WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS.Hebrews 3:9(NASB)
The Lord sanctioned Israel to wander 40-years in the wilderness because they tried His patience and tested His forbearance with their lack of faith. Because of unbelief and incessant murmurings against God, they were disciplined in the wilderness instead of entering His promised rest.
Although initially written to Jewish Christians in the fledgling years of the Church, Hebrews is written to all believers to warn of the spiritual dangers we face, if we follow Israel's example in their wilderness wanderings. If we doubt God's Word, disobey His instruction, behave carnally, and persistently complain, the peace of God will not reign in our hearts and fellowship with the Father will be broken. We will be eternally redeemed, but living a defeated life: "Saved, yet as though by fire."
This verse in Hebrews, quotes Psalm 95 which is a call for God's redeemed to worship Him. Like Israel, we are the sheep of His pasture. Like them, we are under His protective care and sovereign authority, but we are in spiritual danger if we ignore His voice, harden our hearts, test His patience, disobey His Word, and do not press on to spiritual maturity.
Jesus is the good Shepherd of the sheep Who laid down His life for us, and just as the blood of the Passover lamb was smeared on the lintels of their house to cover Israel's sins and redeem them from Egyptian slavery, so the blood of Christ cleanses us from all wrongdoing and redeems us from the slavery of sin. Israel were eternally redeemed out of Egypt. They never had to return to Egypt because of their carnality. However, they lived a defeated life through unbelief and we are warned not to make the same mistake - redeemed, but living a defeated Christian life.
Just as Israel were saved by faith, baptised into Moses, and God’s chosen people, so Christians are saved by faith, baptised into Christ, identified with Him, reckoned as righteous, and children of God. However, instead of entering the Promised Land and finding their rest in God, Israel wandered in the wilderness in carnality. Instead of entering the land, they remained in the wilderness. In like manner... instead of pressing on, growing in grace, maturing in the faith, trusting His Word, acting upon it, and resting in Him, we too can remain in spiritual infancy.
Israel tried God's patience and tested His forbearance for 40 long years, "your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw my works for forty years." But unbelief stripped them of a victorious life and a rest in the Promised Land. God promised them victory over the difficulties and dangers they faced and rest from their labour when they entered the land - but only 2 did not doubt God's Word. Only 2 entered in. Only 2 did not remain spiritual infants.
Having been redeemed from Egypt, they were to move on. They were to enter Canaan where God promised to fight for them, protect them, save them from their enemies, and keep them. But unbelief and incessant grumbling against God and fear of the 'giants', tried His patience, tested His forbearance, and prevented them from receiving all that God had prepared for them, "and so for 40 years He was disgusted with that generation; and said, 'They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.'"
Like Israel, we have a choice to live our entire Christian life in spiritual infancy - wandering in a wilderness, frightened of the 'giants in the land', living defeated and disobedient lives OR we can trust His Word, hold fast to His promises, and live a victorious life as we abide in Him, grow in grace, mature in the faith, fellowship with the Father and do not lose faith when challenged by life's circumstances.
Once saved, Israel were not sent back to Egypt because of unbelief - but neither did they lead a victorious life in the land of promise or claim their rightful inheritance. Similarly, once justified, Christians do not lose their salvation - but lack of faith can keep us defeated and wandering in a wilderness of spiritual immaturity, rather than claiming the precious promises of God that are 'yes' and 'amen' in Christ.
May we who have been so wonderfully saved, learn from Israel's mistakes and not lose heart or become discouraged when faced with difficulties and dangers, persecution and pain. Rather, may we press on to spiritual maturity and worship the Lord our God all the days of our lives - for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are my God, and I am Your redeemed child. Thank You for bringing me from the slavery of sin into the freedom I have in Christ. I pray I may learn the lessons from Israel’s wilderness wanderings and hearken to Your Word. Keep me from foolish unbelief. Help me to trust You implicitly and maintain my confidence in Your precious promises as I press on to spiritual maturity. In Jesus' name, AMEN.