September 22 2023
Today, Friday September 22
“Do Not Harden Your Hearts…”
Today, if you will hear His voice: "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.' So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' "
Remember we said that this Psalm is both an invitation and a warning. It is an invitation to worship our Great God and our Great King! (vv.1-7b). But it is also a warning that we should not “harden” our hearts and not hear the voice of God and obey Him. We don’t have any trouble seeking God when we are desperate. Such as when our health is failing, we don’t have money to pay the bills, our family is falling apart, a tragedy has taken place or when we realize how bad we have sinned, and everything is falling apart in our lives. But when prosperity is smiling on us and things are going great in our lives, we tend to start focusing on the gifts and forget Who the Giver is. We start gradually start slipping away from our devotional and worship time and begin to backslide.
The psalmist was afraid that the people of Israel might do the same after they resettled in the Promise Land after their captivity in Babylon, so he gives them this warning to hear the Voice of God and not harden their hearts. This is a reminder to us that the Word of God is a vital part of Christian worship, especially in this age when inventing clever new worship forms is a common practice and novelty is replacing theology. Hearing and heeding God's Word must be central if our worship, private or corporate, is to be truly Christian. It isn't enough for God to hear my voice; I must hear His voice as the Word of God is read, preached, and taught.
The Scriptures written centuries ago have authority today, and we have no right to ignore them, change them, or disobey them. We are to respond to God's Word now, when we hear it, and not just later in the week when we review our sermon notes or listen to the message on cassette tape. How tragic when worshipers go home with full notebooks and empty hearts! (See Heb. 3:7-4:13 where this passage is applied to the church today, warning us not to harden our hearts against the Lord.) The way we treat the Word of God is the way we treat the God of the Word. Jesus admonishes us to take heed that we hear (Matt. 13:9), take heed what we hear (Mark 4:24), and take heed how we hear (Luke 8:18).
The writer reached back and cited two tragic events in the history of Israel. The nation's complaining at Rephidim (Ex. 17:1-7) and their unbelief and disobedience at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13-14). When they arrived at Rephidim, the people complained again because they were thirsty (Ex. 17:1-7). Instead of trusting God, they blamed God and His servant Moses. God graciously gave them water out of the rock, but Moses commemorated the event with two new names for the site: Meribah means "strife, quarreling, contention" and Massah means "testing." (See also Num. 20:1-13.) Instead of trusting God, the people had contended with God and had even tempted Him by their arrogant attitude and words.
Israel spent a year and two months at Sinai (Num. 10:11) and then departed for Kadesh Barnea, the gateway into Canaan (Num. 13-14). Here they refused to trust the Lord and obey His orders to enter the land and claim their inheritance. In spite of all they had seen Him do, the Israelites hardened their hearts and refused to do God's will. God judged His people at Kadesh Barnea and consigned them to thirty-eight years in the wilderness while the older generation died off. It was the world's longest funeral march. "They shall not enter into My rest" (v. 11; Num. 14:26-38). The writer of Hebrews used this event to warn Christians not to harden their hearts and thereby fail to claim what God had for them to do, to receive, and to enjoy. God has a perfect plan for each of His children (Eph. 2:10), and we claim that inheritance by faith in God's Word, the kind of faith that leads to obedience.
In Moses' day, God's "rest" was the land of Canaan, where the Jews would do no more wandering (Ex. 33:14; Deut. 12:9-10; Josh. 1:13, 15). But Hebrews 4 broadens the meaning of "rest" to include the salvation rest and inheritance we have in Christ (Matt. 11:28-30; Eph. 1:3, 11,15-23) and the future eternal "Sabbath rest" in glory (Heb. 4:9; Rev. 14:13).
Hebrews 1-4 is God's admonition to the church today to live by faith, and "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Because the Jews refused to hear His Word but hardened their hearts instead, God was disgusted with His people, and all the people twenty years old and older died during that wilderness journey. We harden our hearts when we see what God can do but refuse to trust Him so He can do it for us. We fail to cultivate a godly heart that fears and honors the Lord.
It is a grievous sin to ask for the gifts (food, water, etc.) but ignore the Giver, and the consequences are painful.