Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,Psalm 95:8(NASB)
Psalm 95 opens by proclaiming God as the great King above all gods. It begins with an exuberant call to worship and praise, but concludes with a severe warning against unbelief. "Do not harden your hearts," Israel is warned, "like your ancestors did at Meribah - in the day of Massah in the wilderness."
Unbelief and a hardening of the heart are closely associated with that first generation of Israelites who were saved from Egyptian slavery but quickly fell from faith into fear. Despite being freed from a lifetime of bondage, they quickly turned from trusting God to murmuring against Him.
God's tender care for His people and their miraculous escape across the Red Sea was forgotten. Their songs of rejoicing were swiftly replaced by bitter complaints. It cost this first generation of Jews the rest they had been promised. Instead, they wandered in the wilderness and their descendants were warned not to repeat for the foolish mistakes of their forefathers.
The Bible often warns against hardening one's heart. To do so is to rebel against God, ignore His voice, and disobey His Word. Despite witnessing the miraculous plagues which caused Egypt to let God's people go, they forgot His goodness, hardened their hearts, and began decades of complaining.
Place names in the Bible often reflect the meaning of an event, and 'Meribah' means 'strife' while 'Massah' signifies 'testing'. We are told in Exodus that Moses named a particular place 'Massah' and 'Meribah' because the Israelites complained and tested the Lord by asking, "Is the Lord among us or not?" Deuteronomy tells us that God's people continued to provoke the Lord at Taberah, Massah, and Kibroth-hattaavah, with their bitter complaint and unbelief.
In Leviticus, we discover that it was by the waters of Meribah that the Israelites 'quarrelled' with the Lord and 'rebelled' against His command, while in Psalm 106 we read that this first generation of Israelites 'angered' the Lord at the waters of Meribah and Moses 'suffered' because of their disobedience.
'Unbelief' and 'rebellion' are words that are associated with the disobedience exhibited in this first generation of Jews and the seriousness of 'striving' with the Lord and 'testing' Him is demonstrated by missing their promised rest and having to wander in the wilderness for 40-long years.
It is easy to criticise Israel's lack of faith and rebellion - but how often do we fail to trust God's Word? How often do we complain about the times in which we live or the things that are happening in our lives? Rather than looking on in reproach at Israel's failure, surely we should seek to learn from their mistakes and make sure that we do not harden our hearts or strive against the Lord.
And we should do so - TODAY.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the lessons You would teach me from Israel's past history, and help me not to fall into the same attitude of unbelief or exhibit a spirit of complaint. What a lesson to learn - that unbelief or a complaining heart is the cause of broken fellowship with the Father. Thank You for Your promise to supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory, and may I never take Your abundant supply for granted. Help me examine my heart today and to correct any areas in my life that dishonour Your holy name. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.