that the King of Glory may come in."
3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, today if you hear His voice (v8) do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness (v9) when your fathers tested and proved Me and saw My works for forty years.
Again the writer moves from his demonstration of the superiority of Christ to a solemn warning about the dangers of falling away. The very fact of Christ’s superiority makes this all the more serious.
… as the Holy Spirit says …
The writer goes on to quote from Psalm 95:7-10. Even though this is one of the Psalms of David, the writer here attributes it to the Holy Spirit. Clearly, he saw this passage (and by implication the rest of Scripture, since there would be no logical reason to single out this passage from the rest) as being divinely inspired. More than that, he considers it to be a word that was relevant to his own generation – he does not say “the Holy Spirit said” but that He “says”. The Spirit was not just speaking to the people of David’s day, but to the saints of the first century – and the twenty-first century!
… today if you hear His voice …
The present-moment relevance is emphasized again in the quote itself. It is very easy for us to look back and sit in judgment on God’s people in the past. We find it hard to understand how, having had the incredible encounters with God and the awesome demonstrations of His power that they had experienced, they could then make the choices they made.
Likewise, when we look back over our own lives, we may berate ourselves for the things we have done and the choices we have made.
On the other hand, some people put the hearing of God’s voice into the future. Today, they are too busy, too caught up with life and the affairs of this world, too engaged in pleasure or too bowed down with worry. They acknowledge that some day they are going to have to hear what God is saying, but not today.
However, neither the past nor the future are relevant. The past of others is not our concern, other than to learn from their mistakes. Our own past is beyond our control: the only thing we can do with it is to repent and bring it under the blood of Christ. Our future is also beyond our control: we cannot know for sure that we will have even a minute beyond the one in which we now find ourselves. What we have is now, and it is now that we must respond to God’s voice.
The other aspect of this, of course, is that we can expect to hear His voice. Some people find it hard to believe that God would actually communicate with people, yet surely it is the most natural thing in the world for a father to talk to his children.
The ways in which He may speak to us are many and varied. Firstly, He may speak through His Word, so we need to be spending time in it. He may speak through the prophetic word, so we need to be able to distinguish true prophecy from the words of man. He may speak through the advice of wise counselors, whether in person or through books they have written. He may speak to us in the quietness of our own hearts, so we need to learn to discern His voice. Most importantly, regardless of what means of communication He uses, we must have our ears and hearts open to hear His voice and respond.
… do not harden your hearts …
It’s one thing to hear God’s voice, but another to respond to it. The writer to the Hebrews was addressing a people who, as a nation, had a history of not responding. From their disobedience at the edge of the Jordan, to their deaf ears turned to the warnings of countless prophets, they had constantly been hearing God’s voice but not responding to it. The Psalm speaks specifically to the beginning of that history, the time when God brought them out of Egypt by the hand of Moses. In the accounts of that exodus, we are repeatedly told that Pharaoh hardened his heart, or that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (when we deliberately begin to harden our heart against God, He will continue the process for us.) Now, however, it is God’s people that have hardened their hearts. They have set their minds on one way, and will not allow God to take them in another.
Here again the writer is emphasizing the superiority of Christ over Moses. When they hardened their hearts to God’s word through Moses, they spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Since he has already shown Christ to be far greater than Moses, that implies that the consequence of hardening our hearts to God’s word through Christ is far greater.
… as you did in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness …
No doubt the people of Israel, as they stood on the edge of the Jordan hearing the reports of the 12 spies, would not have considered their response as rebellion. They would have seen it as totally reasonable. It did not make sense to go in and attack a land which was ruled by giants, no matter how good the produce of the land may be.
When God tells us to do something, He does not ask us to first decide whether it is reasonable, logical or sensible. Often, it will seem to be none of those things. God’s vision is bigger than ours could ever be. So is His ability. If He says, do it, then we are to do it. If we refuse, then we are not being sensible or reasonable, we are being rebellious.
The word testing may refer to either God’s testing of Israel (it means a test or trial, not a temptation) or Israel’s testing of God’s patience, and most likely includes an element of both.
… when your fathers tested and proved Me and saw My works for forty years.
Here it is Israel testing God. The implication is that they were seeing just how far they could push His patience. They “proved” Him in several ways. Firstly, they proved that He was the master, not them. They had just one chance to obey. When they refused, the door of opportunity closed. When they later tried to enter, in spite of God’s judgment that they would not, they were soundly beaten.
They proved that He was the righteous judge. If they had entertained any notion that their sin would be overlooked because they were His chosen people, they very quickly learned their mistake.
Yet they also proved His faithfulness. He could very easily have wiped them out and started fresh with a new line of people, but He did not. In spite of their reluctance, their rebellion, their complaints, He persisted with them.
They proved His love. Even for a rebellious, contentious people, He provided food, water, guidance and government.
Whilst the forty years wandering in the wilderness were certainly God’s judgment and punishment for their rebellion, they were also a time of growing close to God, of having His visible, physical presence with them every day in the pillar of cloud and fire, of His daily provision of every need, and of enforced separation from the influence of the neighboring tribes and their false deities.
Yet in spite of it all, they hardened their hearts. We must take care not to do the same.
It is registered with the Australian Taxation Department as a not-for-profit charity.
ABN 52 740 158 732.
Incorporated in Victoria. No. A0051895B
This organization is not in any way associated with the ministry of the same name that operates from Tulsa, USA.