan. There is no other door. There is no other salvation. This is the end of it.
When a man hears the voice of God and he hardens his heart, there is nothing else to be said. There is nothing else to be done. There is nothing else that remains but the inevitable judgment of God. And the author illustrates it by “These who died in the wilderness, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness, to whom God sware, they shall not enter into God’s rest” [Hebrews 3:17, 18]. That’s all that remains for us. Listening to the voice of God, hearing the voice of God, then turning aside from the appeal of the Holy Spirit—then the heart is hardened and nothing remains but the inevitable, and final, and certain judgment of the Almighty [Hebrews 3:19].
One of those concomitants that come along with a story that is illustrating something else, but has in it so many other spiritual truths is found in that story of the Lord Jesus about Dives and Lazarus. And Dives died, the rich man died, and in torment he lifted up his eyes in flame, in agony, and he saw afar off that godly man who had nothing in this world, but was rich in heaven—saw that godly man Lazarus across the great gulf [Luke 16:19-26].
And after pleading for some surcease from his own torment [Luke 16:24], he finally cried, saying: “If there is no help for me, no alleviation of the fire and the burning for me, then, Father Abraham, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may witness unto them, lest they also shall come to this place of fire and fury” [Luke 16:27-28].
And Abraham replied: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them; for if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” [Luke 16:29-31].
When a man hardens his heart to the Spirit of God, when a man hardens his heart to the call of the Holy Scriptures of God, when a man says “Nay, nay” to the testimony of the Word of God, he would not be persuaded though the miraculous power of the Almighty were to raise from the dead his own blood brother to plead, to plead against the awful and certain judgment of the Lord upon the man who willfully says no to the Spirit of God [Luke 16:30-31].
“Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8]. There are those who sit in a congregation—every service there are some—there are those who sit in the congregation; they come because of the love of a wife or of a mother or of a family or of a friend. And they sit in the congregation; they sit up there, here, yonder. And they listen to the preacher and they listen to him, like this, “All right, I have come at the invitation of a friend, or at the insistence of my wife, or out of respect to my mother. And here I am in the congregation. And here I sit. And I am listening to the preacher. I just dare him to get a hold of me. I just dare him to get me in that aisle. I just dare him to get me down that aisle.” So he sits there and he looks and he listens at the preacher, “I just dare him to do it. Here I am, if you can, try—I just dare you to get me down that aisle.”
Oh, my friend, my friend, if, someday, you were to answer to me, it might be all right to sit there and dare the preacher to get you out of the seat and into the aisle and down to the front and your heart to God. But you’ll never answer to me—not to me—never, ever. But some day, some day, you will answer to God. Our responsibility is never, ultimately and finally, to a man, to a preacher. But, our responsibility and our ultimate answer will, always and inevitably, be, someday, unto God.
Daniel Webster, one time, was asked, “Sir, what is the greatest thought that ever entered your mind?” And Daniel Webster replied, the great statesman replied, “The greatest thought that ever came into my mind is the thought of my individual responsibility unto God.”
How true, the wonderful word of the statesman. Not to me, not to any man, but the voice is the voice of God. And the appeal is the appeal of God. And the invitation is the invitation of God. And the response is made unto God.
“Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8]. “God limiteth a certain time, saying in David, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 4:7]. And as David wrote in the twenty-seventh Psalm: “When the Lord saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said unto Him, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” [Psalm 27:8].
Will you? Will you? “As the Holy Spirit saith, Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart” [Hebrews 3:7-8]. And “When the Lord saidst, Seek ye My face; my heart said, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” [Psalm 27:8].
Come. Come. Come. Somebody you, to give his heart in trust to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], “And here I come. Here I am.” Somebody you, answering the call of God in your heart, “Here I am, and here I come.” Somebody you, to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], would you make it now? Somebody you, a family, “Here we are, pastor, the whole family, and here we come.” A couple, one; as the Spirit of the Lord shall say the word and lead in the way, would you make it now? “As the Holy Spirit saith, Today”—today [Hebrews 3:7-8]. “And Thy face, Lord, today, will I seek [Psalm 27:8]. And here I come, and here I am.” While we stand and while we sing.
ENTREATY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
I. A voice to hear
A. The Holy Spirit
speaks(Hebrews 3:7, Psalm 95:8)
speaks in the Holy Scriptures(2 Peter 1:21)
speaks in a thousand ways
He speaks in the heart
He speaks in the present tense(Hebrews 3:7)
“If ye will hear His voice” – not “can”, but “will”
are bidden to hear (Isaiah 55:3, Romans 10:17)
voice of God
a. Invites (Isaiah 55:1, Matthew 11:28-29, Revelation 22:17)
b. Pleads (Isaiah 1:18, Ezekiel 33:11)
c. Threatens (Hebrews 2:3)
d. Weeps (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34-35)
e. Promises (Isaiah 55:3, Romans 10:13, Hebrews 3:7)
II. A time to observe
of the Holy Spirit is now, today, this moment(Hebrews
4:7, Isaiah 55:6, 2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
Man preaching about unpardonable sin
Poem, “There is a Time”
“After so long a timeâ€¦”(Hebrews 4:7)
Why the urgency?
1. Holy Spirit is
2. He expects immediate
obedience(Genesis 1:3, 11, 20, Isaiah 1:3)
III. A heart to soften(Hebrews 3:8)
A. A special danger(Hebrews 3:12-13)
If the appeal of the gospel fails, every appeal fails(Hebrews 3:17-18, Luke 16:27-31)
Reject this appeal, reject God and all hope of salvation