Hebrews 4:2 warns: “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they did also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”
“They” in this verse refers to the people of Israel in the Exodus. They all heard the good promises which God gave them – but they didn’t believe, and act upon them, and as a result they never entered the land of “rest” which God had promised them.
In the same way, the writer of Hebrews declares, many of us have “heard” the promises of God proclaimed: in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and a multiplicity of other ways. Indeed our generation has undoubtedly had more opportunities to hear the word of God than any generation previous.
But we need to heed the sober warning of this verse: hearing the word is not enough. Israel “heard” the word, but they didn’t respond to it with personal faith (“it was not united by faith in those who heard”). This is a needed warning to the many today who take comfort in the fact that they are often in attendance in church – they “hear” the word regularly; surely, they imagine, there is blessing in that. But “hearing” God’s word week after week will not save us today any more than it did the unbelieving Israelites in the Exodus. Hearing the word IS important – IF we personally act on it in faith. But the admonition is clear: don’t be satisfied with your religious experience just because you went to hear the word in Sunday School or church. Merely hearing is not enough!