Cursing the Land
Robert Wurtz II
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8-9 NKJV)
Our passage is a very sobering metaphor of man and God’s dealings with him. The earth is personified. The cultivator is God. There are two fields (persons) in view; one blessed and one cursed. To add to the sense of ‘curse’ we have these words, whose end is to be burned. Vincent notes that, “There is no thought of, purification by fire, which would be foreign to the subject. Τέλος is consummation rather than termination. Εἰς καῦσιν, lit. unto burning. Comp. LXX, Isaiah 40:16. The consummation of the cursed land is burning. Comp. John 15:6.” Some have supposed that the land is burned over for replanting, but this is clearly not the case. We have the phrase kataras eggus (nigh unto a curse) similar as in Galatians 3:10; For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Beside of this flame and curse we have the added truth, it is rejected. Our Greek word here is adokimos and is usually translated in the KJV as reprobate. We have this word in several places in the NT:
Rom. 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
1Cor. 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
2Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
2Cor. 13:6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.
2Cor. 13:7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.
2Tim. 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Heb. 6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
Our word adokimos (Strongs 96) is defined as, not standing the test; not approved (Thayer), refuse, worthless (Perschbacher & Kubo), indication of the respect in which the test is not met and the tempted is unproved (BDAG), rejected as false (Liddell & Scott), Hebrews 6:8 ‘rejected‘ (Vines), denotes testing, hence unattested and inauthentic (Kittell). These definitions, representing most respected lexical scholarship, all concur. If something is adokimos it has failed the test and is hence worthless, near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Understanding the Ground
Our passage is similar to other examples in the NT where God is expecting fruit from the land (people). Hebrews 6 has potential apostate believers in view. The concept is that God sends means and those means are not bringing forth fruit as he intended, but rather the ground is bringing forth sin and wickedness. Hebrews gave insight into this phenomena earlier, So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 3:19-4:2)
Seed and More Seed
Nothing could possibly be more important than how we respond to God when He is dealing with us. Not the economy, not our health, etc., etc. When God is dealing it is serious business. He begins before we are born by fashioning us in such a way that we can ascertain truth and in some measure know Him. The reformers used to speak of what they termed Sensus Divinitatis and that this is universal. That is to say, we are all born with a knowledge of God. This is what Paul spoke of in Romans 1:19. It is as if God has seeded our hearts and minds with some level of revelation and is watching to see how that revelation will fare. He did not give us this knowledge just to take away our excuses as some suppose; He gave it so we would have a means of knowing Him. It is a starting point. Every human being has it and is responsible for it. Our refusal to acknowledge the knowledge of God that we do possess or if we do not like to retain God in our knowledge, this behavior proportionally effects our a priori knowledge of God and truth. It is as if our resistance to the knowledge causes us to lose that knowledge. The foolish heart darkens in this process. I have termed this as ‘a priori’ knowledge because God has shown it unto us, Himself. It is not the result of logical deductions, etc. or experience. As surly as we are inclined to assume basic things in life, we are inclined, at the first to assume God exists. George Foxe set out to prove this ‘knowledge of God’ once while traveling to the Americas in the 1600’s. He writes in his autobiography Chapter XVIII:
“The Governor, with his wife, received us lovingly; but a doctor there would needs dispute with us. And truly his opposing us was of good service, giving occasion for the opening of many things to the people concerning the Light and Spirit of God, which he denied to be in everyone; and affirmed that it was not in the Indians.
Whereupon I called an Indian to us, and asked him whether when he lied, or did wrong to any one, there was not something in him that reproved him for it. He said there was such a thing in him, that did so reprove him; and he was ashamed when he had done wrong, or spoken wrong. So we shamed the doctor before the Governor and the people; insomuch that the poor man ran out so far that at length he would not own the Scriptures.”
If George Fox is to be believed, this indian was one example of many that could be given of man having a conscience and its accompanying laws of God to work from. I must admit here that I do not agree with all of George Foxes conclusions, but he does record this anecdote. I think it is trustworthy as it concurs with my own investigations. The truth was manifest in the indian because God had shown it unto him. Do we believe what God has told us that He has done? The question then becomes, what will a person do with that a priori knowledge? Will he/she cultivate it? Will they in some sense respond to this light? If they do not they will surely grow darker and darker inside. God will not impose upon a person like that. I must also state categorically that man is not necessarily inclined to believe based upon more light. Jesus said that if folk that had Moses and the prophets would not believe, they would not believe even if a person came back from the dead. Consider this sobering passage:
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. (John 12:9-11)
These people were prepared to kill Lazarus after he had been raised from the dead. Can you imagine that level of rebellion and madness? What will it take for some people to believe? Obviously it is not more light as is often assumed. Missionaries and ministers at home and abroad, even myself, testify to the fact that knowledge of God is not the problem it is peoples willingness to respond rightly to God when He is dealing with them. I believe eternity will prove God to be true and that every man is a liar. Consider also this account by the late Paris Reidhead, from his classic sermon Ten Shekels and a Shirt:
“If you’ll ask me why I went to Africa, I’ll tell you I went primarily to improve on the justice of God. I didn’t think it was right for anybody to go to Hell without a chance to be saved. So I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to heaven. Now I haven’t put it in so many words, but if you’ll analyze what I just told you do you know what it is? Humanism. That I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery. And when I went to Africa, I discovered that they weren’t poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods looking for someone to tell them how to go to heaven. That they were MONSTERS OF INIQUITY!!! THEY WERE LIVING IN UTTER AND TOTAL DEFIANCE OF FAR MORE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THEN I EVER DREAMED THEY HAD!
They deserved Hell! Because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscience, and light of the law written upon their heart, and the testimony of nature, and the truth they knew! And when I found that out I assure you I was so angry with God that on one occasion in prayer I told Him it was a mighty ….. little thing He’d done, sending me out there to reach these people that were waiting to be told how to go to heaven. When I got there I found out they knew about heaven, and didn’t want to go there, and that they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it.
I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers, I’d seen pictures of ulcers, I’d seen pictures of native funerals, and I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in Hell eternally after such a miserable existence on earth. But it was there in Africa that God began to tear THROUGH THE OVERLAY OF THIS HUMANISM! And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here was I, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying “Someone come teach us”, actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! And I wanted to come home.
There alone in my bedroom AS I FACED GOD HONESTLY WITH WHAT MY HEART FELT, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The Heathen are lost. And they’re going to go to Hell, not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to Hell because they are sinners, WHO LOVE THEIR SIN! And because they deserve Hell. BUT, I didn’t send you out there for them. I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.” And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its’ way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this, “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen, I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell! But I LOVE THEM!!! AND I ENDURED THE AGONIES OF HELL FOR THEM!!! I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?”
I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior who endured the agonies of Hell for me. But He deserved the heathen. Because He died for them. My eyes were opened. I was no longer working for Micah and ten shekels and a shirt. But I was serving a living God.”
The Danger of Holding Truth in Unrighteousness
I think this squares well with Matthew 13:11, 12, etc. To him that ‘has’ more shall be given, to him that ‘has not’ it shall be taken away even that he has. That is to say, when a person’s mind, seeded with an a priori knowledge of God, does not bear fruit as a consequence of rejecting truth– it is rejected (adokimos). In other words, if the mind will not acknowledge evident truth, that light is taken away as God’s response to man’s response to Him. He will not always strive with man. To take it a step further, to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, etc. (Romans 1:18, 19) is to invite the wrath of God. IMHO, this is the synergism of reprobation. Faith is right response to the light of grace. Sin is wrong response.
Friends, we are in grave danger when we have created for ourselves doctrines that widen the narrow gate. The Jews are being warned here as many of them believed that they were saved by birthright. This is not the first time such view endangered the Jews. You will recall that as one writer said, Nebuchadnezzar’s battering rams breached the theology of Israel” laying waste to the land and destroying Solomon’s Temple. John Baptist nailed this idea straightway when he stated, Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Luke 3:8) The people trusted that they were the elect of God based on their concept of election. It is not enough to encourage ourselves with theological concepts when God is not testing our concepts, He is looking for fruit.