that the King of Glory may come in."
3:10 Therefore I was grieved with that generation and said, “They always err in their hearts; they have not known My ways.”
The writer is continuing the quote from Psalm 95, and of course the speaker is God. The word grieved implies much more than sadness, carrying the idea that God was offended and indignant with the people and their behavior. “That generation” refers primarily to those who refused to enter the land of Canaan at the time when Moses sent in the spies, but probably extends beyond them. After all, it is highly unlikely that there was any huge difference in attitude between them and the generation that had been raised by them! The behavior during the time in the wilderness bears this out: there is never a suggestion that it was only the older generation who grumbled, griped and rebelled.
In fact, the word “generation” may not be referring to an age group, as it normally does in English. In Biblical understanding, a “generation” may also be a race – those who have been “generated” from one individual – and it is quite possible that this is the sense in which it is used here.
… They always err in their hearts …
God is not talking about a one-off occurrance – in which case it is possible that someone could have accused Him of unfairness. Rather, this has been an ongoing situation spread out over 40 years. This was surely a long enough time to fully demonstrate what was in the hearts of the people. It was not that they were seeking to walk with God but occasionally stumbled along the way. No, they were constantly rebellious, pulling against God and His purposes every step of the way, complaining about everything He did, and refusing to submit to either God or Moses. God’s judgment against them was not a knee-jerk reaction to a momentary indiscretion, but a sober assessment of the evidence of 40 years.
His summary of the situation is that they “always err in their hearts”. Their heart attitude is off-course, and because their hearts are wrong their actions are likewise so. Behavior always begins in the heart, and what is in the heart will always be worked out in behavior.
… They have not known My ways …
It was not that they had not known in terms of intellectual understanding. There was absolutely no reason why they would not. God had given them His law in minute detail. He had demonstrated His power before them through miracles, signs and wonders. He had given them leaders to teach them and lead them. They would have had to be blind, deaf and severely intellectually challenged to have not known God’s ways in that sense.
Again, the Biblical understanding of “knowing” is far richer than ours, and includes the sense of embracing, of owning: of knowing in an experiential sense. This they had not done. God’s law had always remained external to them, something imposed upon them from outside rather than something that had taken root in their hearts, and out of which they lived. They had not even begun to enter into an understanding of God’s heart and thinking – of the “why” behind the Law. To a very large extent, God was to them no different from the gods of the surrounding nations: not personal, but just a somewhat larger idol.
v. 11. So I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.”
At the immediate level, this is talking about the land of Canaan, and referring to those who previously had refused to enter. Yet, as we have seen, they were not the only ones who walked in rebellion and criticism throughout the time in the wilderness. In one sense, we might even say that the ongoing behavior of the whole nation during those 40 years added up to something considerably worse than their initial refusal to cross the Jordan.
The key lies in the next chapter, in 4:8 “If Joshua (not Jesus, as in the KJV) had given them rest then He would not have spoken afterward of another day.” The nation did indeed enter in to Canaan, but they did not enter into God’s rest. Even in the natural, they were faced with ongoing wars and battles as they strove to take the land from those who already occupied it. We can only wonder what it could have been like if they had walked in joyful obedience to God. Would He have gone ahead of them and driven out the inhabitants of the land so that all the people of Israel had to do was walk in, take over, and live in peace and security?
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