DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,Hebrews 3:8(NASB)
At the beginning of Hebrews, we are informed that God has spoken in these last days through His Son, and throughout the epistle, there are quotations from the Word. When God speaks, His children should listen, take note, learn the lesson He is teaching, hide his instruction in their hearts, and apply His truth in their lives.
In this verse, God is warning us to learn from Israel's disobedience and exhorting us not to repeat their mistakes: "Do not harden your hearts as Israel did," is the serious warning given to Christians in this dispensation. Don't rebel against Me as your forefathers did: "When they provoked Me during the time of testing in the wilderness."
Because the wickedness of men's hearts was continuously evil, the Lord took one group of people out of the world to be His chosen nation. They were to separate themselves from the rest of humanity and live as God commanded. They were to show to the pagan nations how the people of God were to live. They were to be a light to the Gentiles and to bring those who believed into the camp of Israel.
God provided the perfect Law by which they were to live and He used their 40-year-long wilderness wandering to teach them many lessons. He trained them the way they should go and taught them how to live holy lives as God's peculiar people.
But Israel started to murmur against the Lord soon after He freed them from Egypt. They refused to believe His Word, failed to keep His commandments, and hardened their hearts against the God Who saved them from Egyptian slavery. Israel's rebellion against the Lord and their blatant infidelity, provoked Him to anger.
Instead of singing psalms of joy to the Lord and shouting joyfully to the Rock of their salvation, the people of Israel engaged in complaining and murmuring against their God. Instead of coming before His presence with thanksgiving and praise, His chosen people engaged in idolatry, rebellion, fleshly lusts, and shameless unbelief.
So brazen was their disobedience, that Scripture reminds us in many places of the hardness of their heart. It records for our learning how the Lord was provoked by their rebellious behaviour: "During the day of trial in the wilderness."
This verse from Hebrews 3, is lifted from Psalm 95 where Israel is exhorted: "Come. Let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker, for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture. We the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the provocation and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation and said, 'It is a people that do err in their heart, for they have not known my ways. I swore in my wrath that they should not enter into My rest.'"
Many passages in Old Testament Scripture, are used in the New to warn Church-age saints of things to avoid. Others are offered as a model to follow. The book of Hebrews offers a series of warnings to Church-age believers of things to avoid and often it is the chequered history of Israel that is used as a warning to Christians of things to avoid. In this verse, we are strongly admonished not to harden our hearts, as Israel did, nor engage in idolatry, rebellion, fleshly lusts, or shameless unbelief.
May we read, mark, learn, and understand from all sections of Scripture, how to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. May we learn from the failures of past mistakes so that we may progress from one stage of glory to the next, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the scriptural warnings of behaviours to avoid and attitudes to shun. May I learn from the failures of Israel's past history and not repeat the mistakes they made but live my life as unto the Lord. Keep my heart open toward you, give me a teachable spirit, and may I willingly accept your chastening hand. Help me to keep the eyes of my heart on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. In Jesus' name, AMEN.