“To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:” (Hebrews 3:7–8, KJV 1900)
I hope not to sound redundant in going through the book of Hebrews, but the author sounds this warning throughout the book. Many in his Jewish audience were prone to have an intellectual knowledge of the gospel and yet fail to act upon this knowledge by true faith. This entire section and much of the book deals with this issue.
The struggles that the Jews would have with saving faith makes sense if you think about it. Their system of religious observance, culture, history, and families related to practices of Judaism. There would be confusion regarding the place of Jesus as their Messiah. Even having heard the message of the gospel and seeing their friends come to faith could also be misunderstood. Thus, they had a possibility of moving back to their former ways without truly trusting in Jesus, even though they knew the gospel.
The author uses Psalm 95 to tell them they must not be faithless like their ancestors. Yes, it is an issue of faith. The latter half of the Psalm speaks of the time of the Exodus. Some estimate that Moses was leading about 2.4 million Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land. Throughout the journey, they constantly complained. One such incident occurred at a place called Rephidim. While they had seen the mighty hand of God at work on their behalf in delivering them from Pharaoh, they complained and tested the Lord regarding the need for water. Thus, the Lord named this place Meribah (meaning strife and contention) and Massah (meaning test and tempt). The people had complained against the Lord and tested Him.
Later, when the Israelites about to the cross the Jordan and take possession of the Promised Land, they again stumbled. Having sent in twelve men to spy out the land, the twelve came back with a report that the land was prosperous and fertile but also impossible to conquer because of the giants that lived there. Only Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, argued that God would give them the land as He had promised. The Nation would not listen and rebelled against Moses, determining to go back to Egypt. As a result of the peoples’ faithlessness, God was angered and condemned them to wander in the wilderness until the entire faithless generation died. They would not enter the Promised Land and rest.
The Nation’s problem was one of faithlessness and because of this they would not enter His rest. The people’s hearts were hardened against the Lord. The problem began early in the Exodus and continued through the forty-years of wandering. The writer of Hebrews warns them to not be like their ancestors who heard the word of God’s promise and saw His hand at work, yet refused to believe. His exhortation was that having heard God’s word concerning salvation found in Jesus Messiah, they needed to respond by true saving faith. If they did not, they would likewise never enter God’s rest.
Many of us have lived in homes that had no Christian foundation. One in which our families did not believe. The lesson for us is to not harden our hearts when we understand that Jesus Christ died on a cross to pay the penalty of our sin and purchase a place in heaven for us. We need to respond to such a great salvation by placing our trust in Jesus Christ alone. It is by grace through faith that we will be saved and experience the transforming work of God in our lives forever. There is a danger of waiting. Today, if you understand the truth of the gospel, do not put off trusting your life to Him completely.