Sunday, 9 September 2018
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness, Hebrews 3:8
Here now is cited the next lines of Psalm 95:8 which read –
“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,”
The Hebrew words are meribah (rebellion) and massah (trial), and they speak of the times when the people rebelled against the Lord (Exodus 17:7 & Numbers 20:13) and when they tempted the Lord (Exodus 17:7). The words of this verse in Hebrews are taken from the Greek translation of the Old Testament and they include an article before the word “trial.” Thus it more appropriately says, “In the day of the trial.”
In other words, the verse is speaking of the time of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, from the Exodus from Egypt, at the beginning (Exodus 17), all the way through until the end when they were ready to enter Canaan (Numbers 20). They had rebelled, and they had tested the Lord. By citing it this way, it showed that they were disobedient through and through. Their hearts were hard, their necks were stiff, and they remained stubborn.
The author here in Hebrews now cites this in his parenthetical words (remember that verse 3:7 said “Therefore,” and verse 3:12 will say, “Beware”). Citing the psalm is a warning. “Do not harden your hearts,” asks them to not ignore the divine call of God in Christ. God called Israel in the wilderness and gave them the covenant. Christ fulfilled the law and instituted the New Covenant. They are being implored to recognize this and not turn from it “as in the rebellion.” The word here signifies “to make bitter.” The people stirred up bitterness and irritated the Lord through their lack of faith.
The words then continue with, “As in the day of [the] trial.” The word “day” signifies the entire time frame of the wilderness wanderings, not just a single day. It was a time of trial. The Lord tested the people’s faithfulness, and the people tested the Lord through their unfaithfulness. The idea of testing the Lord is not one of testing Him to do evil (as is noted as impossible in James 1:13), but that His patience towards their actions was tested. In those who demonstrate a lack of faith in Him, the response is wrath.
All of this was “in the wilderness.” The people tested and provoked the Lord continuously. They did it concerning the lack of food, and He gave them manna. They did it at the waters of Massah, and He gave them fresh water. They did it at the incident of the golden calf, and the covenant was reestablished. They did it at Taberah when they wanted meat, and He gave them quail. They did it in Korah’s rebellion, and on the next day after punishing many, He spared them. They did it in the account of the spies who disheartened the people. They did it after that when they determined to go up to Canaan without the Lord’s approval. They did it again at Kadesh when they again lacked water. Even Moses disobeyed through unbelief and struck the rock when he was told to only speak to it.
Again and again, the people provoked the Lord and tested Him. The author cites this because it shows an on-going, even continuous, streak of faithlessness in the provision of the Lord. If the people were judged because of this, how much more should they be judged for rejecting the greater promises found in Christ Jesus!
Life application: The Lord has provided the redemption. He now expects us to demonstrate faith that this is the case. How can we properly live in His rest, when we fail to recognize that we have already been granted it through faith in Christ? In the end, the only ones who actually suffer are us. Let us stand confidently in the faith we have professed in Christ, and let us not test the Lord in our times of affliction.
Heavenly Father, it is not an easy thing to place our faith solely in You, but this is what we are asked to do. Israel was led into the wilderness, and they were wholly dependent on You. In that day, they provoked You and they tried Your patience in their lack of faith. We have been redeemed, and yet we still act in the same manner. Why should we lack faith or be fearful when the outcome is assured? We have all we need in Christ to sustain us for eternity. Is today not a part of that as well? Help us, Lord, in our lack of faith. Amen.