for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, "They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways."Hebrews 3:10(HCSB)
Just as Matthew's target audience was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so the book of Hebrews was initially directed towards Hebrew Christians in the early Church who found the transition from the pre-Cross dispensation of Law to the post-Cross dispensation of grace - difficult. As a result, both writers included many Old Testament quotes to establish the truth they were sharing.
Matthew's goal was to identify Jesus as the Jewish Messiah Who is the fulfilment of Scripture's prophetic writings, while Hebrews was written to show that during this Church dispensation, God is speaking through His Son Who is the exact image of the invisible God and the fulfilment of the Law, the prophets, and the psalms.
Many scriptural quotes in Hebrews are used to illustrate the foolish mistakes Israel made during the time they were God's witnesses on earth and are included as a warning to Christians who are God's mouthpiece today. We are ministers of the new and better covenant which was cut at Calvary and which will be fully ratified in Christ's Millennial Kingdom. Hebrews is warning us not to follow in their footsteps and repeat the same stupid blunders they made.
This verse contains a quote from Psalm 95, which begins with exuberant rejoicing in the God of our salvation and yet concludes with a warning from Yahweh Himself to pay heed to His voice and not to develop a rebellious heart of unbelief, like the Israelites in the wilderness, "Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me," is the same dire warning from the Psalmist to which we need to respond in these increasingly difficult times. "They tried Me, even though they had seen My work for forty years. I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, for they do not know My ways. Therefore, I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest."
The Israelites strayed far away from God in their hearts. They turned away from the One who saved them out of Egyptian slavery. The desire of their hearts was not towards the Lord and His honour and so they walked away from their covenant promise to Him and never came to an understanding of Who He was and What He was doing.
The Lord gave clear and very specific conditions in His covenant to Israel, as laid out in the 613 individual commandments in the Torah. If they obeyed, they would be blessed. If they disobeyed, they would be cursed. Either way, they would remain God's covenant people, but unbelief and disobedience would have disastrous results. Sadly, that generation of Israel chose not to listen to His voice, know His ways, or obey His Word - and we are warned not to follow in their footsteps.
God's had made a covenant with His people that He would be their support and stay. He would be their Shield and Defender. He would save them from their enemies and bring them victory during their sojourn on earth if they kept their part of the covenant. However, the result of their disobedience and unbelief was that they did not enter God's promised rest in the land of Canaan.
Their foolish unbelief and rebellious ways caused God's anger to be roused against them so He swore in his wrath they would not enter the land flowing with milk and honey, but would live out their life as a defeated generation who would never taste the triumphant life that God promises to all who trust His Word and stand fast in the faith - and so, apart from two solitary people, they all died in the wilderness.
May we take to heart the serious warning in this verse and not repeat the many failures of these rebellions, unbelieving, complaining, disobedient, Israelites. Rather, let us consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession and let us hold fast our confidence in Christ and the boast of our hope in His truth.
Heavenly Father, You are very gracious and Your long-suffering mercy towards me is new every morning. Thank You that I have all I need for life and godliness, laid out so clearly in Your Word, and thank You for the warning in the book of Hebrews not to follow in the way of Israel and live a defeated life through unbelief, but to trust in You with all my heart and lean not to my own, limited understanding. I pray that I may listen to Your voice, know Your ways, obey Your instruction, and hold fast to the confidence I have in Christ. This I ask in Jesus' precious name, AMEN.